Realistic Coloring

Copic Marker Secrets that Free Coloring Tutorials Never mention!

Copic Marker Secrets that Free Coloring Tutorials Never mention!

Copic Secrets that Self-Taught Colorers Never Hear

The internet is a wonderful resource with tons of information about Copic and other brands of alcohol markers. With so much free information available, many people do quite well learning on their own without help from local classes or online courses.

Free is great if you’re simply coloring for enjoyment. But self-taught colorers need to know that the solo experience has drawbacks. There’s no avoiding it, you absolutely will miss out on important resources and concepts that are rarely covered in free tutorials. 

Self-study is a little like…

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.

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! | VanillaArts.com
 
 

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. | VanillaArts.com

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. | VanillaArts.com

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, Sarah Renae Clark, 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!

 
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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. | VanillaArts.com 

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. | VanillaArts.com

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. | VanillaArts.com

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. | VanillaArts.com

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. | VanillaArts.com

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. | VanillaArts.com

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.

Do you want that card to say "HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BEST FRIEND AND THE MOST AWESOMEST PERSON ON EARTH!!!!"

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. | VanillaArts.com

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. | VanillaArts.com

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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Copic Coloring: 6 Ways to Kill a Beautiful Project- the dangers of overworking

 
Are you killing your Copic Coloring with too much love and attention? 6 ways you are damaging your project and how to prevent overcoloring. | VanillaArts.com
 
 

Are you killing your coloring?

I'd like to think that as we learn and grow, we stop making stupid mistakes.

But there's one common trait I see in all in my coloring classes and my art classes. Unfortunately it's a problem that many students never outgrow.

Artists call it "overworking"

And you know darned well, if a bunch of contrarian artists all use the same exact word for something, then it must be a serious problem!

Overworking.

It's a real battle for many people.

Overworking kills the beauty of your projects.

It kills them with love.

 

What is overworking?

Are you killing your Copic Coloring with too much love and attention? 6 ways you are damaging your project and how to prevent overcoloring. | VanillaArts.com

Overworking is what you do at the end of the project.

You're sitting there with something gorgeous. You've colored it with all the skill you could muster.

And it looks great!

But...

You keep on going.

Adding more.

And more on top of the more.

You should call it quits but your brain hasn't gotten the message yet. You're still going.

And going, and going.

In every project, you get to a point of diminishing returns.

When everything more that you do, everything new that you add-- it subtracts from the beauty, simplicity, and perfection of your project.

Overworking is everything you color AFTER you should be done.

 

How do you prevent overwork?

Well, that's a tough question.

Think about it, if Leonardo Da Vinci and his friends were worried about overworking way back in the 15th century...

...and I'm still talking about it today?

Then there aren't going to be any easy answers.

There are no magic spells, no handy apps, and no life hacks which will stop you from overworking the heck out of your project.

"Am I done?" is one of the hardest calls to make.

But you know me, I wouldn't write an article telling you all about a serious problem without offering some insight, solutions, or a class if it can't be explained in a blog post.

So let's take a look at the things I watch for as an art instructor.

Let me tell you what I see students doing- signs that they're done but don't know it yet.

 

6 signs you are overworking:

Hopefully you can catch yourself before you do them too!

1. The 43rd Fix

Copic loves to brag that you can go back and re-blend. Pencil companies boast that you can add 20 kajillion layers. Even watercolor manufacturers have started talking-up the ability to lift color for a second shot at perfection.

But paper is finite. It won't stand up to a ton of abuse. Every fix takes a toll on your paper.

It's okay to double back and try again but you can't do that forever.

Are you killing your Copic Coloring with too much love and attention? 6 ways you are damaging your project and how to prevent overcoloring. | VanillaArts.com

And here's the thing-

Usually, the flaw isn't noticeable to anyone but you.

You're the one who made the mistake. You're the one with your nose hovering 2 inches away from the mistake. You're the only one obsessing about the mistake.

We're all standing 4 feet back wondering what the heck you're fussing about.

But guess what we can see?

We can easily see the area you re-blended so many times that it's now dark and sticky. We can spot the places you scrubbed raw with an eraser. And that glittery butterfly sticker isn't fooling anyone. We know you're trying hide the fix of a fix of a fix.

Look, I know you don't want to admit it, but after a certain point, it's not going to get any better. You can not fix everything.

Some mistakes are better left alone.

If you've fixed it three times and it's still not right, make your peace with it.

Don't kill your whole project over a tiny flaw.

 

2. Outlining

Colorers have a very nasty habit.

When they run out of stuff to color, they go back and outline it all.

There's something that feels weirdly satisfying about tracing over an area you totally rocked the first time. It's like you're reliving the glory.

