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How do I Pair the Colors like an Artist?

Colors are everywhere. Okay, that’s obvious. But how about pairing colors based on different tones, saturation levels, hues, and more?

It is not easy for everyone. But for some reason, it was fine for me. I guess because I have artistic talent? Well, I did do a color and shape theme for my college thesis in my senior year.

I can pair pastels, bright colors, muted colors, and much more. Below is a painting I did where I put colors together based on similar factors.

Notice how most of these colors are kind of muted or achromatic, meaning they have only pure black and/or white–no colors? I was considering an Alaskan landscape theme for this work.

Below is a medallion I did on the computer.

These are all mid-tones. They are not too light, dark, prismatic, or muted. They all fall in between.

Sometimes I come up with colors based on a scheme or theme. For example, if the theme is Arabian Nights, I will consider gold, teal, and royal purple. If the theme is Jungle Safari, deep greens, and maybe some light oranges or yellows would work.

Some aspects are obvious too. For instance, if you are hosting a summer party and you want a color scheme, you wouldn’t choose gray. It would feel out of place. Plus, some people associate gray with drear or depression.

That’s right. Colors do affect moods. A study has shown that blue may keep people calm while bright yellow may increase their anxiety.

Well, this is not a psychology post. Nor is psychology something I blog about. The point is that colors matter. Whether it’s for art purposes, mood purposes, or etiquette reasons (i.e. you would never wear bright colors to a funeral), color choices are essential.

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Why I Draw with Pencils First, and Then Trace in Pen if Desired

Image from Pixabay

I don’t know about you, but when I was a child, I was taught to draw in pencil first. Then trace it in pen if desired. And you know what? I think it was great advice. In fact, I still do that now these days… sometimes. To be honest, I haven’t been drawing that much recently.

Anyway, you know that pencils come with erasers. If you make a mistake, you erase that. There are also erasable pens. But I haven’t used those since, like, fifth grade.

Yes, if you make an error with a permanent pen, you can’t remove it. But you can put white-out over it. I’ve been doing that a lot these days.

What I like to do is draw the basic shapes with light pencil marks. Next, I draw the main images with normal pencil marks. Then trace over them with pens. I finish by erasing the pencil marks. After all, no one is perfect. So pencil marks will still show unless you erase them.

I have drawn purely without pencils before as a child. That was fine. But those were drawings for personal pleasure. Not for school. Plus, I hadn’t received the full formal training for art, then. I took art classes at school. But they were required for everyone, including those with little to no artistic talent.

Once I got the formal training in high school and college, I don’t think I ever started drawing with pens voluntarily again. Sadly, these days, my hands sometimes shake too much. And because I don’t have an authority forcing me to start with a pen, I probably won’t return to drawing with pens only for a long, long time. I will still trace pencil lines with pens, though.

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Drawing by Hand and Coloring in Photoshop

Who’s done this before? Raise your hand. Ha ha, just playing with you. But believe it or not, it can be fun. I’ve done it so many times.

I do have a graphic tablet that I can draw on. Although I’ve gotten better control at it, I still draw better with pencil and paper—the old-fashioned way.

However, when it comes to coloring, digitally is more fun. Think about it. You’ve got unlimited colors, digital tools, and best of all, no mess to clean up. It’s all on your computer or tablet (like an iPad).

Below is an example of an illustration I did where I drew by hand and colored digitally.

Can you see the pencil lines? I don’t know about you, but I can. They look kind of rough. There are a few digitally-drawn lines as you can see on the sidewalk, street, and even the bricks. And the colors are obviously digital.

Here is another image drawn traditionally and painted digitally.

Although this might not look nearly as exciting as the one with the teenage boy above, the pencil lines are more obvious. The colors were originally done with chartpak markers, which leave extreme marks. Some hues were re-painted in Photoshop.

While these were fist done with pencil outlines, sometimes I trace the pen over the pencil and erase the pencil marks, like in this image below.

Chairs

Those lines look crisp and clear, not to mention much smoother. That is because they were done with high-quality pens. And, of course, the colors are digital.

Yes, Photoshop and any other Adobe program is costly. But if you have it or want it, once you get good at it, coloring your hand-drawn images is super fun.

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Fun with Figure Drawing

At first, I would consider completely avoiding looking at nude models as I’d found nakedness disturbing. I would even decide that I’d rather fail a college art class than look at a nude model. But that was what I had thought when I was in high school.

In college, figure drawing was required in the art curriculum. At first, I was a bit nervous. Even when the model immediately removed her cover-up, I was a bit uncomfortable and tried not grin (obviously, I wouldn’t have burst out laughing—I was 21). But then I got used to it and discovered something new about myself: figure drawing was fun. I got past the discomfort of seeing nudity.

I learned how to draw poses and how to construct them with lines, shapes, and more. I still use these techniques when drawing for pleasure. It helps a lot.

