View Full Version : How do you choose your colors?

02 February 2007, 01:59 AM
Developing a consistent color pallette seems to be the most challenging obstacle at the moment. I'm relatively new to the digital side of art, and I'm feeling overwhlemed by the massive amounts of hues and tones there seem to be.

Aside from using a photo ref (assuming there is an alternative method), how do you choose your colors?

Crazzy Legs
02 February 2007, 02:41 AM
this sounds restricting, but its true. Form followers function. Think about the mood or appeal you want. Transfer that into color, you'll need to have a grip on what colors do for the brain, this link ( might be helpful, or you can check out this book ( I own the book....boy is great. They just released a follow up to it. ( might only want to buy the follow-up, I haven't had that much of a look at it.

Once you get a main idea then you can play with it and start changing colors around, remember, color theory is just that, theory. Sometimes you find colors that go together quiet well even though they shouldn't based on what you know about them.

I hope this helps.

Go buy a little cardboard colorwheel from an art supply store. You can find some that have complementary and split complement colors and secondary and tertiary colors on them. Handy little things.

02 February 2007, 07:26 AM
That books looks extremely helpful, I'll have to check it out.

I do have a fair understanding of the basic color theory (i.e. primary colors, analogous colors, warm and cool colors etc), but I was wondering specifically how you manage your colors.

When you begin working, and I realize each case is idiosyncratic, how many colors might you choose? And once you've choosen them, how do ou keept them in line? Swatches? I've tried this method, but it doesn't seem intuitive. I've seen people use a sphere, and then color it in with all the different shades and tints of that color. How do you do this?

02 February 2007, 10:24 AM
Yeah, color can be a struggle. First things first, though--before you start trying to develop an in-depth knowledge of digital color, calibrate your monitor correctly. If you've already done so, great. But if you've the slightest doubt...make sure it's calibrated. You don't want to have to re-learn everything.

Once that's done, I'd recommend starting out with realistic colors and then branching off into less realistic ones. If you want to study real-life colors, try taking or finding photos of the objects you want to paint. Bring a photo into Photoshop, perhaps use the Median filter a little bit, and open the Color Picker. Click around various parts of the photographed object and try to get a feel for where the "sweet" colors are.

If you really want to study this, you can take screenshots of the Color Picker (alt-Print Screen on PCs) and paste them into a new document. If you use the Darken and Lighten blending modes appropriately, you can make all the circular cursors appear simultaneously, like in the attached image. The resulting "color graph" shows you an approximation of where to find that object's colors. If you do this with many photos and try to internalize the trends, you'll develop a better understanding of color.

From there on out, it's all about experimentation. I rarely use swatches anymore, but if they're helpful to you, use them. Usually, I have some sort of color scheme in mind from the get-go. I start by laying in the background rather roughly, then I use a new layer to paint in a rough foreground to get a feel for the colors. Remember, zooming WAY out can help you focus on the colors and values. That way, you don't get bogged down in details.

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02 February 2007, 10:24 AM
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