Depth

Copic Coloring: Why Depth and Dimension Aren't Enough for Realism

 
There's more to realism than depth and dimension. Why more taking classes and reading more tutorials won't lead you to better coloring results. | VanillaArts.com
 
 

You thought it was you

When you first started coloring, it was all about controlling color. How to make your strokes, how to fill in areas smoothly, how to blend.

And your projects turned out okay but they were missing something.

So you went looking for answers.

"Read my blog tutorial about depth!"

"Learn how to add shape to your stamp coloring!"

"Take my class where we use the right marker combinations to make your projects pop with dimension!"

So you did everything they said.

You bought the magical marker combinations. You added the special pens and pencils. You followed the recipes and instructions to a tee. You got so good at blending, layering, light sourcing, and shadow casting that now you can practically teach the class.

You're an intermediate level colorer. You've got the class certificates to prove it.

And yet your coloring is STILL missing something. It looks better than it used to... but it still doesn't look realistic.

So it must be you, right?

Maybe you're simply not as talented as everyone else.

Because really, after all this time and investment, what else could it be?

 

depth & dimension

Colorers want depth and dimension. They'll pay good money for someone to show them how to get it.

And yet I'm not convinced that colorers or their instructors really know what depth and dimension are.

First, let's define the terms.

Depth. What do YOU think it means?

Before I give you the answer, define "depth" for yourself. What does depth mean?

There's more to realism than depth and dimension. Why more taking classes and reading more tutorials won't lead you to better coloring results. | VanillaArts.com

Depth is a measurement of distance. It's how far away something is sitting.

Spacial planes if you want to drag out a geometry term.

Depth in coloring is making far away items look farther away and making nearer items look near.

So when two items overlap, like two leaves or a mommy bear and her baby bear, depth is about making the baby bear look as if it's sitting in front of the mother bear.

Depth is near and far.

Now tell me about dimension. You claim to want more dimension in your coloring, so what does "dimension" mean?

Dimension is the shape of an object. Not where it's sitting but how the object is shaped. Is it flat and curled? Is it rounded and plump? Is it squared off with flat sides? That's dimension.

Dimension is shape.

So a blogger or teacher who promises to help add "depth and dimension" to your coloring is supposed to teach you how to set the distance of your objects and to define their shape.

Do they really do that?

No.

They yammer endlessly about what colors to use.

 

Let's get real about realism

Realism doesn't come from using the perfect color combinations.

There's more to realism than depth and dimension. Why more taking classes and reading more tutorials won't lead you to better coloring results. | VanillaArts.com

It doesn't come from buying the best brand of colored pencils or from owning lots of spiffy art supplies.

Realism is a quest.

It's not a formula. It is not a method.

Realism is a journey.

A lifetime's worth of journeying.

That's why artists talk about realism in terms of quantity. We want "more realism" or we describe something is "less realistic".

Realism is a quality to strive for, not a technique.

Depth and dimension are keys to realism but they're only part of the equation.

That's why you can add depth and add dimension to your coloring projects and still not color with a decent amount of realism.

Depth and dimension are pieces of the puzzle, not the whole picture.

 
 

so what's missing?

Well, every project is different and every student is unique. I can't diagnose your realism problem from afar. I can't solve anything in the space of a single blog post.

But if I had to take a wild stab at the problem, I'd point back to my previous paragraphs above about depth and dimension.

There's more to realism than depth and dimension. Why more taking classes and reading more tutorials won't lead you to better coloring results. | VanillaArts.com

Most classes and tutorials talk about depth and dimension in terms of color.

Color can't solve your realism problems.

Depth and dimension are only part of the way to make objects look real.

Objects look real (or real-er) when you show us more than what color something is.

Things look real (or real-er) when you show us how hard or soft they are, what the surface texture is, and how each object relates to the other objects within the image.

Realism comes from a combination of factors:

  • space

  • shape

  • desaturation

  • texture

  • environment

  • relationship

  • rationality

Notice that I didn't mention depth, dimension, or blending combinations?

