Saturday, May 22, 2010

Coloring With Reds

Red is a strong vibrant color and has a lot of emotion in it. It can also cause a lot of emotion when you're in the middle of a great project and it bleeds into your other colors. Here are some tricks for keeping your reds in place.

If you look closely at this cute little stamp from Hero Arts (click on image to enlarge), you can see that his red shirt has bled out. I colored him in the traditional way I would usually color. I started with my lightest color, coloring in circles, evenly soaking the page. Then, I added the darker red, came back with the light, and blended them together.

The back of the paper is smoothly bended so I must be doing it right, but...Uh oh! Those reds bled outside the lines on the Neenah paper I was using. How can I prevent that?

Here are a few tips that should help you out:
• Work on an absorbent surface. Make sure that the ink is not bleeding simply because you're coloring onto something that is making the ink spread.
• Try a different paper. Neenah is on the soft side of the spectrum. Bazzil Simply Smooth (formerly Prism Simply Smooth) won't bleed as much, but then again, it may not blend in the same way either.
• Use Less ink. You don't really need to completely soak your paper, as red is forgiving. If it looks like the surface is evenly covered then that's good enough. Ignore the back of the paper, as the front is more important anyways.
• Try feather blending colors together. If coloring in circles over soaks the paper, then feather-blend your colors together, as this uses less ink.
• Let base layers dry before you add darker colors on top. The paper can only hold so much ink before it wants to bleed. if you let it dry a little (don't let it get completely dry or it will take more ink to blend) then it will accept more ink in the same spot before it begins to bleed.
• Avoid edges. If none of those techniques work for you, then be extra careful and don't color right up to the edges.
Note: It is very hard to fix bleeding reds with the colorless blender! You are more likely to create a bigger mess.

Here is how I colored him for my final picture. Since I didn't want to switch paper, I changed my technique instead. I decided to go with feather blending. I am working with the Natural Blending Group of R24, R29 and R59. Since R29 is the darkest in the R20's group, then I can shadow it with either R39 or even darker, R59. Since I like more contrast, I went with R59.

1. Start with your light color (R24) and feather it into darker areas. Leave it white where the darker color will be added.

2. Lightly feather in the darker red (R29) from the opposite direction.
3. Let the middle red dry a bit, then add the darkest red (R59). You don't want to take any chances, and two or more layers of red are really going to risk bleeding.
4. Let it dry some more and then feather some R29 into the R59 area, and feather the R24 into the R29. It may take a few LIGHT layers to really get the colors to blend, but it will work eventually.

Here is my final guy. As you can see from the back of this image, I used a whole lot less ink on this smoothly colored picture than I used on the first image, and it still looks great.

I lightly feathered the BG10 out as simple sky accent from his shirt. If my reds had bled at all, then this would have caused the red ink to spread all over the place as well. But you can see from the back of the paper that my ink does not soak all the way to the lines, unlike the first image. By using less ink overall, I am able to get my reds to work better.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

coloring flowers

The image is so tiny that it is very easy to blend, and coloring took only a couple minutes. I started with BV00 for the centers of each flower, then blended in RV00 to create the base tone for the image. To blend, I simply colored in circles over each petal until the BV00 softened out into the pale pink.

For contrast, I added E04, then softened it in with a bit more BV00 and RV00. My leaves were a simple base of YG11, then I added G85, since it is a nice earthy green that is not too vibrant. I went back with the YG11 to blend in the G85. On the final image I darkened any areas that blended out too much by adding a touch more of the G85. This helps keep strong cotrast in my image, and contrast is what makes things look interesting.
Then I scribbled some W3, Y11 and W1 around the image for a soft background (not pictured in this diagram) and blended it out with my colorless belnder, again by scribbling.

Hair Coloring

Coloring Hair
Today I want to share some great news, show you a simple tutorial.
Hair Colors
One of the questions that came up a number of times was how to color hair.  I've talked about coloring hair before, but it's a subject that is always handy to review.
First of all, hair comes in many colors. You can choose almost any color combination of browns, yellows, YR, R, grays... you get the idea. Experiment with lots of colors, and write down the ones you like.

