Cover by Annie Rodrigue

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February 2010

February 2010 -- Tiger



  • EMG News:
    February News!
  • Behind the Art:
    Tiger In Watercolor
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Interview with Jessica Douglas
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Video Game Designer Envy
  • Ask an Artist:
    Coloring Woes


  • The Important Bit -- KEEPING Clients

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  • Coloring Woes
    Ask an Artist
    by Annie Rodrigue

    Dear Annie,

    I have a lot of trouble adding color to my work -- I can't decide what color to make things! Do you have any advice for me?


    If you haven't done a lot of coloring until now, then it is perfectly normal to feel like you are having trouble adding color to your work. Unlike what a lot of people think, color is not easy to do or to get right, especially the first times. Our instinct tells us to color things like they are in real life: leaves are green, sky is blue, wood is brown, etc. But this is wrong. Color in an illustration should be used to explain what is going on in, not to be realistic. So you should use it to put forward what you want your audience to see.

    What I suggest to do when you start is to keep the number of colors as small as possible. I'd even go so far as to say start with two colors! Pick two colors that you feel fit well together and color an image with just these two. This will allow you to understand how to use your colours so that it focuses on certain parts of your images.

    And for this article, I will take a drawing I did, and do just that. With each step I will go further to help you understand what I mean. So I will work with this image here:

    For the 2 color scheme, I went with a complementary scheme (orange and blue). The colors are flat, but I purposely colored the character one color, so that it stands out against the background, even though it's plain.

    Okay from there, you could say that the image isn't that interesting yet, but the colors does help you read the image. And this is the whole point of coloring. You want to use the colors so that it helps you understand the illustration better!

    The next step in adding more colors to your scheme isn't to pick a new color at all. Instead, I would suggest to use different value of the same two colors you've started to work with. What's a value? It's simply the lighter or darker shade of a color. So if we decided to shade our character here, I'd suggest to start with different values the color orange just so you don't get lost in a multitude of colors. Something similar to this:

    And surprisingly enough, just with 2 colors and values of one of these colors, you can be quite elaborate if you put your mind into it! Once you have done this exercise with two colors, you can start working with 3. Start small and build your palette over time. It will be a lot less overwhelming!

    One last trick that I like to use before I colour an image: I build my color palette before I apply it to the image. Sometimes I will do a palette test in Fhotoshop on a thumbnail. Doing this will prevent you from being stuck in the middle of a piece wondering which color to pick for this or that! I will even do different scheme for a same illustration if I am not quite sure of what I want. A color test on a thumbnail shouldn't take more than 10 to 30 minutes. So, it is easy to try many things without losing too much time or worst, start over an illustration!

    Annie Rodrigue

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