Notice that I didn't say a darned thing about light sources?

Get the idea that you're focused on the wrong things?

Bingo.

You can be an advanced Copic colorer... you can have years of colored pencil experience under your belt... you can take every coloring class under the sun...

But if the lessons never move beyond color combinations, you'll never color with realism because you're only hearing the fluffy stuff.

 

Not your average coloring class

There are a lot of talented and generous coloring instructors (both online and in shops around the world) who do a really great job educating students about basic marker and pencil techniques.

There's more to realism than depth and dimension. Why more taking classes and reading more tutorials won't lead you to better coloring results. | VanillaArts.com

But there's also a weird merry-go-round mindset amongst colorers. The idea is if you take enough classes and meet enough instructors- that eventually, you'll grow your skills from coloring level to artist level.

So you bounce from instructor to instructor, technique to technique, spinning your wheels the entire time because no matter which class you take, you never move past beginner level concepts.

If every class covers color selection, you'll never move beyond color selection.

There's a great big world beyond color recipes and that's where I want to take my students.

I have a growing Workshop full of online courses and lessons that are NOT what-marker-goes-where style classes.

You've done depth. You've done dimension. You've explored the many blending combinations and the nifty novelty techniques.

Let's start working on real realism.

2 Signature Teal.jpg

What price would you pay for a perfect Copic Marker Blend?

 
Do you obsess about silky smooth Copic Marker blends? Why your quest for the perfect blend is killing your depth and dimension. | VanillaArts.com
 
 

Remember that feeling you had when you first learned to ride a bicycle? The speed, the wind in your face, the feeling that you’d fly to the moon if you could just pedal fast enough. You probably spent the entire summer riding up and down the street. That first burst of freedom is pure joy.

Copic colorers experience the same thing when they finally pin down the mechanics of smooth blending. And once we get a taste of it, we’re hooked. We will blend and blend and blend… just for the sheer happiness of it.

I’ll admit it, even after years of marker experience, I still love it when a satin smooth blend appears. It’s a special kind of satisfaction.

But at what price?

Yes, there’s a price to be paid when you blend.

Most colorers don’t even realize they’re paying for blends. They’ll blend all day long- smoothing and re-blending their projects repeatedly without recognizing the damage they’re doing to the overall image.

 

Your quest for the perfect blend sacrifices color value

Yep. Every time you blend, you loose some of the deep dark color that is essential to realism.

The more you blend, the more value you loose.

 

What is value?

Value is a measurement of the strength of a color. You can’t say “light” or “dark” because light and dark are relative terms. Lighter than what? Darker than what? Is dark yellow darker than light blue? 

Lighter or darker is an opinion.

Not value though. Value is a exact way of measuring the strength or visual potency of a color. Now I’m not talking theoretical art terminology here. You use color value measurements all the time; you just don’t realize it. 

Do you obsess about silky smooth Copic Marker blends? Why your quest for the perfect blend is killing your depth and dimension. | VanillaArts.com

In Copics, the last number on the marker cap indicates the value of the ink color. Copic has computer measured the strength of that color and they’ve told you where it rates on their value scale.

That last number is consistent across all the color families and it sets up a relationship between colors that you might think are completely unrelated. A Y38 is the same value as a BG78 because they both rate an 8 on the value scale. R17 measures the same value as E77 even though they’re from completely different color families.

Value is important because capturing accurate values are one key to realism. In order to make something look rounded and three dimensional, you don’t just need shade, you need shade that’s deep enough and potent enough to simulate depth. If you skimp on the values, your shaded areas aren’t strong enough, and that flattens out your coloring.

And as I said before, blending robs your project of value.

Why?

Because we blend with our middle and lighter Copic markers.

