Depth

Copic Coloring Videos: The Limitations of Online Learning (Copic Marker, Colored Pencil)

Copic Coloring Videos: The Limitations of Online Learning (Copic Marker, Colored Pencil)

Are you learning to color from online videos?

You’re not alone. As you move through your daily life— work, home, and social circles; you probably don’t meet many people who know about Copic Markers. Most of your friends last used a colored pencil in 10th grade geography class….

Copic Marker & Colored Pencil Mixed Media: Less Pencil Than You Think

Copic Marker & Colored Pencil Mixed Media: Less Pencil Than You Think

I am a mixed media artist

Well, at least technically.

My projects do not look like the typical mixed media. I don’t glue photographs to a board and drizzle paint everywhere… but that’s the point. This is subtle mixed media.

I use a combination of Copic Marker and Prismacolor Soft Core Colored Pencils but I use them in a way that’s cohesive and seamless.

If I didn’t tell you I was mixing media, you’d never suspect.

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.

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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!

 
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