Color Palettes: A Beginner's Guide to Coloring with Sophistication (Part Two)

Color Palettes: A Beginner's Guide to Coloring with Sophistication (Part Two)

Are you good at picking colors or do you get a headache thinking about all the possible combinations of Copic Marker and colored pencils?

Relax. It's normal. Not everyone is born with the ability to whip out original and beautiful color palettes on demand.

In Part One of this series, I showed you how to weed through the various color palette websites, finding workable color palettes to use in your adult coloring projects.

Today, let's learn how to create our own palettes. And psssttt... don't miss downloading your FREE copy of my Color Palette Picker wheel for Copic Markers! It's at the end of this article and well worth your time.

Free Digi Club: Doughnut Stack - a coloring image for Copic, colored pencil, or watercolor

 Get your FREE copy of the "Doughnut Stack" digital stamp in April 2018. Join the Free Digi Club for a new stamp every month. Perfect for Copic Marker, colored pencil, or watercolor. |

Glazed Heaven!

How about a special treat?

"Doughnut Stack" is my latest Copic coloring image, a realism challenge for those of you who love food illustration! And I promise you, this whole stack of doughnuts is 100% calorie free! You might even burn a few calories coloring it.

 Join the Free Digi Club to receive a FREE copy of the "Doughnut Stack" digital stamp + recipe guide for April 2018. Perfect for coloring with Copic Markers, colored pencils, or watercolor. |

This digital stamp is completely free to Free Digi Club subscribers from now until May 2017.

No strings, no spam. It's simply a free image for you to color.

Subscribers to the FDC receive one free image every month, delivered right to your email inbox.

My digital stamps are ideal for Copic marker coloring but they also work great with colored pencil and even watercolor.

The images are full of wide open spaces to blend and celebrate pretty color. There are no distracting texture marks to get in the way of your creativity!

That's what the "Vanilla" in Vanilla Arts Co. is all about. I give you the vanilla base, you add the hot fudge, the sprinkles, the whipped cream, and the Copic ink.

 "Doughnut Stack" a free digital stamp for subscribers to the Free Digi Club. Every month a new challenge level image for use with Copic Markers, colored pencil, or watercolor. |

Perfect for Copic Markers or Colored Pencil!

And I've used Copic markers, Prismacolor Premier pencils, and a few other supplies here to create some amazing realism and you can do it too!

Doughnut Stack is an intermediate to advanced level image. If you're looking for something beyond the silly stamps where the food all has little smiley faces, this is the image for you!

And it's a large! Color it full page or half page size. Cardmakers could try it smaller with a bit less detail to the coloring OR color it large, scan, and print colored copies at a smaller scale!


Doughnut Stack  Speed Color:

  Click above to be taken to the video on my YouTube channel.

Click above to be taken to the video on my YouTube channel.


Take the Doughnut Stack Class!

 Doughnut Stack, a challenge level lesson on using gray underpainting to develop realism. Class also includes Amy's unique method for creating translucency. Copic Markers & colored pencil. |

To move your coloring beyond the cartoon stage and develop realistic and accurate details, take the Marker Painting Workshop online class!

This Marker Painting Workshop lesson is perfect for intermediate and advanced colorers who are looking to add more realism to their projects.

We're learning the basics of realism with new challenges every month!

Doughnut Stack uses a centuries old artistic technique called underpainting or Grisaille to create lifelike depth and amazing color accuracy.

You can't color with realism if you're using traditional Copic Marker blending combos! Learn how Amy creates the necessary shady colors automatically rather than hunting through 358 markers for the correct color!

This lesson also includes a bonus segment on creating translucency. Frosting is easy but glaze? That's a special effect!

 Tired of cartoony stamps? Give realistic coloring a try for FREE! Free Digi Club includes a new challenging stamp every month + a recipe guide. Perfect for Copic Marker, colored pencil, and watercolor. |

The best thing about Marker Painting Workshops:


You do not need three months of prior experience to understand the concepts and techniques in this lesson.

If you can handle basic Copic blending methods and if free tutorials aren't much of a challenge anymore, then you're ready for something more!

Learn to incorporate real artistry into your coloring projects, one concept at a time. Every Workshop details a new method for enhancing realism, depth, and dimension.

Each class stands on it's own as independent learning. You don't have to take six of my other classes to understand this lesson.

All of my Workshop classes are FOREVER ACCESS. Work at your own pace and repeat the project as many times as you'd like.

Come color with me. It's a ton of fun!



Happy coloring!

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Print

Products used in "Doughnut Stack":


Improve your Coloring: Add Life & Zest to your Neutral Colors

 Neutral color palettes do not have to be boring. Learn how to add artistic touches to improve your Copic Marker and colored pencil projects. |

Are Neutral Colors Bland?