Now why didn’t I post a picture of one of my drawings, you might wonder? Because I don’t believe it’s appropriate for a blog post. Everyone is welcome to read the articles, including kids. But you can try picturing drawing ideas in your head. This technique is necessary for art majors, especially if you are considering illustration or animation. Figure drawing may be exciting for you too. You never know.

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How to Use Reference Images for Illustration

An example of an illustration I did using reference material

What is a reference image, you may ask? A reference image is a picture you use to inspire your drawing or illustration. You do NOT copy it exactly, unless, of course, it’s for personal use only. However, if you’re going to upload it online or make money off of it, then at least some aspects have to be changed.

For example, you draw a portrait of a person. You use a photo to guide you. But to make it your own and not be considered plagiarized, you should change, say the eye color, remove a piece of jewelry, etc.

Another trick I’ve come up with on my own is mixing and matching facial features to create illustrations of people. I would use different images from various sources, like Google or my school yearbooks. I would draw one person’s set of eyes, another’s nose, another’s smile, and so forth, on one character. As long as it doesn’t look obvious and you change some details, you’re fine.

Reference images are also useful for body positions, scenery, backgrounds, and more. In fact, if you go into illustration or animation, then reference images are musts. You need to make the art appear credible. Drawing just from your imagination will cause more people to consider you illegitimate.

Of course, no artist is perfect. In fact, many cartoons have inconsistencies with their art. For example, a character’s eye color may change. Or a tree may disappear. This is easily noticed by audiences.

So there you have it. Now have fun illustrating using reference images.

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Mini Art Show: A Young Woman Sketch

Oh, isn’t she lovely? Ha, ha, just admiring this sketch I did years ago. It wasn’t for school, but for pleasure. I wanted to learn how to make more realistic (technically semi-realistic) portraits.

I saw a video of some guy sketching a woman’s face. I practiced that too, and then tried doing other variations of my own. This was one of them.

And let me guess what you think. She looks like Fleur Delacour from “Harry Potter”, doesn’t she? I actually discovered that by mistake when sketching this image. I was NOT trying to draw Fleur, nor was I trying any “Harry Potter” fan art. Actually, when I was 13, I made silly “Harry Potter” fan art of the characters doing silly, ridiculous things. They are no longer funny. Twelve years ago, I laughed by brains out at them and showed my family. They were unimpressed. Now I look at them and think, “Oh, god”.

That’s another topic, though. But who doesn’t like to have fun? Anyway, let me get back to the image.

Why does the hair have bolded streaks, you may ask? Because the demonstrator in the video did his drawing like that. Where are the other variations? Unfortunately, I might’ve thrown them all away, including this one. I was probably cleaning out my room and felt that I no longer needed those pictures. Luckily, I photographed this one and the digital picture of it is still here.

There is not much else about this drawing that I want to discuss. The shading was done based on what I’ve learned. Also, in the original image that this was based off, the woman didn’t have a ponytail. That’s all, guys.

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Fun with Photoshop

Lighting effect 3

Above is a lighting effect I did in Photoshop. That’s right, Photoshop is more than just editing photos, although that is the main purpose of it.

You can draw, paint, shade, and anything you would do with traditional painting. Errors are easier to fix. You don’t have to start over and redraw the thing you made a mistake with. Best of all, there is no mess to clean up. It’s just your digital palette which can be shown as a gradient bar or swatches. You can name your colors, too.

Just be aware that Photoshop is expensive and can be complex or abstract for those just starting out. I’ve used Photoshop for over seven years. It was one of my high school graduation gifts, along with a MacBook Pro.

You should also avoid letting it spoil you. Don’t allow the easy error-fixing shortcuts make you frustrated when you have to do traditional media . That happened to me when I was 19. I was a bit disappointed (although didn’t express it) to have to erase the eye on the portrait I was drawing and had to redraw it instead of transport it to the right spot quickly. That would be magic. And of course, that’ s not possible.

Another approach I’ve done several times was draw something by hand using pencil and then scanning it into Photoshop to color, like in the image below.

Little Girl Scan

Yup, you can color in Photoshop using the paint bucket tool. Photoshop recognizes lines and will color only in between them as long as there are no gaps. Even the tiniest ones can get unwanted elements colored in by accident.

Speaking of which, Photoshop uses pixels. If you draw an image in Photoshop and try to blow it up, it will look blurry. You can raise the dots-per-inch (DPI) to 300 and that’ll make it less blurry. But Illustrator might be better for enlarging a picture. That’s another topic, though.

Blending is also something you can do in Photoshop. Below is a portrait I did where I blended colors to add dimension to the subject.

20150613_195551_resized coloredYou can see the smudges, tints, tones, and highlights. It also looks tangible, especially the lips. I was trying to experiment with realistic textures in digital painting. Few simple digital art programs would offer something this complex.

So if you’re considering using Photoshop, take these into account. Get to know the program. Although I’ve used it for over seven years, there are still some techniques I have yet to learn.

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Collage Comedy

In college, I took a 2D design course. One of the assignments was to make collages of scenes in different moods. There were a few choices, but the ones I remember, and the ones I chose, were content and melancholy. We has to make them humorous or somehow positive. We also couldn’t use words.