How Much Dark?

You can use the same colors and get different results depending on how much of a color you use as well. Look at these two examples of brown hair. When coloring hair, start light, then work in your darker tones. Streak color in the direction of the grain of the hair.
On both of these examples I started with E31. For the lighter hair I left more white, whereas on the darker head I darkened the E31 by coloring slower, still in streaks, and not leaving as much white.
With the lighter hair, I used less E35 and E37 on each step than I did in the second example. As you can see, the results very greatly just by how much darker color you use.
Note: On hair, I don't usually layer more light over the top of my darker colors, or else the colors will blend together. In this case we want to keep the streaks, since it makes the hair look more believable and natural.

Base Tones
Hair color can change dramatically if you change the base tone or add another color. People frequently ask how to get black hair. Since Copic makes so many shades of gray you would think that you could make black from any of them, but carefully test each color combination. Look at the example. The cool grays make a very different gray than the warm grays. In my opinion, I think the cool gray looks more black whereas the warm grays look more like her hair is fading to gray. Again, it's personal preference.
In the red head example here, you can see that the hair with a yellow base tone looks very different than the hair without. I like to add a yellow base simply because I think the color looks richer, but again, it's a personal choice. Don't be afraid to experiment!


When you want to show dimension, choose your light carefully. Since the girl's face in this example is turned to the Left, then I am going to have my light coming from that direction, that way the front of her face has the strongest lighting. Then, the side of the hair closest to the light will have less color, whereas the side in shadow will have slightly more dark color. This helps give dimensionality to the image.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Coloring a black cat

Coloring black objects can be tricky, so I wanted to leave you an example of coloring something black that's got some shape and detail areas to it.

Coloring a Black Cat
Around the Copic warehouse live 6 cats that were abandoned and are now adopted by our crew. Four of the cats are all black, so sometimes just walking to the door at work I'll have a couple black cats cross my path, but I never seem to have an unlucky day because of it. Each of the cats now has a rich, glossy winter coat of fur.
If you've been making Halloween cards with a black cat and you've been coloring in your cats solid black and they just don't look right then this may help. The secret is to color it with grays, not black. To understand the difference between shades of gray you might want to look at this older post about coloring black things.

Here is my cute kitty, ready to go out trick-or-treating. This is a picture that I drew specific for this tutorial, so no, you won't find it anywhere to purchase. I am working on color laser copier paper, since that is what I do most of my original illustrations on. I began by coloring his mask and cape with BG02 and BG05, and added R83 for his little pink nose.

To begin coloring him black I choose a good middle gray. If you remember, the last digit on any Copic marker tells you how light or dark it is, so a marker with a 5 on the end will be a middle value, 9 will be dark, and 0 or 1 will be light (except grays go up to a value of 10 being the darkest). Start light and go darker. If N5 is too dark for you then try an N4, but don't go darker than a 5 for the first color. Try to work smoothly and quickly so you don't get streaks. Note: If you are working on a soft cardstock I have a word of caution later in the post for you.

If you look closely at his ears I left them white and I slightly feathered the gray into the white area. This will make it easier for me to add my pink ears in later.

Next I add my shadows with a slightly darker gray, N7. See how I feathered the edges of the darker color into the light color? This makes it much easier to blend.

After I added my first layer of shadows then I go back with my middle gray, N5 and blend in the colors. Notice how the whole cat got darker. This is why you don't want to start too dark - the whole picture is going to get darker anyways. Any place that I went back over the cat with the N5 is now closer to an N6 in color. I tried not to add any extra N5 to the top of his head or face. This area has the most detail and the strongest highlight, so I want to leave it slightly lighter.

After blending the two grays together you see I lost some contrast. To get the contrast back I am going to add in a hint of N9 to just the deepest shadow areas - under his cape and each of the far legs. Do NOT blend the N9 with the N7 or it will loose contrast, instead, try blending with N5 so you don't lose any more definition to your colors.

