As I warn you at the start of every One Tiny Thing article, there are no magic potions or tutorials written by sassy blue genies which will turn you into Rembrandt.
But there are some very real and effective steps which you can take today to immediately improve the look of your coloring.
They aren’t silver bullets but they're the next best thing.
Today’s Tiny Thing to is to watch the speed of your coloring
Now when I say speed, I’m not suggesting that we pull out a stopwatch and measure how fast you color.
Speed or lack of speed is not what kills the look of a project.
The problem is inconsistent speed.
Yep. Like the little old lady on the highway who goes 45 miles per hour for a while, then switches to 90 all of a sudden, but settles in at a comfy 22 just as you’re both approaching your exit ramp.
Yeah. Most beginner and intermediate level colorers do that. Only you don’t realize it because I’m not all up on your bumper yelling “Get off the road, ya old bat!”
“Oh my gosh!…
This section looks hard.
So I’m going to color...
and that might...
limit the number...
of mistakes I make.
Slow and steady.
Watch what I’m doing.
Oh. So. Very. Careful.
Yahooooooo! Now I’m at the fun part because I’ve colored stuff like this a million times and I love these Copic markers and they’re my very favorite colors and this is turning out great and wouldn’t it be cool if all my projects were this easy and I think I'm starting to hyperventilate and Holyhedgehogs I’mhavingsomuchfunrightnow myheadisgoingtoexplode!!!!!”
Dear friends, that is the kind of thing that screams loud and clear in your final project.
Your viewer may not know a Copic from a cobra but they can tell immediately which areas you colored fast and which areas you colored slow.
Not kidding. We can see it.
When you color in a manic-depressive fashion, it’s very obvious.
Inconsistent speed immediately overpowers all the other smart choices that you made going into the project. You could use the most amazing color palette, the best blending markers, the best techniques, and you could color better than anyone else in the world…
But your Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde speed will overshadow it all. It doesn’t matter how amazing your talent is, what the world sees is inconsistency.
Why is it so obvious?
Let’s take a closer look.
When we color slowly (which we all do when we’re trying to be careful), we push more ink into the paper.
More ink results in:
visible starting and stopping marks on every stroke
loss of texture
dark patches and oil slicks from paper over-saturation
blending more than necessary and loosing your middle marker color in the process.
Even worse, something most folks don’t ever stop to think about- coloring slowly darkens the look of any ink at least a full step.
So you’re using an R20 marker but the strokes you make are really as dark or darker than an R21 or R22. Slow and careful lines are noticeably darker than fast lines.
Coloring like a tortoise is like cranking up the volume on the radio. It’s doing everything much louder than it needs to be.
Okay, now do a 180 with me
When we jackrabbit an area (which we all do when we’re having fun), we skimp on ink.
Coloring fast results in:
streaky zones and sketchy strokes
choppy areas that remain unblended
weird texture in inappropriate places
flat and lifeless coloring
Speed coloring looks sloppy. When we get excited, it’s like pushing the fast forward button.
When you combine both problems- loud and fast, into a single project, it's confusing.
Mozart might have been a genius composer but no one enjoys listening to The Magic Flute ramped up and amped up.
You really thought we wouldn’t notice the same kind of mixed signals in your coloring?
So what’s the solution?
How do you better regulate the speeds at which you color?
Notice that the question I just asked wasn’t “How can you speed up?” or “How can you slow down?”
That’s because your speed isn’t nearly as important as the difference between your slow speed and your quick speed.
Becoming more consistent overall is the key.
So how do you better regulate the speeds at which you color?
The solution is mindfulness
Speed demoning is an easy fix.
You can fix a Dale Earnhardt Jr. problem on the fly. When you get to the fun stuff, watch for those natural lead foot tendencies and tell yourself to slow down. “No speeding tickets for me today!” is usually enough to bring the excitement under control.
It’s much harder to solve the molasses problem. It’s going to take some mental exercise on your part BEFORE you begin color the difficult zones.
“Here’s the hard part, the thing I dreaded. How should I handle it?”
Mentally rehearsing the process before you put marker to paper will help the process feel more familiar when you do the actual coloring.
Or do a dress rehearsal. You can pretend to color the area without a marker in your hand. I like to hover and do a few practice strokes in mid air. Whatever you need to do to trick your brain into thinking “hey, I’ve done this before, this is easy!” will help to speed up your hands.
What you don’t want to do is think through every single stroke as you are making it. Over-deliberation shows up in your coloring.
So I pinch myself when I find that I’m speeding and I coach myself through difficult processes before I do them for real. Both techniques help to equalize my coloring rates and it keeps my projects from looking schizophrenic.
Guess what else helps?
Did you pick up on the fact that a lot of this article was written in the first person? I used a lot of I and me when describing what to do.
That’s because I speed up and I slow down- just like you do.
Yep. Even the pros are still sadly human.
Experience is the only difference.
Because I’ve been coloring objects for forever and a day, the difference between my tortoise and my hare is less noticeable.
After decades of drawing and painting, there are very few things I haven’t colored. So my slows are not as slow as yours. Experience limits panic.
And because I’ve pretty much seen it all, I no longer get piddle-my-pants excited over the fun areas. So when I do color faster, it’s not as noticeable as when you speed up.
Practice. Not just practice but an abundance of practice helps to even out your highs and lows.
So when I recommend that people color stamps not once or twice, but over and over and over…. It’s not just technique that you’re working on. You’re also working to improve your speed consistency.
Pay attention to your speed
It’s one tiny thing you can do today which will improve the quality of your finished coloring.