I like to apply humor to many of my creations. In high school, we did slideshows on endangered species and I was assigned some type of wild pig (I can’t remember the species, though) to present on. I had a man lifting a big dumbbell and drew a pig over his head to show the hog’s strength. To reveal its lifespan, I used a picture of Pumbaa from “The Lion King” and drew a beard on him.

Of course, this isn’t a science post. I don’t specialize in science here on my blog. Anyway, let me show you the collages I made and why I used the specific scenes.

collage 1

This was the collage with the content theme. I always admired the idea of non-native species in certain areas of the world. I especially liked the idea of a non-native creature in Italy, such as the lion above in the gondola with a singing-man.

Obviously, lions don’t live in Italy. And no, I didn’t use the ancient Roman animal fights as an inspiration. Honestly, I don’t remember how I came up with using a lion. It’s been a few years.

And onto the next collage:

collage 2

Above is a dingo eating a baby as the assignment for melancholy. This is actually based off a true event. In the late 90’s, a dingo actually ate a baby. That is, of course, really sad.

However, at some point, people used that event as a way to express humor. It was a tragedy turned into a comedy. That was why I used this scene. It was the first thing that came into my mind.

Collages can be used as scrapbooking style, like random information about you. I’m assuming many people had to make them in school when they were kids. I most certainly did. They can also be used artistically to make images. I’ve actually done that in high school in an advanced art class. I don’t have them here on this post. In fact, I don’t know if I have them anymore.

But I found these after searching all over my room. I made them 3 years ago. They are still great to admire now.

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Mini Art Show: A Simple Banquet Room

Banquet Room Drawing

This is one section of a made-up banquet hall room I illustrated myself. I used a few reference images for design and points-of-view.

The color scheme was done through research on what colors are often used in catering hall rooms. Having a natural eye for color-combos, I was inspired by having vibrant tones (like the purple) go with muted or achromatic gray (neither warm nor cool–just purely black and white mixed together).

Many banquet room carpets have detailed designs or patterns. However, I decided to simplify my catering room’s floor design. I drew this in Photoshop, and although you can make patterns look neat and professional there, for this POV, it ended up looking the opposite. So I chose to use stripes instead.

I am also more fond of modern design than old-fashioned design. It was even easier to create simple bulbs with light rather than chandeliers. The walls also don’t have relief textures or fancy wallpaper.

About the dancefloor? It was added since many catering events have dancing. I elected not to do anything unusual to it so that it would appear believable. Of course, not all dancefloors are created equally. But I saw no reason to do something over-the-top to it.

Below is a continuation of this room.

Banquet room opposite POV w stuff

This here is the opposite side of the picture at the top. I added tables to test layouts for this room. There are doors and an exit sign above it.

Of course, not being an architect, I have no plans to submit these to be designed. This was just to test my illustration skills and see what else I could do.

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Lines & Shapes & References, Oh My… That’s What Illustration is All About

In my final semester of college last year, I took an illustration elective. I discovered some tips and tricks I never knew before.

Reference material was one. Believe it or not, that is super important for illustration. Whether it’s for a pose or an appearance. Yes, if you want to illustrate a house with a yard for an illustration project, you will need a reference. Of course, you’re not going to copy it (not just because of copyright protections, but also because it’s lazy and not your own) but you can refer to it for believable structure and appearances. You still have to change some things, like color, removal of something, etc., or else it become copying.

Another illustration rule I’ve learned was when designing characters, their physical looks matter and should relate to their ages, personalities, and roles to their stories. I started out with just simple smiles and different looks. But I had to change that. So I did.

Below is a drawing of Polydectes from the Greek myth, Perseus and Medusa.
Main Polydectes Scan

Had I not been taught to show the characters’ personalities, he would’ve just smiled and held his arms at his side.

If you’re going to design characters as a career, you’ll most likely have to do turnaround sheets. That is when you show the same characters in different POV’s. It’s less necessary for book illustration, but mandatory for animation, whether it’s for TV, film, or games.

Here’s a sample of an original character I’ve drawn in different POV’s.

20171023_212909 (2)

Okay. So it might be a bit sloppy. But you get the idea. This character is basically in every major POV.

When you grew up, regardless of your artistic talent, you probably drew by outlining first. Then you colored in the image. In illustration, however, you start with simple shapes as the building blocks for an object or character. You would use circles for round sections and rectangles or triangles for angled sections. Then you would finish from there.

In fact, one of our first assignments was to find character images and break them down into simple shapes. This is how you learn to show detail and consistency.

Have you ever watched a cartoon and noticed something off? If so, the cartoonist probably made an error. He or she probably didn’t mean to. However, this is something viewers will notice very easily, even if it’s very faint. It takes a lot of practice, though. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to make this easy. You really just have to gain that hand muscle memory and place everything the right position, such as the eyes.

Of course, you will have to practice on your own as I do not have enough illustration experience to post tutorials here. However, you can find others all over the Internet. If you’re really serious, you can read books or take a class.