Copic Marker fans love color. Colored pencil people love color.

That's why you color, right?

For most of you, it's rainbow, rainbow, rainbow all the time.

Bright reds, brilliant blues, verdant greens... bring on the color, baby!

Because I teach a lot of classes and I want my presentations to be unique, I do a lot of internet surfing; looking at other project photos and tutorials so that I'm not repeating tired concepts and techniques that have been done to death.

 Beige or gray doesn't have to be boring! 4 tips for adding life and zest to neutral coloring palettes with Copic Markers or colored pencils. |

In that research, I see a lot of bold and vivid colors being used.

But not a lot of neutrals.

It seems that many colorers are afraid of the toned down and slightly muddy colors.

So you write them off as unimportant.

Bland and boring. Browns and beiges and foggy grays.


What a snoozefest!

I think that's really sad.

Neutral colors are only boring when you treat them that way!

Neutrals are some of the most interesting and complex colors available to artists. Many artists spend years, even decades learning to hand mix perfect neutral colors. If a whole bunch of artists are spending that much time studying one specific thing? Well, that's a sign. There must be something pretty darned important about neutrals.

So why aren't you using them in your coloring projects?

It's not that neutral color palettes are boring, it's that you're using them wrong!


Are you sick of Kiddie Color Palettes?

Do you want to improve the look of your coloring projects?

Are you searching for that polished professional look?

Are you tired of coloring like a circus clown or a 12 year old Disney Princess wanna-be?

 Do your coloring projects have a childish look? Learn to add maturity and sophistication to Copic Marker or colored pencil projects with the use of neutral colors.  |


Neutrals are the solution!

Neutral colors can add the sophistication you are looking for.

Adding more neutrals to your projects is not hard.

Don't build it up to be more taxing than it ought to be.

Four simple keys...

Just four? Yep.

I have four little tricks that I use to add life and zest to my neutral color palettes!

  1. Expand your definition of neutral - supplement the palette with near-neutrals like violet grays and dusty yellows.
  2. Use a full range of color values - don't get stuck at the zero end of the Copic color set!
  3. Don't skip texture and pattern - smooth & plain is boring no matter what color you use!
  4. Add some spice - find pop colors to provide some kicky interest

Want to know more?

Great, because there's a lot to explore. Remember, I've sat through all the boring color theory classes so that you don't have to.

I can't wait to share this fun lesson with you!


Join me for an introduction to neutral color palettes

Learn to add zest and liveliness to the colors you've always written off as boring.

It's not hard. You can do this!

Saturday, April 14th at 11 am EDT

using Power Poppy's "Cup of Columbine"

(Here's a handy-dandy time zone converter to calculate your local time)

 Vanilla Livestream lessons for Copic colorers. Learn to use neutral colors in a mature way. No more boring neutrals! |

What is Vanilla Live-Stream?

It's a live broadcast- just like the evening news but with me instead of the creepy weather guy in a toupee...

We'll have fun coloring with lots of Copics!

 Neutral color palettes don't have to be bland and boring. 4 tips to spicing up your neutral beiges and grays for amazing Copic and colored pencil projects. |

This is just like my local intermediate & advanced level coloring classes, but online!

I'll walk you through my creation process, discussing the ins and outs of the coloring project. We always cover a bunch of artsy tips and tricks which you can apply to tons of other projects.

There's even a live chat feed so that you can ask questions and I'll answer live.

Every month, we tackle a new art technique or creative process, helping you develop your artistic skills and realism!

Can't attend live?

Not a problem!

All livestreams are recorded and available to members immediately after each broadcast for replay. You can watch six months worth of recorded sessions, replaying them as many times as you need to understand the lesson and finish the project.

Hey, that's something you definitely can't do in my live class!


20% off cup of Columbine!

Cup of Colum Capture.jpeg

Marcella Hawley, the amazing artist at Power Poppy is giving all my Patreon members 20% off the class digital stamp! It's an instant download from; just print it to a Copic safe paper and color along with me!

Want to know more about how this class works?

Want the project supply list and lesson info?


April's Live-Stream:

You must be an enrolled at to participate

Saturday, April 14th at 11:00 am EDT

(use this calculator to find your local time match)

Lesson: Adding life and zest to neutral color palettes

Stamp: Cup of Columbine by Power Poppy

Medium: Copic Marker and Prismacolor Premier Pencils

Skill Level: Intermediate through advanced colorers. Once you can blend Copics smoothly with confidence, you're ready to join us! No drawing skills necessary.


(see below for Amazon links to products used)

 Vanilla Livestream online lessons for Copic colorers. Neutral colors don't have to be boring! Learn to add life & zest to your adult coloring projects. |

Join me online for zesty, spicy and special neutral colors

And a ton of coloring fun!