Then I took my BG05 and darkened the shadows on his cape and mask a little more.
Last, I feathered in a hint of the R83 to his ears. I made sure his face was dry then I added the little pink cheeks by dabbing with the brush end straight up and down a few times until it pushed the darker colors out of the way. If you do this while the face is still wet you'll get softer cheeks.
Now my kitty is ready for a night on the town. You can still see all the detail lines, but he is a nice, dark cat.

Working with Dark Colors

On soft cardstock the dense dye particles of dark colors want to spread more than those of light colors. This includes dark browns, deep reds, and intense purples and blues, as well as grays. Be careful! Only use as much marker as you need to get it smooth, don't worry so much about soaking the paper. Try to avoid coloring all the way to the lines if you know your paper will feather easily (Georgia Pacific or Neenah with a few layers of color both do this). Let your paper dry completely between color blends so the dye particles don't spread outside the lines as easily.

Look at my little gray cylinder. I made two little mistakes and I want to fix them with my colorless blender. If you make a mistake and go outside the lines with dark colors there are a lot of dye particles that you need to push back into your image.

However, if you remember from high school physics, dense things want to flow to areas that aren't so dense. Once you touch your colorless blender to the dark gray the dense particles are going to spread all over and they won't want to go back inside the lines. If you try to soak it more to push it back inside then the dye from inside the shape will start flowing out onto your paper as well.

A couple ways to solve this problem is to not make mistakes, hide them better, or start over. Another, more tedious method is to put a paper towel under your work and soak as much dye through the back of the paper as possible (this does NOT work with all kinds of paper). Let it totally dry before you try for a second round of erasing so you don't pull more color from inside your picture. I hope this helps. Good luck with your projects!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Water in a Pond

How to color water in a pond
Here is a reference photo from a lake. This was taken on a slightly cloudy day when the water was still. Look at each of the points in the photo that I describe below.

A couple of basic rules about water reflections-

1. Still water gives crisp reflections, moving water will be broken. The more your water is moving, the more the reflection will be broken, so it's a matter of taste as to how much accuracy your reflection has. It looks more accurate to have still water near the object and gradually make water far away more broken as the light from farther away gets more distorted.

2. Reflections are about the same size as the original object. Reflections are just a trick of light on a body of water, and from a distance the main body of a reflected object looks about the same size. There may be a few stray bits of color reflected in ripples farther out, but for the most part, keep the reflections reasonable. If there is a distortion it will usually be towards the viewer.

Don't go overboard with the reflections! Remember which part of your artwork is most important - is it the objects above water or the reflections. You'll need to make artistic choices to make the important things stand out more.

3. Water is one or two shades darker/grayer than whatever it's reflecting. This is your clue that it's a reflection. Since the sky is usually blue, your reflection water usually has a slight bluish tint to it, which is where we get the idea that water should be blue. Water is not really blue, water is clear. We just draw it blue for simplicity sake.

The mood of the water also is determined by the color of the sky. On a dark, overcast day then you'll get dark water with little light reflected. On a bright, sunny day you'll have bright water with more light reflected off the surface. In this photo you can see that it's a middle day, so the water is kinda dark, but not too bad.

Blank picture to color
Here is a line drawing you can print out & color. You can color with Copics over some inkjet printouts, so test before you print to know if your particular ink will bleed or not. Otherwise, you can print it on a laser printer or photocopy it and you'll have no problems coloring.

Water In A Pond
I'm starting today with anything above water already colored. That way we can focus on just the water. You'll see that my sky is a nice light B00 and my grass is a simple YG03 and YG07 combo. The rocks are a neutral gray and the cat-tails are a simple brown. This is a nice, easy scene to color - until you start coloring the water.

If we start by coloring the water the same color as the sky you can quickly see how flat and fake our scene looks. However, we must remember that the water will be the same tone as the sky - just slightly darker and grayer.

By adding a base tone of our sky color it will give the final picture hints of our underlying blue sky and pull the two elements together more. So go ahead, color your water with the same color as the sky (Other colors I like for blue skies include B0000 or B000, B32, BG10, BG0000)

Next, we need to darken the water and tone it down a bit.

