No one's perfect, especially not in the beginning stages
Coloring isn't any different.
I know you see a lot of marker projects online- in blogs and on Pinterest, and it can be pretty easy to assume that all your coloring idols popped out of the womb with a Copic in one hand and a certificate of genius in the other.
But the stinkin' truth is that everyone starts out rough.
There is a definite learning curve to coloring well; it takes time and practice to DEVELOP skill. Sure, it comes easier to some people than others but we can all improve what we're doing now with a little work.
I teach a lot of beginners
And one thing that I notice is that everyone screws up.
The thing is, we all don't screw up in the same way. Every beginner has a different set of hurdles to overcome. Some people have hesitancy based problems, some others have over-eagerness problems. Everyone has two or three technique flaws that lead to that dreaded "don't judge me because I'm still a beginner" look to their projects.
What's interesting though, is that while student A has 3 problems and student B has 3 problems, once you see enough beginners, you realize that all beginners make similar technique mistakes, the only thing that's different is the combination they come in.
It's almost like some Olympic deity handed down a list of the Ultimate 20 Copic Mistakes and made us all choose three to be burdened with.
So to help you diagnose what set of things go wrong when you sit down to color, let's look at more common mistakes which I see from beginners. Correct these mistakes and you're not a beginner anymore!
MORE mistakes? Yep, today we're covering Mistakes #6 through #10.
Last time I used a red heart to illustrate mistakes.
This time we're doing violet balloons.
Here's a good-blending sample. I used BV04, BV02, and BV01.
This isn't going to win me any prizes at the World's Fair of Coloring, especially not blown up to 3 times it's normal size in a high-resolution jpg... but it is a fairly good example of what you're shooting for.
Each ink color blends into the next in a fairly smooth manner. The lights are light and the darks are dark with no jarring lines or blobs uglying-up the image.
problem #6: coloring in blocks
Smooth blending happens when you gently transition from one marker color to another in an even manner.
Think of it as a series of halves. You use markers A and C. Where the two colors overlap creates color B.
Where markers C and E overlap, you create color D.
Colors B and D are not marker colors, they're both middle colors which you create by mixing two inks.
In my pretty sample above, I overlapped BV04 and BV02 allowing them to magically create a BV03 section. I didn't use BV03, I mixed it.
Same thing with BV02 and BV01. Those inks mixed and mingled to form the equivalent of a BV01.5.
It's all about the mixing.
But mixing can't happen if you color in blocky sections, as shown here.
Block colorers do not use flicks and they end up with stripey zones rather then blended zones. They're physically laying down the correct color in all the correct places, the problem is with their application method.
It's hard to blend two color blocks together because each block is a zone of heavy color with abrupt edges.
This is a flick, it's a controlled stroke pattern. I've used flicks here to concentrate the heaviest coat of BV04 down where the balloon is the darkest. As I move upwards, the flicks taper off, like little fingers. There is less BV04 ink at the top edge of my coloring and more down at the bottom.
Essentially, smooth blending is all about easing into the transition zone. Easy transitions lead to smooth blending.
It's much easier to blend finger zones to finger zones because there's less BV04 in the upper region for the BV02 to fight with.
Using flicks rather than coloring in blocks will improve your ability to blend inks in the transition zone and to form beautiful middle tones.
problem #7: not enough juice
Let's say that you decide to make a batch of pancakes using a box of pancake mix.
Just for kicks, let's say you add only half the liquids called for in the recipe. Instead of adding 1 cup of milk you add only 1/2 cup. Instead of four eggs, you use two.
How will those pancakes turn out? Light and fluffy perfection?
Probably not. You're likely going to to make a powdery mess on the griddle which even the dog won't eat.
You need moisture to make the magic happen.
The same is true for markers. You need enough wet ink on the paper to facilitate blending.
I often see this problem with hesitant coloring students. They're afraid to lay down too much color for fear that they might be doing it wrong.
But trying to blend with not enough ink is a little like trying to do the backstroke in a pool filled with 6 inches of water. Your heart may be in it but there's not enough moisture to really do much.
In the bad sample above, I've put down a good amount of the darkest violet (BV04) but I let it cure for about 20 minutes before proceeding. Then I laid down a really wimpy layer of BV02, light and fast.
Because I was working a light layer over a dried layer, moisture was at a premium and no real blending occurred. The ink particles need moisture to move and blend and get happy with each other. Blending is hard to near impossible in a desert.
I always advise my students that the best blending happens when you work wet into damp. That means not waiting a long time in-between colors.
