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Can someone give me some pointers as to color? I'm working on a project and want to improve my foreground to background contrast (in real-life watercolor), and I know I have blank spots of ignorance that I'd like to remedy. I checked through the Shulevitz book, but there is very little on color there, just a chapter on color separation, which isn't the aspect I'm working with at the moment. I don't even know terms to google. I notice that distinguishing between brightness? intensity? hue? value? (see, I don't know the right word) of the foreground and background is often a dividing line between professional and amateur-looking work. That's what I'm trying to figure out.

Basically, can anyone recommend a good book/web site on color for illustrators (basic color, not just transfer between computer and printer sort of thing).

(FWIW, since I'm sure this is a very obvious/stupid question for this forum, I consider myself a writer--NOT pb--and have somewhat of a studio art background--LONG ago--and am trying to learn about illustration in the background.)
#1 - October 05, 2008, 05:49 PM

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Hi olmue!

I think the term you could start googling would be "Color Theory." Unfortunately I don't have any specific books to refer you to, but I think you'll be able to find good information if you look up color theory in the library or google.

In general though--

  • Warm colors (red, yellow, orange) tend to come toward the viewer, while cool colors tend to recede into the distance.
  • Colors/Objects would be sharper and more intense in the foreground, with more contrast, while being lighter/blurrier in the background because of Atmospheric Perspective (I found this web site.. http://www.teachartathome.com/AtmosphericPerspective.html)
  • Restricting your color palette is a good way to keep your work professional and cohesive. Having too many colors could make your image disjointed and confusing. Try to look up different color schemes such as Analagous, Triadic, Complimentary, and Monochromatic.
Maybe this web site would be of interest to you... http://painting.about.com/od/colourtheory/ss/color_theory.htm

I hope some of this helps or at least gives you new terms to google!   :broccoli
#2 - October 05, 2008, 06:28 PM

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Very helpful, jadefrolics! Thank you!
#3 - October 06, 2008, 06:47 AM

Also, the one thing I've noticed with watercolors is they often don't have the full range of values--i.e. the art tends to lack the dark end of the value spectrum.

pj
#4 - October 06, 2008, 07:06 AM
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Those aren't stupid questions. They're good things to know when creating art.

This site seems to have a good overview of color and terms:
http://char.txa.cornell.edu/language/element/color/color.htm

Another thing to do would be to go to the bookstore and browse the art (how to) section. I don't have anything specific to recommend, but I like to browse in that section and be inspired. The kids section is great for explaining things w/o extra info too.

If you scan your painting into the computer and then make it a greyscale image in Photoshop, it will help you to see the contrast in your painting, which might help you to see what colors work and don't.

A way to work with this w/o scanning is to paint in black and white for a while. It will really help you to see the different values in the background and foreground.

It is hard, but not impossible to create lots of contrast in watercolor. You can build up layers of color to darken the color. You can also load your brush with lots of color but little water.

Good luck with your project and thanks for asking the questions!
#5 - October 06, 2008, 08:57 AM
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Also, the one thing I've noticed with watercolors is they often don't have the full range of values--i.e. the art tends to lack the dark end of the value spectrum.

pj

I have to disagree with you here PJ. I use tube paints and can get very pale and very dark colors. I can even get an almost black with a combination of indigo and Copper Kettle (a non muddy version of Brown Madder). Before I purchased the copper, I used Alizarine Crimson, but the color isn't light fast, so the copper is better for images that will end up framed or where the original needs to stand up to time.

There are also dark colors in the green and red families. I probably have 100s of dollars worth of tube paints that I don't use but bought to try the color in my palette. Prussian Blue is another color I use frequently to achieve a saturated dark. I have about a dozen colors on my palette and can get a full range of values from them. E mail me privately if you want the names of the colors. :)
#6 - October 06, 2008, 09:51 AM
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Lyon is correct. Take a class or two or three and discover the difficult world of watercolor control. I had great teachers and after a few classes did very well. It is the toughest medium. My best teacher recommended lots of water on the brush.


#7 - October 06, 2008, 11:33 AM

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Keep it coming--this stuff is great!
#8 - October 06, 2008, 11:50 AM

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I loved my color theory class in college and I even held on to the book we used, ITTEN, The Elements of Color (A treatise on the color system of Johannes Itten based n his book The Art of Color). It's a fairly thin hardbound book (95 pgs.) that touches the main points of color theory according to Itten.

As a student, I was struck by the subjective nature of color. How colors *change* when placed next to each other. How they vibrate and seem to leap off the page or how they swallow and dampen the effects of light. I learned how to purposely express an emotion or implement an effect. To this day, I'm still learning. As a painter, color theory is a life-long endeavor, as well as, passion.

I think it important to learn about tonal values and color. After all, light plays a key role. For an intro and practical application, I highly recommend the book, Tonal Values: How to See Them, How to Paint Them by Angela Gair.
#9 - October 06, 2008, 12:49 PM
« Last Edit: October 06, 2008, 04:34 PM by ecm »
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My use of color and knowledge of color theory took a huge leap forward when I took a watercolor workshop with Hilary Page. She is an awesome watercolorist in the fine arts, and has spent hundreds of hours working with specific color preparations to achieve the cleanest and longest lasting watercolor paintings ever. She is VERY specific on the color she wants used in her classes, by the actual chemical number on the tubes, and by the brands she uses.