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Color Palettes: A Beginner's Guide to Coloring with Maturity & Sophistication

 Learn how to develop and use color palettes to improve the style & sophistication of your coloring. Works for Copic Markers, colored pencil, watercolor, or other mediums! |

Do You Have Color Instinct?

Some people have a knack for color palettes. They decorate their home with unique style rather than copying decor ideas from Pinterest. They make bold fashion statements rather than buying what's on the mannequin. Even their coloring projects look polished and professional.

Don't feel bad, most people are not born with an awesome sense of color.

For many colorers, a cohesive color palette is the hardest piece of the puzzle. You can blend like a pro and you're top-notch at the techniques...

And yet most of your projects feel juvenile or just plain loud due to color confusion.

Will it always be this way? Are you doomed to mediocre, unprofessional looking projects?

The Grab-Bag

Most colorers work their way through an image object by object.

First we color one egg, then the other, then the basket, then the rabbit, then the grass, then the sky. We grab completely new blending combinations for every item as we need them, without thinking about the larger composition or how the colors interact with each other.

 Learn to create artistic color palettes for sophisticated and professional looking coloring projects. Improve the look of your Copic, colored pencil, or watercolor projects. |

Color grabbing leads to a circus or a color-riot. Disjointed coloring robs your project of a focal point. Your viewers can't tell what to look at because the eye keeps getting dragged from color to color.

It's sad to see great coloring get overshadowed by distracting color combinations.

But making cohesive color palettes can be hard!

Relax. You are not doomed. You can learn to work with color.

Introducing a new series for colorers:

You can learn to create and use artistic color palettes.

Let me show you how I approach color palettes as an artist.

Today, let's look at the easiest way to get your feet wet.


Behold, the Miracle!

Back in the stone-age before the internet tubes got to flowing, we had sit down at a desk style classes in color theory. Color theory is essential to art training because painting and drawing are visual mediums. Artists want you to want to look at our work.

Yes, color attracts your attention but it also guides your eye to key areas in the painting and color helps transmit a message or feeling.

 Learn to create artistic color palettes for sophisticated and professional looking coloring projects. Improve the look of your Copic, colored pencil, or watercolor projects. |

Bad color usage drives people away. And not to be ignored: unappealing art doesn't sell well!

Color theory helps clarify the mood or theme of your art.

Sounds big, eh?

Sounds like more than a casual colorer wants to tackle, right?

Relax, I'm not about to recommend that every crafter enroll in a color theory class and I won't make you check out big confusing books from the library!

The internet has simplified the learning process for you. We now have entire websites devoted to collecting and cataloging color palettes. For free!

Websites like Design-Seeds and COLOURlovers offer color theory newbies a chance to learn by playing rather than sitting through lectures.

I heartily recommend color palette sites to students who want to improve the maturity of their projects. The thinking and the planning... all the brainy stuff about what matches and what coordinates... it's all been done for you.

The key is learning to use these sites effectively!

design seeds orange.jpeg

Start with a Plan

When you first go to a palette website, it's easy to get blown away. For anyone who loves color, these sites are mezmerizing. Hours can zip by while I'm drooling over rainbows.

The key is to enter the website knowing what you want BEFORE opening the door to temptation.

"I'm coloring an Easter stamp and I want to use a pale orange!"

That's your mission. Stick to it! Don't get sucked into looking at autumnal purple color palettes, right?

Right? Hey, stop looking at all the pretty color palettes up there.

You back with me now? Okay.

Start with a roadmap and you won't get lost.


Next Tip: Skip the Circus

Most color palette websites offer 4, 5, or 6 colors per palette. And what I"m about to say might sound a little crazy, but here goes:

Avoid all the color palettes with 4, 5, or 6 different colors!

Learn to find and color with artistic color palettes. Improve the look of your Copic, colored pencil, or watercolor projects. | 

Look, I know this kind of variety palette is really, really tempting. When it comes to color, the more color the better, eh?

But how is this palette any different than blindly grabbing five of your favorite Copics?

The color circus method isn't working for you already, so don't keep doing it!

Here's the problem, many palette websites feature a beautiful photograph. Below it, they'll give you five gorgeous colors found in the photo. But if you put your hand over the photograph and look at the palette all by itself, suddenly the palette makes no sense.

What does the tangerine color have to do with spring green or bright yellow? They don't have any relationship; there's no sense of purpose. These could have been five random crayons found in your kitchen junk drawer.

Colors in a palette need to make sense as a group.

Otherwise, they're not really a palette.


Avoid the Paint Chips

The second most common type of palette you'll find is a Value Grouping.

Here we have the same blue shown in a range of strengths. Each blue has a little more white in it but the hue never changes.

 Learn to find and color with artistic color palettes. Improve the look of your Copic, colored pencil, or watercolor projects. |

Value Groups are hard to work with

... because they don't offer many options. 