If I add a color that is in the same blending group as the sky then our water will be too vibrant. Remember, water is more gray than sky. In this case I will need to use a blue that is grayer by about 2 or 3 families, so I reach for something in the B30's. The lightest shade is B32, the last digit - 2 - tells me that it will be 2 shades darker than our original color which ends in 0.

I shadow the edges of the pond with the B32 and I leave the middle area still light, as this would have the most direct reflection of the sky. Already this is a big improvement over the flat blue we first had.

Time to add contrast. Remember, contrast makes things more interesting so we should always look for ways to improve our work. To give the water contrast and shadows I reach for a color that is 2 shades deeper than B32, which would be B34.
I darkened things near the shore, and the shadow side of each object near the water. I'm not adding too much, just enough to make it look interesting. Then I take the B32 and smoothly blend the dark blue into the middle color (You can leave yours kind of streaky as long as your streaks are in the same direction as the ripples). I also added a hint of shadow to the ripples to add variation as well.

Now we can add the reflections of objects. This is a matter of personal taste. You might like the water just as it is.

I start with the largest objects. In this case it's the rocks. I take the same two grays I used on the rocks and I am lightly scribbling in the direction of the ripples. Note how it's not smooth and perfect and you can still see blue under the gray. This is OK. This is what increases the illusion of water. You can see that where I have a ripple I left the darker blue alone. This also heightens the idea of water.

The rock closest to us is much bigger and closer, therefore it's reflection is much crisper and deeper. The ripples don't affect it as much when it's that close.

Now I can add the shadow of the grass. I use the darker of my two grass colors and lightly add the illusion of grass. to darken it up I added hints of the B34. This helps give the water a deeper, brighter blue-green feel, and it tones down the vibrant YG. Now our little pond looks almost done.

For the final step today I need to add white back in. To do this I took some opaque white and a very fine paintbrush (or toothpick) and I painted back in a few small highlights. I added some glints of light to the ripples in the water and I gave a dab of highlight to each of the objects in the picture as well. Now we can really feel how bright and crisp our day is with the sun shining on our serene little pond.

Please send me a link of your example if you try coloring this pond. I would love to see your colored picture! Have fun coloring.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Copic Marker CLubs

What is a Copic Marker Club?
It's a way that people come together and share boxes of Copic markers each month until everyone has all the colors they want and each person has a storage case of some type to store them in.
For example:
We sign everyone up and divide you into groups of 3. Then, we order enough markers so each person gets six markers each month. Each person's cost per month is $37.00 for sketch markers, which includes shippping & tax if local.

How many colors can I collect?
You can collect one box and stop or you can sign up again and keep collecting other colors.

What kind of Copic Markers do we get?
We are currently offering 1 club- Sketch. We feel these are the best to collect.

What's the difference between Ciao and Sketch?
Both markers have replaceable nibs, both have the same ink inside, & both can be refilled. Sketch markers are designed to also work with the Copic airbrush system. Ciao come in 144 colors, Sketch come in 39,323,456,987 colors. LOL! Just kidding, but the sketch come 322 colors & won’t roll off your table.

When will you be starting your next club?
The next one will be starting in Dec.

How do I know what box I should start with?
You can start with any color you want or leave it up to me to decide for you.

How much does it cost to join?
Currently it costs $37.00 for the Sketch club per month.

How do I pay for them?
On the 15th of each month you mail me a check. You will not be billed, you will need to remember to make the payment.

Once I join, can I quit?
You can quit when your club has finsihed accumulating thier markers. Please don't quit in the middle of a box. That just ruins it for everyone else in your club and makes it hard on us if we have just a handful of markers here and there. They become harder for me to get rid of that way. Once you've fulfilled your 9 month club committmemt, and have collected the full box, you can opt to collect more or not.

How will I know when and how to sign up?
Subscribe to my blog at
I will be making the announcement there and if you subscribe, the info will drop right in your email box. I hope this info has been helpful. If you have more questions, contact me.
Ciao baby , ~Karen