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!

 
design seeds orange.jpeg

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!

2 Signature Teal.jpg
 
 

Artistic Coloring- adding creativity to your Copic projects: Your Brain Lies!

 
Want to add artistry and creativity to your Copic Marker or colored pencil coloring projects? Stop listening to your brain and start trusting your color sense. Read more about why your brain lies... | VanillaArts.com
 

what color is an elephant?

I know what you’re going to say.

And you’re wrong.

Go look.

Google “elephant” and look at the photographs. Don’t just say “oh how cute!” I want you to really look at the color of the elephants on your screen.

Some of the photos show grayish elephants but by far, most wild elephants look to be a range of muted browns and dusty taupes. Some even have pink splotches on their face and ears.

But, but, but… but elephants are supposed to be gray.

Want to add artistry and creativity to your Copic Marker or colored pencil coloring projects? Stop listening to your brain and start trusting your color sense. Read more about why your brain lies... | VanillaArts.com

I know. It’s a common mistake.

Most Copic colorers use gray markers to color elephants because the elephants stuck in your brain from childhood are gray. So you might grab a few N markers to get the job done, some would grab the C markers since the cool bluish grays are so pretty.

A rare few would have pulled out their W grays. Not because they’re thinking about brown elephants but because there’s some silly Copic rule floating around out there that says “If the object is alive, use a W gray”.

So all living things that are gray are warm gray?

Really?

Tell that to the koala, the gorilla, and my Russian Blue cat. I guess they’re all dead because they sure aren’t Ws.

Your brain lies 

It makes generalizations, it takes shortcuts, it believes the illustrations it sees in children’s picture books.

It tells you to follow stupid rules about warm and cool grays.

You can't trust your brain when it comes to color.

Which is why you’re going to be shocked when I tell you that pumpkins and school buses are basically the same exact color.

I know. That’s a hard one to wrap your brain around. Give it a moment.

We all make color assumptions

Chalk it up to faulty memory, general laziness, or the fact that we tend to believe everything our kindergarten teacher said.

Yep, that sweet lady lied to you too. She was the one who started a lot of this bunkum, that elephants are gray, that pumpkins are orange, and that clouds are white.

Clouds are not white?

Boy, this day is just full of revelations, isn't it?

One way to add artistry to your coloring...

... is to stop coloring stereotypes and start looking at the color things actually are.

Which means that you might want to rethink using that black marker to color hair.

Aww, geeze... my brain lied about hair too?

Yep.

The weird thing is that when you color things the color they actually are in real life, people get all excited about what you’ve done.

“Wow, that looks so real!”

“You’re so creative!”

“She’s such a talented artist!”

Uhm, yeah. As if it takes great talent and skill to use the eyeballs you were born with.

Want to add artistry and creativity to your Copic Marker or colored pencil coloring projects? Stop listening to your brain and start trusting your color sense. Read more about why your brain lies... | VanillaArts.com

So I have an assignment for you

This is really simple. It won’t take more than a few minutes a day. No special tools, no travel required. In fact, you can do it on the sly at work and no one will even know you’re doing it.

I want you to start taking little color tours.

Look a the color of objects around you. I mean really look.

What kind of yellow is that pencil? 

What Copic marker matches your living room walls? Would you use the same marker in the corners of the room?

What color is ketchup and can you find two more things that are the exact same color?

Exercises like this will stretch your definition of color.

Most people have a very limited color vocabulary. They stop at “Robins have a red breast” and never define what kind of red.

When you start paying attention, you’re going to discover something interesting:

The more you look, the more you see. 

People wonder at my color choices

It's very rare that I don't throw some odd colors into the blend.

The geranium image here uses a bright blue underneath green and there’s a bold purple over the red.

I’m not a genius and I don’t have magical coloring powers. An angel didn’t descend from above and bop me over the head with his harp until I agreed to use dark purple on red.

I got it from looking at an actual, real life geranium long enough to understand the colors I was seeing.

I was color touring.

It may look like I'm day dreaming, or (if I remember to close my mouth while thinking) it will look as if I’m meditating. But actually, I’m exercising my sense of color.

The more you look at color, the more color you see

You’ll see hidden blues and violets everywhere. You’ll see hints of pink or yellow in things that are sitting in sunshine. There are skies and tree trunks that will move you to tears.

The more color you see, the more color you can add to your projects.

This skill is not going to hit you all at once. It takes time to develop a sensitivity to color.

Want to add artistry and creativity to your Copic Marker or colored pencil coloring projects? Stop listening to your brain and start trusting your color sense. Read more about why your brain lies... | VanillaArts.com

And the number one thing standing in your way?

 An over-reliance on the standard Copic blending trios.

Because nothing in this world is R29 - 27 - 24.

The R20 series is not a combination found in nature and you’re fooling yourself if you use it to color fire trucks, ketchup, bricks, strawberries, stop signs, and geraniums.

When you expand your color vocabulary and start paying attention to the subtle differences in the reds around you, you’re naturally going to start using color more intelligently in your projects.

That’s artistry.

Expand your awareness of color and your unique color style will emerge.

Color like an artist. Not like a kindergartener.    

You can do this!

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You Can Develop Your Own Color Palettes- Part 1 (Swatch Tool)

 
Learn to develop your own color palettes for Copic projects | VanillaArts.com
 

I'm starting a new video series!

Here's part one, all about making a swatch tool.

The project is super easy and you can customize it to meet your needs. I explain both the whys and the hows about my ring and I'd love to hear what changes you need to make for your style of coloring.

For the curious, here's the run down on the series plans:

Video #1- Swatch Tool

Video #2- Selecting and Using the Correct Color Wheel

Video #3- the Color Selection Process

Video #4- Putting it all Together

 
 
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