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!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Art Links & Certification

Once again I want to share some neat art links that I think you'll like.

Artists for Humanity. This grassroots program in Boston helps kids get off the streets and into professional graphic design careers. Check it out, these guys rock (and they love copics!)

I want to remind you that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Here is more great art that pays tribute to the struggles and perseverance of those dealing with Breast Cancer:

Carol Ast - Breast Cancer Art These paintings are not for sale, but they show her reflections on dealing with cancer. Take a look and remember those who have suffered.

A Rural Woman's Breast Cancer Journal - This has art, reflections, and updates on treatment as well as other tidbits helpful for those coping with the trauma.

And, an update on 2009 certifications. Soon I will have a listing of certifications in the first quarter of 2010, but for now, just let me know where you would like to see a class (we do take your requests very seriously!)

If you don't have an application for a session coming up please send Nancy an e-mail.

San Antonio
For all you Texans who are dying to get into the San Antonio classes, good news! We moved the classes to a larger venue. Those classes are re-opened and will be co-taught by Sally Lynn MacDonald and Sharon Harnist. Please submit your application and state which day you prefer, December 13 or 14th. Send those back to

And, Sharon has informed me that she is looking to hold a class in the Dallas area in Feb. 2010. Get on the copic mailing list (on the sidebar of my blog) to be notified when applications and info are released on that venue.

Here's a rundown of our current class offerings:


24th Coos Bay, OR taught by Marianne Full
25th Evansville, IN taught by Sally Lynn Full
28th Grand Rapids, MI taught by Marianne Open to public - almost full, closes next Wed.

21st Montreal, taught by Sherrie Siemens Full
22nd, Montreal, taught by Sherrie Siemens Open to Stores & Designers
22nd Columbia, SC taught by Sally Lynn Open to Stores & Designers

13th San Antonio, TX taught by Sally Lynn Open to Stores & Designers
14th San Antonio, TX taught by Sally Lynn Open to Stores & Designers

OK, I have a very busy weekend, but I'll try to post a tutorial. Have fun!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Coloring a sweater

As the weather quickly grows cold and wet I figure now is a good time to cover how I color a nice fuzzy sweater. This project will really show you if the paper you like to use is too soft or not absorbent enough. Be sure to work with plenty of scratch paper under your work, as this technique will really soak through most papers.

Adding texture to a specific area
In this image I want the main body of her sweater to look like a knit, but the ribbing on the cuffs should be straight and I don't want her skirt or skin to get textured either. This is where you need to plan ahead. If you add the texture after you've colored the whole picture then you'll want to mask off any areas that you don't want to get textured.

This is a picture I drew last week and since it is going into my example book I photocopied my original onto color laser copier paper. As I mentioned earlier, paper will make a huge difference in your final results. You'll get better results if you work on Neenah Classic Crest Solar White, Copic sketchbook paper, or Copic Stamping paper. Prism Simply Smooth will work but you'll need to soak the texture more, along with Papertrey Ink, and Gina K. papers. Test a few paper types until you get the technique to work correctly.

I start by coloring her main sweater nice and evenly with a BV00. To make sure it is really smooth I started at one sleeve and colored with the side of the brush (not the tip) in circles, really soaking the paper evenly. I didn't let any area get too dry or else I would have had streaking.

Next I added my darker BV04. Usually this is too big a color jump in this family, but I couldn't find my BV02 and I know that I'm going to be adding texture anyways so I went for it.

Notice how I added my darker color in feathered strokes. In areas that I want to have a softer blend I lift up at the end of my stroke. This puts less dye on the page and makes it easier to blend back in.

Then I come back with my BV00 and color over the whole area. In this case I start coloring on the light side and push my BV00 into the darker BV04. See how the whole sweater gets darker and the areas that I feathered with the darker purple really blended in nicely. If the sweater is a little uneven or blotchy at this point it's OK, since I'm going to be adding texture anyways.

