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The Theory Of Color

My favorite thing about coloring is that it takes away much of the stress of drawing. I've seen disparaging remarks by people against colorists, mostly in the vein of 'just learn to draw already!' But I think that they are kind of missing the point. I know I can get better at drawing if I practice everyday. But being a full-time student with a couple of part-time jobs doesn't leave me much time for creative pursuits. Why shouldn't I enjoy playing with color just because I can't draw well?

Once I jumped into the world of coloring, I faced the biggest question for a newbie colorist - how do I pick colors for something? I loved looking at the finished pictures posted online by advanced colorists and even actual artists. I wanted to be able to create something like that! I started learning some basics about colors and how they work to get better at coloring my books.

So if you have ever wondered about color combinations or why some colors tend to look better together compared to others, keep reading! Before we dive into picking colors though, let's talk about color theory.

The Color Wheel
Some of us may remember the basic color wheel from art classes in school. It has 12 colors laid out in a sort of rainbow pattern in a circle. Now the secret to the color wheel is quite simple - you can make all the 12 colors from just 3 basic colors! In fact you can create all the colors in your pencils or pens just by mixing 3 colors along with the 3 neutrals - white, black and grey. Some art teachers recommend starting with just a handful of pencils, mixing your own colors to learn more about them.

Yellow, blue and red are the primary colors on the color wheel. When you mix 2 primary colors, you get a secondary color like orange, green and violet. You get tertiary colors by mixing a primary color with a secondary color. There are 6 tertiary colors giving us a total of 12 on the wheel.

Warm vs Cool Colors
Colors are typically grouped into 'warm' or 'cool' categories. Warm colors are your yellows, oranges and reds while cool colors are your blues, greens and purples. Just think of fire and water for each group and you can instantly recall which group a color falls into. This is the most basic grouping of colors and you'll often find artists talk about them. Warm colors draw your eye to an object while cool colors are soothing. Warm colors appear to 'pop' off the page while cool colors can make objects recede into the background. Want to focus attention on something? Use a red or yellow. Want to make a hill appear far away in the background? Use cool blues or greens.

Hues, Tints, Tones and Shades... Oh My!
Hue is the proper name for a color. So blue, red and yellow are all hues. You get tints by adding white in different proportions to a hue. Shades are what you get by adding black to a hue while tones are a product of adding grey to a hue.

Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color. You can vary the value by the pressure you out on the page. Saturation refers to the brightness of a color. An object with highly saturated colors will look brighter than the background. I don't use these terms for the most part while coloring but it was fun learning about them!

This is just the basics of color theory but it's plenty to get us started. The next time you're selecting colors, think of what you want to achieve. Pages with plenty of yellows and reds will look vibrant while those with blues and purples will soothe the eye. In the following posts, I'll talk more about color palettes/combos, why some colors work well together, why you get a muddy brown sometimes and how to select colors for a page. Until then, happy coloring!


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