Print

How To >> Browse Articles >> Color

+4

Illustration: Penelope Dullaghan Demonstrates Color Play

Illustration: Penelope Dullaghan Demonstrates Color Play

Penelope Dullaghan

I recently got an email asking me two questions. (I’ll tackle the second one in a later post.) But the first one was: “I am interested in learning about techniques people employ for developing better connection with color – special exercises? do you keep library?”

I thought this was a great question. And you all know how much I love color. So I thought it’d be fun to answer with a blog and pics. :)

First off, I think color is something that you can get better at by playing. Combining different colors and seeing what works and what feels good. (example: Maybe that brown could have a little more blue in it to play off the orangey tone of a red, etc.) This all goes back to color theory. You know the drill: primary, secondary, how some colors push each other when combined. (Red pops more when it’s next to a blue.) I won’t go too far into that because the site I linked to explains it better than I could, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

What I will say though is that as a kid, I was totally fascinated by color theory. I think I first heard about it in gradeschool art class and fell in love with it. Learning about it really opened doors as far as the power of color. How you could make color work for you. And how blue was never ever just “blue”. It also pushed open the window that there was more to color than meets the eye… color is emotional for me. (For instance: I had an AVERSION to red-violet as a kid and always threw that color away as soon as I open a new box of crayons. It literally made my stomach hurt.)

Anyway. I digress.

So I guess my first thing as far as special exercises go is: PLAY. Get out the paint and mix and mix until you find some combos to love. See what works well in your eyes. I’m a huge fan of blue-green-grayish paired with red (as you can see from my portfolio), but lately I’ve been loving warm grays paired with dirty yellows.

I also have a color deck from Sherwin Williams, which comes in handy a lot of times. I can see colors together quickly without having to get out the paints if I’m in a hurry. Because I have this, I also help friends with picking out room colors. My friend Maria wanted to paint her little girl’s room bright red and asked me to help pick out a red. I went over with my handy-dandy color deck and showed her that red would be great as an accent, maybe paired with a blue-red gray on the walls. That way the room would be restful as a bedroom and still playful as a kid’s room. Red would probably make her daughter feel keyed up all the time and soon-to-be two-year-olds don’t need any help in that department. :)

I also keep a color collection. I use a cheapy scrap book I bought at the hobby store and just put magazine cut outs, paint chips, photos, etc in it. Anything that feels inspiring color-wise. Some pages are bright, like these. Some play with neutrals. And some are moody. When I’m stuck on an illustration, a lot of times I look at this scrap book and feel a little shift to try something new color wise.

Oh, and if you do try something new color-wise in an piece of art and it’s not working (but you can’t repaint because of deadlines), there are color tools in photoshop that are dee-vine. I use them all the time. Mainly the curves (apple M) and hue-saturation (apple U) tools. You can find those under “Image — Adjustments” if you’re not familiar with key commands. Those tools allow you to adjust the colors and select certain colors to tweak, so you can see what works better.


Find the right campus or online art or design program for you!