Do you color everything smooth?
My latest Copic Coloring Tips video at YouTube is all about texture.
As a beginner, most colorers focus on blending skills.
After all, the blends are what originally attracted you to markers in the first place.
So you dream about blending, you practice blending, and the color blends are what you notice most when you go online to look at other coloring projects and tutorials.
Blend, blend, blend.
But wait, are you stuck on blending?
The Blending Trap
One of the problems I notice with my intermediate to advanced students is that they’ve spent a long time obsessing about smooth blending.
Often to the detriment of any other technique.
Name a different Copic Marker technique; something other than smooth blending.
I don’t mean silly novelty techniques like dabbing colorless blender soaked washcloths or burlap over your smooth blending.
I mean a real coloring stroke that you’d use to fill in large coloring areas.
Something that doesn’t either start or end in a smooth color blend.
A lot of you are thinking hard…
Some of you are still thinking…
Don’t be surprised that you can’t come up with a technique other than flick stroke blending. It’s normal.
Because the entire Copic world is stuck on blending.
Without blending, what else would you do with your markers?
The world is full of texture!
Look at the environment around you.
The room where you’re sitting is full of texture. Not just the obvious things either. The rug and your cat or the potted cactus are logical textures. We all know that some things are soft or hairy or spikey.
But how often do you include even the most obvious textures in your coloring?
I’m sure you don’t think twice about coloring a Christmas tree with short little flick strokes that look like pointed needles. That’s a pretty good use of texture.
But what about a wooden chair?
Do you color it brown and blend it out smooth even though you know darned-well that wood has a grain and a subtle soft glow?
What about a terra-cotta pot?
Do you color it brownish orange and blend it out smooth even though you know that raw clay pots are gritty feeling and they’re very matte with no reflective highlights?
And what about that brand new stamp with all the dogs in it; the one you colored last week?
Did you color one dog with long furry strokes but the rest were blended smooth even though all dogs have fur?
Too often, colorers think of texture as something special. It’s like an fancy up-do hairstyle or a lacy blouse, something you save for special occasions.
Holding texture in reserve limits your chance to color with realism.
When you color the wooden chair smooth, it doesn’t look real because wooden chairs are not smooth. Even if you get the shade into the right spots, you’re asking your viewers to pretend it looks like wood.
If you want something to look real, you have to think about more than just the color, the shade, and where to put the highlights.
You also have to address the real texture.
So how do we create realistic texture?
How do we use creative strokes and interesting textures in our coloring projects?
Well, it’s not a one-size fits all technique. This is not a tutorial.
Instead, adding texture is a process and a mindset. Here’s how I approach real texture in my coloring.
1. think about how it feels
The first key to coloring realistically is to think realistically.
Real stuff has real texture.
If it’s not smooth, then what is it exactly?
To show how something feels, you have to know how something feels.
If you’re rushing through the coloring process, of course you’re going to end up blending everything smooth. Blend is the default mode for most colorers. We need to switch your brain off default!
Think before you color.
Ask yourself some basic questions:
How does this object feel?
What does the texture look like?
You have to think about objects in terms of adjectives. Hard or soft. Shiny or matte? Velvety, prickly, or ooey-gooey sticky?
The more words you associate with the object, the better your understanding of the texture is.
Once you have the words, you can start to think of appearances.
“If the frog is wet and slimy, how can I show that in my coloring?”
And by the way, don’t just do this for one object per project. For realism, you need to describe every object in your image!
2. pattern is not texture!
I know this sounds weird but think about it. In your normal everyday crafting life, do you lump pattern in with texture?
A lot of people do.
But pattern is a very different thing than texture.
A pattern is visual. It’s a design or repetitive motif that is added to an object. Texture is a feel. Texture can be repetitive but most of the time, it’s organic and random.
Plaid is a pattern
Stripes are a pattern
Polka dots are a pattern
Furry is NOT a pattern
Don’t confuse the two.
A plaid flannel shirt has a pattern but underneath the pattern, it also has a texture. Flannel is soft and matte. And it’s not just feel, think about the condition of the object- the shirt could be brand-spankin’ new with factory folds and a starched collar, or the shirt could be old and battered and worn thin at the elbows.
Texture is usually the detail you forget when you get excited about a fun new patterning technique.
3. Think about scale
One of my big pet peeves is when people draw hundreds of giant hairs on their animal and people stamps.
“But wait a minute Amy, you just said to add texture, so shouldn’t we be adding hair from now on?”
Well yes, but consider this: what kind of hair do you draw with your big, fat, juicy Copic nib?
Even if your stamp was life sized, your Copic nib is still about 1000 times thicker than a strand of hair.
So when you draw hair on a stamp with Copic markers, it looks like you’re adding dreadlocks.
Was rastafarian really the look you were going for?
If we’re coloring realistically, size and scale need to be realistic.
So rather than drawing every hair in the horse’s mane, consider coloring locks of hair instead.
