Friday, October 23, 2009

Coloring a black cat

Happy Friday! Tonite I head off to Coos Bay, OR for a small Certification class. Before I leave I wanted to give you a quick Halloween coloring idea. 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!


Melissa said...

Great tutorial, Marianne! Thanks! :) I have another suggestion for fixing mistakes: if possible, cut the image out and layer it on clean cardstock. I find that my reds like to bleed outside the lines if I am not super careful, so this is how I solve the problem when I "oopsie". Yes, cutting the image out is a pain, but it is less time consuming than having to recolor an entire image.

Take care and STAY POSITIVE! Trena said...

Thanks Marianne! Excellent example of coloring black. I also watched a video Suzanne Dean did on coloring black. It was very helpful. I was watching Color Splash on HGTV and they used warm and cool grays together in a room. David was talking about brown based and blue based grays, and thanks to your blog I knew exactly what he was talking about! :o)

Take care and STAY POSITIVE!

Graphicat said...

There is nothing "bad luck" about black cats! I have a PURE black one and he's the sweetest thing. Great that you are all taking care of those strays at the warehouse!

Great tutorial too! Thanks. :o)

Holly - Wild Wyoming Art Cafe' said...

Awesome tutorial Marianne! Love the story about the cats you all saved :) I learn so much from your blog Marianne - thanks for the educational posts.

Catrick said...

Thanks again for another tutorial. As for black cats....we had Mickey for 19 years and she was the most incredible cat ever....not a spot of bad luck around her!


Gwen's Busy Little Hands said...

I am so glad I found you! I've been trying to use my Copics and haven't been very happy with my results. Your tutorials...WOW! Things I wish I knew a few weeks ago. I think, after reading your info regarding bleeding, that I'm going to try some other papers to see if that helps. It makes sense that the softer cardstocks would bleed more. Again, I'm so happy I found your blog and I truly appreciate your guidance. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Nena said...

What a fantastic tutorial! Thanks
again for putting so much effort
into sharing your knowledge with us.
I was wondering if there was a
paper that did not feather as much
as Neenah or GP? I sure would like
to do anything I can increase the
chance of a nicely colored image!!

StampDancer said...

I love this - thank you! And just so you know in some countries black cats are considered good luck! I have three black cats and one diluted tortoishell.

Nora said...

Loved this TUT, Marianne - thanx!

Vicki Dutcher said...

Your website is amazing! You as an artist...PHENOMENAL!! I need to take a DAY and go step by step to see if I can even come close to your expertise! Thanks for sharing your talent with the rest of us!

P.S. I LOVE Coos Bay. Had a great chick trip there once - the best time!!

Barb Hardeman said...

Thanks for the wonderful tutorial Marianne! I love your blog! I have problems with Reds! Argh...they bleed across lines no matter what I do. When it's not fixable, I trash that piece and start over. At times I have just cut the image out and outlined the cut edges with black and it works well, but on other images, ones that I can't cut out I have been known to start over. I've found that not getting too near the edge with the reds helps a lot, but not always. I just keep practicing...

Cora said...

Sure wish this had been posted a couple of weeks ago. I gave up on trying to color the black cat image I had. I finally read your past post on blacks and realized I needed some different grays. Still haven't made it downtown to Oregon Art Supply to buy those. Thanks for this timely tutorial

liannallama said...

Thanks for the great tips and the kitty is sooooo cute! I hope we see him or one of his brothers in a stamp soon!

Hi! said...

I am new to copic and am just getting started. I really enjoy your site that has helped me learn about shading this morning. I will return often. I would love to win a set to jumpstart me into Copic markers.