I love color.
Marcella loves color.
We’re all here following the Power Poppy blog because we love to color gorgeous stamps with beautiful Copic Markers, colored pencils, watercolor, or other creative media.
It’s all about the color. The more color the better!
But I’m always a little sad when I see tutorials or classes that use a mile long list of supplies. And I’m even sadder when I read online posts from people who sincerely want to start coloring but they’ve talked themselves out of it, because they don’t have enough colors yet.
Folks, you don’t need to own the whole rainbow.
In fact, it’s better if you don’t.
Hello, my name is Amy Shulke and I’m the illustrator and art instructor over at VanillaArts.com. Today I’d like to talk to you about cutting back on the number of colors you use in your projects.
Color minimalism actually maximizes your results.
And hey, if you want to read my previous Artist’s Notebook articles on color, you can read about color palettes here and your amazing bounty of art supplies here.
But today, I’d like to focus on how to use a small number of colors for professional results.
Because until you and I win the lottery, we’re never going to have all the colors we want.
More is less!It’s been an unusually long winter here in Michigan. It’s May and it’s still snowing. My Spring Rain project was born from my desperate need to have a bit of the gorgeous color I see in Marcella’s garden photographs. I’m soooo jealous!
But to get this Copic effect on Power Poppy's Hellebores digital stamp? I didn’t use every color in the rainbow.
I used blue and green with tiny touches of pink and violet.
You can get amazing results by keeping your color palette small.
I know it’s very tempting to look at a bouquet stamp and think “Oh, I’ll color this blossom red and this flower purple and this one yellow…” In your head it sounds so pretty.
But in reality? Too many colors in an image makes it look unorganized and juvenile.
I have a couple of extensive articles on how to create and use professional looking color palettes back at my home website here. But if you want the quick summary, I typically use only three hues per color palette— that includes the background AND the green leaves.
If I can get away with a two hue color palette, that’s what I prefer.
Minimal color palettes provide maximum wow.
What is the focal point?Okay, let’s talk about ingredients for a moment.
Copic Marker fans use blending combinations, usually trios (light, medium, dark) for every item in the project. This blending combination theory has spread to colored pencils now too— even though traditionally, pencil artists have never used pencils this way.
There’s also a weird assumption that if you’re more advanced, you should add more colors to the combo. In advanced coloring, I’ve seen people use five or even six markers in a blending combination.
So by that formula, my challenge level Spring Rain project should use at least twenty markers?
Nope. I used eight… and two of them are completely optional.
I have one major rule for all my coloring: Celebrate the focal point.
The focal point is the shining star of the image. In Power Poppy stamps, the focal point is always the biggest, most beautiful blossom. I want people to look at the focal point first and then even if their eye wanders to the minor elements, I want them drawn back to the celebrity bloom before they’re done.
To insure that my focal point remains the main attraction, I don’t waste time coloring all of the lesser elements with the same time and attention.
The leaves are bit players so I use fewer markers on them. The background is supposed to be in the background; it gets less detail and fewer markers.
I even apply this hierarchy to the blossoms, spending more time, more ink, and a lot more attention to detail on the big blooms than I do on small flowers or buds.
Your viewers can tell which areas you’ve nursed to perfection.
Keep their eyes on the focal point.
Let one color dominateIn Spring Rain, the pink pops.
That’s because it’s surrounded by a ton of blue.
80% of this image has some form of blue. Even the shadow and leaves are blended and shaded with layers of blue. If I had given the pink half of the area it would have set up a visual competition between blue and pink. 50/50 means nobody wins.
When colors fight, it distracts the viewer and detracts from the beauty of your coloring.
By letting the blue totally dominate the image, the pink now seems more special.
Repeat the same colors across the whole imageBlue, violet, pink, and green… Every item in the entire Spring Rain image has blue, violet, pink, and green on it.
And if you look closely, you’ll see this same kind of color borrowing most of my projects. This is what we call color cohesiveness and it does amazing things for the overall impression and quality of your coloring.
It’s a professional level detail to repeat the same colors throughout a project.
The leaves here belong with these hellebore petals. They don't look like they were borrowed from some random sunflower or rose. These leaves could only come from the same plant that grew these petals. They belong together. They match.
This color harmony costs you nothing; you’re already using the markers or pencils on the petals, so why not kiss your leaves or even the background with hints of the same colors?
We’re adding a rainbow without adding anything new.
So here’s my Artist’s Notebook challenge for you this month...
Give more time to the thinking process before you start to color. By narrowing down the color palette ahead of time, the look of your projects will improve, even if your skill remains the same.
Start paring down your massive supply lists. Do you really need five greens to color a leaf?
Be wise about how you divide color. Don’t detract from a focal point super-star blossom but do share bits of color between the flower and its leaves.
And for those of you making cards, your decorative papers count as color too. They’re part of the final composition so make sure that you’re not accidentally setting up a color imbalance during the card assembly phase.
Want to color Power Poppy’s Hellebores with me?My Spring Rain class is part of the Vanilla Livestream series for intermediate to advanced Copic colorers. This lesson covers how to use color pouring and negative painting techniques (borrowed from watercolor classes) to create bold, dynamic, and loose marker paintings.
You can find out more about Vanilla Livestream classes here.
And I’ll see you back here next month for another glance into my Artist’s Notebook!
Previous Artist's Notebook articles:What is Artistic Coloring?
Add Realistic Texture
Don't Be Afraid of Large Projects!
Are You Stamp Blind?