In Copics, a low last number indicates a higher level of colorless blender in the ink. Colorless blender destroys value. E33 has far more colorless blender in it than E37. So when I hit that E37 with a low value brown marker to blend it out, I’m moving some of that level 7 color around to make the entire area feel lighter and less potent. The more you blend, the more that E37 starts to look like E36 or E35.

That’s important!

You may have used a dark marker but it no longer carries the original value after you complete the blending process. Once you’ve blended it, it’s no longer as dark as it once was. You have removed some of its value.

This is a serious problem for a lot of intermediate level colorers who tend to be obsessed with blending. They’ll blend and reblend their areas, chasing the thrill of a perfect blend…

...and then they wonder why all their projects look flat.

Blending kills value.

 

Blending also kills contrast

Contrast?

Contrast is the difference between two values. There is very little contrast between E33 and E34, the colors are too similar. Conversely, there’s a lot of contrast between E33 and E39.

Do you obsess about silky smooth Copic Marker blends? Why your quest for the perfect blend is killing your depth and dimension. | VanillaArts.com

Artists care about contrast. The most pleasing images feature contrast AND a good range of values within that contrast range. 

The Iced Joe illustration shown here uses markers that end in 9, 7, 5, 4, 3, 1, and 0. That’s almost a full range of Copic values from the darkest parts of the coffee to the palest gray of the glass mug. Realism relies on value and a balanced contrast range.

But think about what would happen if I started obsessing about my blends. 

If I hit my coffee browns (E89 and E59) with lots of E35 to improve the blend, that lighter marker will eat away at my level 9 browns, lowering their values to maybe 7s and 6s. Even though I used E89, it won’t look like E89 anymore. 

And it won’t look like black coffee anymore, it’ll look like chocolate milk.

Middle value washouts happen when you blend so darned much that you equalize the values between your lightest areas and your darkest. 

You chase away the value and you ruin the contrast in the attempt to create a perfect blend.

Blending flattens your projects because it decreases values and equalizes contrast. And I hate to put you in a box, but 90% of the time when someone comes to me with the old “why does my coloring look flat?” question, it’s a case of an intermediate level colorer who blends the heck out of every project. 

Your new skill is also your downfall.

 
 

You can’t keep blending without paying a price

Some amount of reblending is good!

But when you overwork your coloring in the quest for the perfect blend, you waste all the dark ink that you originally applied. “One more try” can be the kiss of death for depth and dimension.

Do you obsess about silky smooth Copic Marker blends? Why your quest for the perfect blend is killing your depth and dimension. | VanillaArts.com
 

Here’s the other problem: 

When you over-lighten the color of an object in the blending process, it not only flattens out, but sometimes people can no longer identify what the object is anymore. 

I can’t tell you the number of coffee projects I’ve seen where the coffee was peanut butter brown. I’ve also seen a lot of pink apples and yellow pumpkins. The colorer may have started with coffee brown, apple red, and pumpkin orange but when they blended the project to death, they killed off the color identity. Mis-colored food is confusing, unappetizing, and unrealistic.

Now I’m not saying that you should never blend a second time.

Instead, I want you to be aware that additional reblending passes will eat away at your value and contrast.

Knowing is half the battle. 

If you’re aware of the damage your’e doing, you’re less likely to keep doing it. Mindfullness helps curb your tendency to reblend and smooth an area for the third, fourth, or fifth time.

In the long run, that perfect blend means nothing if you’ve lost your values.

 

Iced Coffee coming soon to The Vanilla Stamp Shop!

Iced Coffee is an intermediate/advanced level VanillaArts.com Digital Stamp & Retreat Booklet.  It was originally colored in watercolor and colored pencil but is also perfect for Copic and other mediums.…your options are endless!

Iced Coffee -

For the coffee lover in all of us!  My students love the challenge of coloring food and beverage images. Iced Coffee is an intermediate/advanced level digital image and perfect for those looking to challenge themselves.

This digital image is an original stamp created for the students of my 2018 Cedar Lake Fall Art Retreat. It was originally colored in watercolor and colored pencil but is also perfect for Copic and other mediums.…your options are endless!

