As a beginner colorist you may find that you are not getting the results you want with your coloring. They can be called mistakes, but really they are only mistakes if you are not happy with the results you are achieving. Coloring is all about finding your zen zone. The place where you are enjoying what you do and the results you achieve when you are finished with a page. I have watched colorists go from using solid colors, to blending colors, to advanced techniques that are truly spectacular by just adding a few new techniques to their tool belt. Today we are going to address the top issues that beginner colorists encounter.
1. Chances are, you start by coloring around the edges and then fill in the inside with a single color. At least, that is how many people were taught to color back in the day. By taking this approach you limit your ability to add variety and depth to your coloring. As you get through the page you may decide to try to change colors on certain parts and you can’t do that if you’ve already filled in the edges. You may want to include some shading or variation in your coloring and you can’t do that by coloring the edges in first.
Note: Many beginners just want to get an area filled in and do not consider adding dimension by varying the amount of color added. Using a single color but adding more saturation of color to one area over another can also enhance the colorists ability to blend. The technique for this is just to apply color by going over the area repeatedly applying color with light to medium pressure. This provides more layers of color and when you blend you have a much richer color. If you apply one very heavy layer with a lot of presser you flatten the surface of the paper (burnish) and prevent it from picking up more color lessening the number of layers the paper can pick up.
In the beautiful image below you will see that all the coloring is done in solid blocks. There is no shading or color variation in the coloring. There is nothing wrong with this image, but it demonstrates a solid color approach.
Below is the same image and you will see that there is variation in the colors it is subtle but there is shading added to several components mimicking depth. The images has a little more dimension. To achieve this simply select a dark and light version of every color you want to use. In the image below the darker color was used around the edges creating an illusion of shadow.
2. If you are a beginner, you probably do not have a plan laid out for which colors you will use and where, and this could be a mistake. With a little planning you can add an amazing amount of dimension and depths just by laying out your colors in advance. If you are stumped for color inspiration try using Design Seeds for color pallets.
In the below image, I didn’t even consider my colors I just began coloring the image and while the final product I do like, if I had done some planning I could have had a better balance to the image. The heavy patterning at the bottom of the image make it feel very busy and the composition is not complimented by the layout of the colors.
The image below was inspired by the pallet image under neath it. I selected a few colors from the identified pallet and few other colors besides. This is a combination of markers and colored pencils. In addition I was more careful with the color composition and the image has better flow and draws the eye up from the bottom and sides.
This is the pallet I used to color the above images. These are available all over the internet. One of my favorite sites is Design seeds. Click the image below to go to the original source for this pallet Love Pallet on tumbler.
3. Using just one medium – This can be a huge mistake as it holds you back from the full potential of your art. Of course using just one medium is a convenient way to color and get it done, but if you experiment with different mediums you may come to love new techniques combining mediums in your art. For instance, I frequently use markers as a background and colored pencils or gel pens over the top for an easy way to add dimension.
The below image is colored with colored pencils, markers and gel pens. I used a combination of all three to allow me to shade and add some dimension to the image. My sets of gel pens and markers are small sets and have limited options in each color. I layered the coloring as follows: I started with the markers. I laid down the lightest color first using the markers, then I added the medium tones with the gel pens, followed by the darkest colors using my colored pencils in some places and gel pens in others.
4. Don’t color too heavy – we see many beginners start with a heavy hand and then try to add shading and other detail. This just doesn’t work over the top of completely saturated and burnished paper. When you are coloring, color lightly to begin with and then you can go over the places that need to be richer in color multiple times adding lots of pigment to the paper which will ultimately give you a very rich color. This can help you when learning shading techniques as well as give more depth and dimension to your coloring pages.
This is an example of where I added too much color to the paper before I got all my shading in. You can see where the color looks speckled. I pushed too hard on the paper and flattened the surface (tooth) of the paper which didn’t allow me to go in and blend. I tried to add the shading after the fact but I wasn’t able to get the smooth transition from the dark to light color causing a zoning effect. While this is not a big fail it is not exactly how I envisioned it.
5. Think before you color- As you may know, planning out your coloring pages before you begin is an approach often used by professional artists. If you don’t think before you color, you could be making a mistake. If you begin to create your art and need to go back, you can’t erase it. Just take a second to think before you color. Consider the colors you want to use and if you want to shade and what colors you can use for shading. We often use a variation of the predominate color, but you can use blue, grey, and purple to add shading as well. When I am thinking about how I want to color something, I do some swatches on a scrap piece of paper and play with the shading as well as the color selection.
In this images I had a good idea of what I wanted to do but I didn’t validate my technique and results. I used markers and colored pencils in this image. My thought was to use the markers under neath to add some richness to the saturation of color and then add layers of colored pencils to give dimension. Where I went wrong was the over lap of the colors didn’t quite give me the gradual transition from one color to the next I was looking for. The light to dark blue worked and to a degree the blue to purple was okay but once I got to the warmer colors it didn’t transition as smoothly as I would have liked. In addition, I didn’t think out the pattern well enough and the undulation of the background interferes with the botanical element in front. I do like the color pallet, but I will need to do this one again.
Coloring is a fun activity that is used as therapy around the world. However, when you make mistakes when coloring and hate the end result, it can be a source of stress. Think of every coloring experience as a learning effort, even if you don’t like the results. By trying to avoid these common mistakes you can take your coloring to the next level, you will enjoy coloring so much more when you are happy with your results. Coloring can be one of the most therapeutic and relaxing things that you do.
Try some of these fun techniques to improve your coloring skills.