It's not impossible to blend wet into dried ink but that process requires even more ink. This is because ink #1 must be re-hydrated before the blending can begin. It's much easier to hit the ink while it's still fresh.
The other thing for beginners to note is that the magic doesn't always happen on the first pass. Sometimes the two inks won't begin to blend until you hit it with a second coat of the lighter color. Blending requires a sense of both timing AND quantities. If the blend isn't what you wanted it to be after the first application, it's okay to go back and wet it again!
problem #8: too much juice
Too little ink is a problem, but so is too much ink.
Remember that I said in the last fix that blending relies on a sense of timing AND quantities? Well, here's why you can't go overboard.
This blend was going pretty well until I got a little too happy with the lightest color (BV01).
Here's something you may never have considered.
One coat of BV01 equals BV01. But what does three coats equal?
You can easily get away with a second or third coat of most colors but when you start playing with multiple layers of the same color, all those lovely transparent layers start to add up to more than your original color.
BV01 + BV01 + BV01 + BV01 = BV02.5 or even BV03
By adding too much BV01, I've darkened the top of that balloon past the middle color. I've ruined my dark to light transition.
The solution is to not blend with just one marker. Balance out your applications of every color. If you get all three colors in place but you're not happy with the blend, don't grab the lightest marker to do the entire second pass, go back with your middle color THEN go back with the lighter. It's not just blending, it's balancing.
Reblending with multiple colors keeps your lights from accidentally layering up to be darker than your middles.
problem #9: color zones not meeting
When I introduce flicking, I see this in about 50% of the students on their very first attempt.
I think they're so wrapped up in trying to get nice flicks that they forget the ultimate goal is to fill the shape with solid color.
Flicking really only works when you're generous with both the number of flicks and the length of those flicks.
Your flicks need to overlap each other, they need to touch and get really snuggly in order to cover over the white space.
This isn't just a case of the BV04 flicks not touching each other either. We've got double trouble in this example. The BV02 flicks need to come down and lay on top of a good portion of the BV04 for the actual blending to begin.
It's not enough to have coverage, the coverage needs to be layered.
Play some Barry White and turn the lights down low. These colors need to get comfy, romantic, and downright dirty with each other. If your two inks never touch, if they sit in quarantine, like wall flowers at a sixth grade dance, then they're never going to merge and mingle and make beautiful music together.
problem #10: overstroking
This problem is not usually one that I see with first-time newbies. This one develops after a few coloring sessions, once students get really comfortable with their flicks and are better able to judge how much ink their cardstock can absorb. This mistake happens when they get a little TOO comfortable and start pushing for perfection in their blends.
If you look really closely here, you'll see a mottled texture in the upper and middle thirds of the balloon.
This is because I blended and blended and blended and blended and then blended some more with all three colors.
I'm right on the edge of oversaturating the paper and in the process, I've used way too much of every color.
There is so much ink here that the colorless blender in the lightest formula is starting to break down the darker inks. In just a few strokes this balloon went from an awesome blend to one with funky white patches.
This mottling can also happen when the lightest marker in your blending combo is a smidge too light for the overall blend, but most often I see mottling when students over-correct and reblend an area more than 3 or 4 times.
Know when to cry "uncle". Sometimes a blend simply isn't going to get any better.
There is a limit to how much ink paper can hold, especially wet ink. When too much wet ink is active on the paper all at once, the lightest ink will start to break down and do damage to the darker inks. The solvent pushes the ink particles out to the edges of little round pools, clearing the centers of each pool of almost all pigment. That's the mottling, small colorless circles with dark edges.
If you re-blend enough and you can even start to separate the inks into their color components. With a dark gray or black you'll see greens and purples start to ooze out. Green inks can break down with little yellow halos that often seep outside the boundaries of the image. Purple and orange can leak reds or pinks.
Experience will teach you to quit while you're ahead. Before you re-blend for the 43rd time, take a step back from the project. Are you trying to fix a truly bad blend or are you hyper-focused on a flaw so tiny and minute that you're the only one who can see it?
In my experience, 60% of your mistakes are ones only you can notice. We're our own worst critics and nothing looks awesome from 3 inches away.
Step back and put the marker down! Learn to live with good instead of killing it in the quest for perfection.
So there you go- 5 more common mistakes and 5 solutions to prevent them from happening again.
Don't feel bad if you're guilty of more than one!
Heck, I've broken four or five on a single project. The key is to spot it happening and mentally slap yourself out of it before you take it too far!
Correcting mistakes and flaws in your technique is all part of the learning process.
It's good for you!
And yes, I've got at least 5 more coming next month...
There's really no shortage of ways to screw things up.