 
Print
 

Is Your Copic Coloring Flat? Learn to Color with Depth & Dimension

 
Copic Club- Casual and beginner level coloring class, "Where's Bunny?" a lesson on depth and dimension for beginning colorers. April 2017 | VanillaArts.com
 
 

Do you draw arrows?

Are you one of those people that starts every coloring project with a little tiny arrow in the upper corner of your paper?

Why?

No really. I sincerely want to know.

Why?

Confused about shade? Stop drawing arrows and worrying about which direction the sun is coming from. Shade can be as simple as pushing or pulling. Copic coloring lessons that make sense! Ideal for beginners and self taught colorers. | VanillaArts.com

Because someone told you to.

Correct?

Because that's supposed to remind you which direction the light is coming from and somehow if you just remember that key fact, your coloring will be full of depth and dimension.

And yet you still have shading problems, right?

Yep. Drawing an arrow in the top right hand corner of your paper doesn't solve much if you don't understand what it means. And frankly, I'll bet the person who told you to draw that arrow doesn't really understand what it means.

Look, I don't know who started this idiotic idea of arrows and directional light charts. I've seen 'em all. Clear acetate versions, penetrating line versions, even one that involved the earth with a little pink equator going around it.

If those things actually worked, I could have saved myself four years of art school tuition and fees.

Sunlight charts and arrows are snake oil. They don't teach you diddly-squat about how to shade objects for depth and realism.

Yep, it's no wonder that you're confused about shade and shadow. You basically bought the Brooklyn Bridge. Instead of teaching you how to shade, all that tutorial gave you was a headache.

 

the secret to depth & dimension...

Confused about shade? Stop drawing arrows and worrying about which direction the sun is coming from. Shade can be as simple as pushing or pulling. Copic coloring lessons that make sense! Ideal for beginners and self taught colorers. | VanillaArts.com

The secret to shade has nothing to do with which direction the sun is coming from.

I know that sounds strange, but that's because you've been brainwashed.

When the sun goes down, do you suddenly turn into a pancake?

Does your dog flatten out at the stroke of midnight ?

Oh... so you're still three dimensional when the lights go off?

That's because the shape of an object is completely unrelated to the lighting conditions around it.

I teach beginners, people who have never picked up a marker before in their whole entire lives, I teach them to color with depth and dimension and we do it all without a single arrow or sunlight chart.

You can learn it too. No advanced degree necessary. No mathematics, no rulers, and most especially- no arrows... just you, me, and a few Copic Markers.

End the confusion about shade. Join one of my Push & Pull classes. It will change the way you color forever.

 
 

Three live sessions in april:

Copic Club- Casual and beginner level coloring class, "Where's Bunny?" a lesson on depth and dimension for beginning colorers. April 2017 | VanillaArts.com

Remember When Scrapbooking in Macomb, Michigan:

Wednesday, April 12th from 1 to 3:30pm

Thursday, April 13th from 6 to 8:30pm

Lesson: Push & Pull Technique for Depth

Stamp Sets: a collage of Chirpy Chirp Chirp and Happy Easter by Lawn Fawn

Medium: Copic Marker & Prismacolor Premier Pencils

Skill Level: Absolute beginners through intermediate colorers. No drawing skills necessary.

RSVP: Call 586.598.1810 to reserve your space or to order the class stamps or Copic Markers.

Bee Creative Retreat in oxford, Michigan:

Wednesday, April 26th from 6:30 to 9:00pm

Lesson: Push & Pull Technique for Depth

Stamp Sets: a collage of Chirpy Chirp Chirp and Happy Easter by Lawn Fawn

Medium: Copic Marker & Prismacolor Premier Pencils

Skill Level: Absolute beginners through intermediate colorers. No drawing skills necessary.

RSVP: Purchase your space here. Sorry, no walk-ins.

 

Want the Online Version?

I teach the same Push & Pull technique in my online workshop called "Flutterby".

