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.

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