Are you killing your Copic Coloring with too much love and attention? 6 ways you are damaging your project and how to prevent overcoloring. | VanillaArts.com

Think about what you do with a doodle pad when talking on the phone. Most people draw a square and then trace that square nine million times. It feels good.

People do that with their coloring projects all the freekin' time. They sit there with an odd smile on their face, running the pencil or marker over the area repeatedly.

Hey, snap out of it! Stop!!!

What's the quickest way to make something look fake?

Put a big ol' outline around it.

The Mona Lisa wouldn't look quite so hot if her nose and both nostrils were outlined in heavy black scribbles, eh?

If you're sitting there tracing the original line drawing, you're done.

Get up and walk away before you damage it further.

 

3. Air Flourishes

I joke with students about "Jaques" the stereotype artist. He's the starving artist guy who wears a beret, red neckerchief, and a handlebar mustache.

When Jaques paints, he waves his paintbrush around in the air, drawing lots of attention. He makes fancy swishes as if he's conducting the orchestra at the Kennedy Center.

Are you killing your Copic Coloring with too much love and attention? 6 ways you are damaging your project and how to prevent overcoloring. | VanillaArts.com

Swish, swish and ooh la la!

Artists don't really work that way.

But colorers do. When I see a student making air flourishes, I zoom over to stop them.

You can't color well if you're approaching the paper with flailing arms.

The marks you make will be sloppy and out of control.

If you're waving your hands in the air, you are not coloring well.

For some reason, colorers like to go all Beethoven with their final strokes. Mad jabs and a few swoops feel like an artistic way to end the project.

But that's not joie de vivre. you're making big bold mistakes.

On purpose!

Stop. Just stop before you mess it up more.

 
 

4. Doodles

Are you killing your Copic Coloring with too much love and attention? 6 ways you are damaging your project and how to prevent overcoloring. | VanillaArts.com

Knock-knock!

Who's there?

Elephant!

Elephant who?

Elephant with daisies and stars and little pink hearts floating around in the background!

That joke doesn't make sense, does it?

Neither does the card you just made.

Pointless decoration detracts from your coloring.

If you're doodling confetti dots, adding speckles and freckles, or if you are drawing motion lines behind your characters like you see in the comics... stop!

You are ruining your project. 

Don't do that!

 

5. Extreme Highlighting

Are you killing your Copic Coloring with too much love and attention? 6 ways you are damaging your project and how to prevent overcoloring. | VanillaArts.com

A lot of colorers end every project with a white gel pen.

A lot of white gel pen.

Look, you could spend weeks adding little white comma shapes to everything in your image. You could highlight the toes on a ladybug and each of her eyelashes too.

But you're not adding realism, depth, or dimension.

Over-highlighting is like scoring an own-goal. You're hurting the cause.

Not everything in life has a highlight on it.

And nothing in life has a white comma on it!

I'm thinking of starting a 12 step program for folks who love their gel pens just a little tooooooo much.

That stuff is getting out of control.

 

6. Day Dreaming

Are you killing your Copic Coloring with too much love and attention? 6 ways you are damaging your project and how to prevent overcoloring. | VanillaArts.com

I'm going to give this unicorn card to sweet little Justin and he will love it so much! He'll sleep with the card under his pillow every night until he's 27 years old knowing that his Nana loves him...

or

Janet will be so touched that I was "Thinking of Ewe". She'll show this card to all our co-workers. Then the staff will cheer and carry me on their shoulders to the Chairman's office and they'll loudly demand that I be promoted to the head of a new Coloring Department where I'll make sheep themed cards for all the major holidays...

Uhm, yeah. If you're thinking about all that stuff, you're not thinking about what you're doing with the marker in your hand.

Distracted coloring is bad coloring.

People tend to hold off on grand plans for their artwork until they're sure that it's turning out well. We wait to see if it stinks before deciding to give it away.

So if you're thinking about what will happen after the project is finished, that's a big clue you're in the final stages.

But big dreams sap the brain power and concentration you need to finish strong.

So move away from the table.

Don't touch the project until you're back on earth.

 
Are you killing your Copic Coloring with too much love and attention? 6 ways you are damaging your project and how to prevent overcoloring. | VanillaArts.com

there you go!

Six major signs that you're overworking the project.

You are damaging your awesome coloring by your inability to call it quits.

Knowing when to say when is a tough decision; but if you're obsessively reblending, outlining, waving your hands around, doodling, daydreaming, or highlighting the heck out of it, it's a pretty safe bet that you're done.

You've probably been done for a while. 

While we can't rid the world of the overworking habit, you can learn to spot the signs in yourself. As you get to the end of a project, be aware of how your thoughts and movements change.

Don't let the cooling-off period be your downfall.

Watch for those little quirks and stop them before they kill your coloring.

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