Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Drawing Tutorial 8 - Composing Colors

In the previous tutorial, I introduced some practical watercolor techniques.  
Before going ahead with more practical subjects, I wanted to stress that it is always important to keep in mind exactly what you want to create and the look you want to give it. 
Once in a while, I get stuck choosing colors, but I know it is a very common issue and I had to come up with a series of tricks that can help the chromatically undecided.
First of all, there are websites dedicated to color combinations such as COLOURlovers, a web community in which you can look for the perfect color combination, help other create their own, or just find some inspiration.
Another helpful color theory guide was published as a series of tutorials on "Le figure dei Libri" not too long ago: it is a very interesting look on everything about illustration and the world around it written by the illustrator Anna Castagnoli and with color theory lessons by Francesca Cheessa.

As far as my own advices for you are concerned, I would say that you should always start with the least amount of colors possible, no more than 3 colors. The concept is simple: with one color there can be no problem because your monochrome painting will only vary in its tone, saturation, and/or brightness.

The above illustration comes from a book by Rebecca Dautremer, you can see a dominating red in all its tone variations: from magenta to light cadmium red and to delicate pink ones.

If you have two colors, it is good to choose two complementary ones (red/green, yellow/violet, blue/orange), but pay attention not to create a "contrast of complementary colors": the unpleasant visual effect due to two colors with the same wavelength that makes everything almost unreadable (it is banned in advertising). If you work digitally and you want to prevent this nasty issue from happening to your drawings, you just need to lower the overall saturation and go back to grey-scale temporarily: if you are still able to make out shapes and see the overall image then you are good to go, but if everything starts to blend together then you have chosen colors that have a very similar wavelength and thus will be reduced to approximately the same grey tone. 

In the above illustration, by Rebecca Dautremer, you can see the artist playing around with essentially only red and green tones.
Now, if we have chosen three colors, we should take either the three primary colors (Red, Green, and Blue) or the three secondary ones (Green, Purple, and Orange). Obviously, three simple colors can only do so much, unless you are going for  a very minimalist look and are not trying to create a very particular atmosphere. 

Color tones come to our rescue once again though. We can use multiple tones for the first two colors mixed with the third chosen color. As you can see in the above illustration, once again by Rebecca Dautremer, red and blue/light blue are mixed with some yellow. Red is now almost orange, light blue is now aqua, and while yellow is surely the less saturated color it is also the most used. 

If you still have doubts on the color range to use, and most of all if you are unsure about the proportion between the chosen colors, you can use a very valid technique you can find at the following LINK where the harmonious tones can be selected covering the provided color wheel using a flat sheet of paper with a rectangular hole in the middle.

To view the previous tutorials, you can click HERE

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