Flutterby is 1.25 hours of fully narrated video instruction plus learning aids and printables. Flutterby uses my original digital stamp, designed especially to help you learn and practice Pushing and Pulling.

My classes are thorough! I don't do "watch me color" videos. Instead, I break down the techniques and explain what we're doing every step of the way.

My goal isn't to teach you how to color butterflies. I want you to leave the course knowing how to layer and shape objects for maximum depth. That's not just a butterfly lesson it's an every-stamp-you-own lesson!

Forever access, instructor feedback, work at your own pace.

(Free sample class here if you want to try me out!)

 

Join me for a class that clarifies the shading process

We'll burn the arrow charts in a bonfire afterwards.

 
VanillaArts.com

Stop guessing where the shade goes! Learn to use Copic Markers with confidence.

 
 
 

You've got a great stamp image and lots of pretty Copic Markers

Now what?

A lot of people get stuck right there.

Either they panic because they don't know where to start or they plow onward despite feeling lost.

Neither tactic results in good coloring. Neither method will ever result in the kind of coloring you admire on blogs and YouTube.

And it's not about blending. I know, some people will tell you "Go take a Copic class and learn how to blend. Then it'll get better."

But blending skills are not enough. You can be the best blender in the world...

People could fall at your feet in awe...

The angels might cry over your fantastic blending skills...

Your coloring friends might give you nick-names like "Silkie" or "Smooth Rider" and they might spread word about your amazing abilities to towns, villages, and even the most remote hamlets...

 
 

But it's all a lot of nothin'

if you don't know where to put the shade

How many blog articles on better blending have you saved?

How many inspirational projects have you pinned?

How many times have you patted yourself on the back for rescuing a blended are that was quickly heading south?

How many times have you wished upon a star "Oh, if I could only blend like that lady that blog the other day..."

 

You're wishing for the wrong thing

Anyone can blend. There's no special skill involved; in fact, many people stumble into good blending techniques from simple experimentation and practice. I hate to break it to you but blending isn't that hard.

Copic Markers want to blend. It's a chemical thing that's embedded into their physical makeup. They're a single purpose tool whose whole reason for being on this earth is to blend.

All you have to do is get out of the way and let the marker do it's job.

 
 

Smooth blending is n0t the reason why amazing projects look amazing

It's all about the shade.

If you want to improve the look of your finished marker projects, you have to stop guessing where the shade goes.

I know you've done it:

"Hmmmm... maybe I'll put the dark markers over in this corner..."

or

"I'll put some shady colors over on this side because that's what this handy little sunlight-directional arrow chart is telling me to do..."

Shade is the key to coloring with depth and dimension but if you're always guessing where it goes... well, I hate to break it to you, but that problem isn't going to solve itself.

Depth and dimension doesn't just happen because you included some shady areas in your project. You can't just thow some darks on willy-nilly. Nope, you've got to choose the correct colors for shade and get those colors into the areas where it will look the most natural and realistic.

Realism comes easily when you understand where to place your shade and highlights. But it's not a skill you can learn in three blog posts.

Most Copic instructors focus on blending skills or playing with fun and trendy techniques. They teach you how to color like a crafter.

I approach the subject differently.

Marker Painting Foundations teaches you to paint with your markers, to use your markers the same way artists and trained illustrators do.

We break down images in order to understand their parts and what the shapes represent. Then you learn how to apply the same mental processes and techniques to other images. 

And don't get intimidated, this is not an advanced class! This is beginner level instruction designed to get you started using Copic markers correctly, right from day one. The projects are all beginner level but the results you'll get look advanced!

 

Enroll at any time, work at your own pace

Students always start with lesson one, so you'll never feel as if you're the lone newbie on the block.

Twelve weeks and twenty six lessons and over a dozen digital stamps designed to challenge your thinking.

Rethink the way you approach markers. Color confidently with a better understanding of color, shade, shadow, light, and highlights. 

You can do this!