If you ever have a chance to take one of her classes, I'd jump on it. She also has several books out on color usage and theory that should be very helpful. Of course, she is coming at it from a fine artist's perspective and there are some slight differences when working for reproduction, but I would take her class again in a heart beat.
#10 - October 06, 2008, 04:14 PM
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To get dark colors with watercolors I like to use Payne's Gray... I use Holbein tube watercolors and those always give brilliant rich colors for me. Also using a good paper helps wonders-- it seems about impossible to get rich colors on a student-grade paper!
#11 - October 06, 2008, 04:43 PM

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I think you are better off with the class option. color theory is one of those things that you just can learn from a book. It is more of an applied science. I have got countless books on the subject but never got much out of them.
#12 - October 07, 2008, 04:38 AM

Adrian

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One of the web's foremost resources for watercolor theory is handprint.com.
http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/water.html
It's a bit technical, but a wealth of information. Good luck!

Adrian.
#13 - October 07, 2008, 08:41 AM
« Last Edit: October 07, 2008, 09:56 AM by Adrian »

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Wow, Adrian! I'm glad I asked--there is so much there!
#14 - October 07, 2008, 11:42 AM

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I think you are better off with the class option. color theory is one of those things that you just can learn from a book. It is more of an applied science. I have got countless books on the subject but never got much out of them.


I agree completely! There's nothing like a good class now and again!
#15 - October 07, 2008, 01:45 PM

JoS

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Adrian - great link!

I would love to know if there is also a resource somewhere on colouring night scenes...which I find very challenging.
#16 - May 13, 2009, 08:20 AM

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I have a great book called ART FUNDAMENTALS by Otto Ocvirk, Robert Stinson, Philip Wigg, Robert Bone & David Cayton. It teaches color theory, composition, perspective, etc...
I've also taken out a fabulous book on watercolor technique from the library. I wrote the name of it down, which of course I can't find now. If i dig it up I'll post it here, too. If your library has an on-line catalogue/hold system, you could do a search for art technique books.
#17 - May 13, 2009, 08:36 AM
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I highly recommend the book "Creative Illustration" by Andrew Loomis.

His chapter on color is practical and useful. I learn something new each time I read it.

It's online here:

http://fineart.sk/index.php?cat=13
#18 - May 13, 2009, 09:39 AM

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Oh, and there is a forum I belong to like Verla's but for all types of artists called WetCanvas. Huge wealth of information available there.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/index.php

#19 - May 13, 2009, 09:53 AM
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Adrian

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Yup, Wetcanvas is great. I don't hang out there quite as much as here (well, I'm tryinig to do more art and writing and less hanging out in general!  :trenchguy), but there are some incredible artists on that site!
#20 - May 13, 2009, 10:17 AM

For coloring night scenes check out his post I had a while back. In it there's a link to a ton of info by weblog guru James Gurney. Gurney offers daily advice and lessons for artists of all kinds.

gail

http://gailmakiwilson.blogspot.com/2008/01/color-of-moonlight.html
#21 - May 13, 2009, 10:18 AM

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Yup, Wetcanvas is great. I don't hang out there quite as much as here (well, I'm tryinig to do more art and writing and less hanging out in general!  :trenchguy)

LOL, me too. But between the blueboards and editor/agent blogs I find myself hanging out more than is probably good for me.

Just so I don't get my wrist slapped for being totally off topic  :whistle  here's another link that might provide some useful info. Curry's is an art supply store I used to frequent when I lived in Toronto. They have featured artists who have documented step by step through paintings (very interesting to see others' processes) and tips and techniques, and links, etc...

https://www.currys.com/default.htm

edited to add: It looks as if they have redone the site since I last visited it, and I can no longer find the step by step WIPs. I had found them very useful, I'm not sure why they've removed them. Sorry about that.
#22 - May 13, 2009, 12:19 PM
« Last Edit: May 13, 2009, 12:45 PM by Artemesia »
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JoS

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For coloring night scenes check out his post I had a while back. In it there's a link to a ton of info by weblog guru James Gurney. Gurney offers daily advice and lessons for artists of all kinds.
http://gailmakiwilson.blogspot.com/2008/01/color-of-moonlight.html

Gail!! thanks so much this is not only helpful it is VERY interesting!
#23 - May 13, 2009, 12:41 PM

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I recently switched from watercolor to acrylic wash using Liquitex concentrated colors.  I love it and it has become my medium of choice. I still use most of the same techniques I used with watercolors and like Wiseguy14, I paint light to dark.
#24 - May 13, 2009, 04:12 PM
THIS LITTLE PIGGY (AN OWNER'S MANUAL), Aladdin PIX June 2017 :pigsnort
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http://cyndimarko.com
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