This palette would work for an ocean but what color would you use for the sandy beach or the starfish that washed ashore?

It's a pretty collection of colors but it's not very useful. 

And frankly, it's not all that exciting.

 Learn to find and color with artistic color palettes. Improve the look of your Copic, colored pencil, or watercolor projects. |

Sometimes you'll find Value Groupings with a pop at the end. A "pop" is a color that stands out and contrasts with the larger group. Pops add zing or interest to an otherwise ho-hum collection.

These palettes are a lot better than a straight grouping but they're almost as limiting as the original range.

If you can find a use for the Value with a Pop style palette, they can be quite striking in art... but finding the right kind of image to use them on?  That's quite a challenge.


The Best of Both Worlds

What happens when you combine the joy of the color circus with a few value groups AND a pop?

 Learn to find and color with artistic color palettes. Improve the look of your Copic, colored pencil, or watercolor projects. |

This is the holy graille!

Let's call this Mixed Assets. These are the color palettes I search for and the kind I use in my projects.

And when I create my own palettes, they look a lot like this.

Here we have two major colors (tangerine and aqua) plus value versions of each and a little pop of green to spice it up.

 Learn to find and color with artistic color palettes. Improve the look of your Copic, colored pencil, or watercolor projects. |

We have lots of options here!

A floral bouquet could feature large tiger lily blossoms with tiny aqua florets and greenery. I can see a gold fish swimming in a tank with a green sentiment stamp. How about a stack of duckies?

Or wouldn't this make for the most mature and sophisticated group of bubblegum balls in an orange machine?

If you need more colors, say for a background, you can always find a third or fourth value for any of the original colors. We can add a darker aqua or a yellowy-orange so pale, that it almost reads as white. These new colors aren't shown in the original palette but because they relate, they'll fit right in.

The potential of the Mixed Asset palette is endless!

This is how you avoid the childish "I just grabbed a bunch of random colors" look. Your project won't look random because viewers can sense your color plan.


Speaking of Values...

Notice anything else about my Mixed Assets palette?

Don't fall into the Pit of Pointless Pale Pastels.

 Learn to find and color with artistic color palettes. Improve the look of your Copic, colored pencil, or watercolor projects. |

Remember how we used to decorate baby nurseries in pale pastels but that has that fallen out of fashion recently?

It's because pastels are not the least bit mentally stimulating. 

There's no there there.


Or do you want it to say "Ho hum, have a pretty good day... if you feel like it, but don't go out of your way... zzzzzzz"

A lively and stimulating color palette will have a range of values. Some bold and bright, some light and airy. Find a balance of values.

Yin and yang. Salt and pepper. Sweet and sour. The bold colors help you appreciate the softs and the softies keep the bold ones in check. It's a zen thing.

If you're using Copic Markers and all your markers end in a number smaller than 3, you have a snoozer on your hands!


Adding Neutrals

Many colorers are hesitant to use pre-planned color palettes because they feel locked down and constrained.

 Learn to find and color with artistic color palettes. Improve the look of your Copic, colored pencil, or watercolor projects. |

What if you need more colors than you find in the original palette?

That's where experimentation and artistry come into play. Color palettes are a bit of guidance keeping you from that schizophrenic, disjointed look but you're not locked into coloring a sandy beach with a green pencil just because there's nothing else left in the palette!

I add neutrals to my images all the time! Sandy beiges or taupes work really well. For my egg illustration, I added soft dove grays and even some muted violet and lavender.

This isn't your kindergartener's crayon box anymore! Adding neutrals amplifies the maturity of any color palette.


Experiment and Play!

Pre-made color palettes are a great way to dabble in color theory and to learn about color by physically using it.

 Learn to create artistic color palettes for sophisticated and professional looking coloring projects. Improve the look of your Copic, colored pencil, or watercolor projects. |

I don't know about you but I'm a visual learner. Tell me something and I'll forget. Show me and I'm more likely to remember. But let me do it with my own hands and that knowledge is cemented for life!

Experimentation is the best way for most artistic people to learn.

And trust me, playing is a lot more fun than sitting through professorial slide shows or painting an endless series of 1" swatch tiles.

What absolutely floors me about our modern color palette websites is the endless selection available! My textbooks had about 20 samples in the back index. If I recall, there were a few books of nothing but color palettes... but as a poor art student, they were beyond my pocketbook.

Technology is a wonderful thing!

Set up a Pinterest board for color palettes which appeal to you and use them in a few upcoming projects. I guarantee they will help you add order, cohesiveness, and a sense of professionalism to your coloring.


Hang on, we're not done yet!

Join me for Part Two, where I show you how to begin creating your own custom color palettes without using the websites.

Let the play time begin!

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