You’ll still break up the mane, keeping it from looking heavy and solid but you won’t be breaking the illusion of reality.
And by the way, Mermaid lovers. I’m looking at you now. Some of you put suits of armor on your fishy girls. If she really had fish scales, they would be fish sized.
Same goes for you grass-growers. I know flick strokes kinda look like blades of grass but if you really look at scale, some of you are adding big green tree trunks to your grassy coloring projects.
In this bottle of tonic, I was very careful to keep the pitting and the cracks on the cork in scale with the size of the cork.
And for my bubbles, I switched to a tiny 0.3 pen point. I wanted the look of delicate fizz. I had to think small to keep the bubbles realistically sized.
4. Speaking of scale…
Sometimes you just can’t see the texture of objects.
Like the hair on the horse. We all know a horse is covered in hair from head to hoof but the body hairs are so tiny that we can’t possibly draw them, even on a life-sized mural of a horse.
That texture still matters though.
The horse has hair but it’s not something we can see from a distance. And how about the cowboy riding on the horse? His jeans also have a texture that we’d have to get up close to determine.
The texture still plays a part in how you color each object.
The horse’s hide has a high shine sheen and thus would require more highlights than the cowboy’s dirty matte jeans. The blue jeans would be a virtual dead zone with almost no highlighting.
Texture alters sheen.
Too many colorers highlight the horse the same as the saddle, the same as the mane, the same as the cowboy’s clothes, the same as the cowboy’s sweat-soaked brow.
But all of these things have different reflectivity and different shine.
If you want realism, you can’t highlight them all the same.
5. Experiment & Play
Okay, the first four steps here were things to think about and things to look for.
Let’s get practical now; let’s get physical.
What kind of strokes can you use for texture?
flicks (long, short, straight, curved, curley, etc)
dots (pointillism in various diameter spots)
stripes or streaks
scumbling (messy twisted spirals)
zig zags (regimental or random)
organic doodles (light touch downs that vary in size and shape)
and hey, don’t forget smoothly blended… that’s a texture too!
How do you know what textures your markers can make?
You have to experiment and play.
If you never do anything but flick and blend, you’re not going to know what interesting textures you can create.
Want to know how I come up with original textures for my coloring?
I’ve got tons of pieces of scrap paper floating around the drawers in my studio. Pages full of scribbles and experiments.
Give yourself permission to Not-Blend!
The more you not-blend, the more weird little strokes you’ll discover.
If I’m coloring an old dirty label on an antique bottle, I take the time to look at a few pictures of old dirty antique labels. Then I try to make my marker do the same thing I’m seeing in the photograph.
I call this “dancing with my markers” and it’s how I experiment with strokes. I do the same thing with my pencils too. Experimentation is key to artistry!
Dance on scrap paper and see what happens.
You might not come up with anything that’s usable right away but I save my interesting scraps to jog my memory later.
So there you go.
5 steps to developing authentic texture
Some of it’s mind-work, some of it’s handi-work but it puts you on the path to a deeper understanding of realistic texture.
1. Think in terms of feel
To show texture, you have to know texture.
2. Pattern is not the same thing as texture
Patterns are added designs and generally are seen rather than felt.
3. Consider the scale
Because frankly, giant blades of grass are kinda freaky.
4. Texture alters sheen
Not everything has a hard, bright highlight
5. Give yourself permission to Not-Blend!
Doodle and dance with your markers and pencils to create new and interesting textures.
Are you ready to color with authentic texture?
Feeling a little sinister?
Introducing my new Tonic class.
This image has been all over Pinterest and you can find it hidden on my website… but up until now, it’s been a class I’ve only taught to local students.
Today, I’m releasing the first online version!
And I’ve got a bunch of new resources to help you color Tonic and lots of realistic texture.
Let's start with the free stuff!
Watch the latest Coloring Tips on YouTube:
(Click the image above to watch the video at YouTube)
And get a Taste of Vanilla!
Taste of Vanilla is a FREE monthly program focusing on the supplies, techniques, and interesting mindsets used by artists who work creatively and independently.
You can't get creative until you feel comfortable!
Learn and grow with monthly mini-lessons designed to reduce the intimidation that happens when you jump into the deep end of artistic coloring.
Fresh bite sized art lessons every month!
In October, we're going to master the Copic Colorless Blender Marker.
It’s called a blender but it doesn’t blend.
And some folks call it an eraser but honestly, it usually does far more harm than good.
Let’s break down what a colorless blender is and how to use it to fix flaws and mistakes.
Don't miss this excellent issue of Taste of Vanilla.
And of course, there's the Workshop class!
Tonic is a challenge level for intermediates and advanced students.
The best thing about Marker Painting Workshops?
Workshops are NON-SEQUENTIAL!
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 its 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!
And don't forget!
Products used in Tonic:
(Affiliate links, not all materials shown)
Vanilla Arts Company is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for use to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com.