Now I'm ready to add my texture. On an older post I added texture with a wadded paper-towel soaked in Copic Colorless blender solution. In this example I don't want the wrinkly look that worked with the bushes, I want a specific sweater looking texture. What better way to get sweater texture than with a sweater? Luckily my husband had a black sweater hanging in the closet with just the right woven look I wanted. This technique won't ruin the sweater (though try at your own risk) and if any color happened to come off my paper it wouldn't show up on the black sweater anyways.

This will take practice to get it right, so don't give up if it doesn't work the first time (click on the photo to enlarge).

At this point I would suggest getting clean, absorbent scratch paper under your work. Any stray color on your scratch paper might bleed through where you don't want it.

After my base colors were dry, I carefully pinched a small area of the sweater in my fingers, about the size of a large coin, and soaked it in colorless blender solution. Not sopping wet, just a little damp. Then I dabbed it onto my sweater.

In the first try you'll see it was too wet and is kind of soft and washed looking. You might like that look, but I want a stronger knit look. This wet look is caused by one of a few things:

1. Wrong paper. softer papers, like Georgia Pacific, will not give crisp definition.
2. Base color too wet. Let the base colors dry longer before adding texture, particularly on thicker papers.
3. Too much blender soaked into your texture fabric. Let your fabric dry a bit more before you try again (I like to make a test-dab first to see how wet my fabric is)
4. Holding your texture too long in one place. Test and practice to see how long you need to hold it in place. This varies from paper type to paper type.
5. No scratch paper/ wet scratch paper. Get clean scratch paper before you try this.

To fix the first try I let my paper dry completely and I used less blender on my husband's sweater. Then I carefully dabbed it on again over the same area. Success! See how crisp the sweater texture is. Notice on her arm that the color was bleeding a bit. After I finished texturing the whole area I went back and fixed my bleeding mistakes using the colorless blender. Be sure to clean up the pendant while you are working on other mistakes. Then I colored the ribbing last, in little streaks, with the BV00 and BV04. Now it's the same color as the sweater, but without the knit look.

Here is my final artwork that I colored last week and I forgot to scan in the steps. Original artwork by Marianne Walker. Hair/notebook Y11, E31 Sweater BV00, BV04, Blender Skirt R83, R85, R89 Shoes R83, Blender Skin E000, E11, BV31 Socks BV31. Now your artwork can have a fuzzy, warm winter. Have a great day!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Prize Winner and Certification

Thank you to everyone who left comments on this weekend's giveaway! I used and was able to pick out one lucky winner for the 12 pc. set.

The winner is Wendy! Wendy wrote:

I have just begun to use copic markers, after seeing all the wonderful creations, I just had to try them out. I have never liked the way the other markers worked when I would try to color in an image, especially when it comes to coloring a face and making it look natural...that was until I bought my first copic markers. I love them and want to buy more. They are worth the price!! Thank you for a chance to win a set.

Thank you,

Wendy, thank you for your fabulous testimonial. I too hated coloring until I discovered the fabulous Copic markers. I know you will love those.

Certification update:
The last Certifications for 2009 are all open and filling fast, if they aren't full already. If you still need an application for any session that is not full please e-mail

I hope to see you at a class this Fall!

24th Coos Bay, OR taught by Marianne Full
25th Evansville, IN taught by Sally Lynn Full
28th Grand Rapids, MI taught by Marianne Open to public - filling FAST!

21st Montreal, taught by Sherrie Siemens Full
22nd, Montreal, taught by Sherrie Siemens Open to Stores & Designers
22nd Columbia, SC taught by Sally Lynn Open to Stores & Designers

13th San Antonio, TX taught by Sally Lynn Full
New! 14th San Antonio, TX taught by Sally Lynn Full
*note: The San Antonio class on the 13th filled so quickly that we were able to add a second session and it also filled. We will be moving to a larger venue. Keep submitting applications and we will notify everyone once we have the final class size/location determined.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Back in Town and Back to Prizes

OK, so you might have thought that I've dropped off the face of the earth, but know that I'm still here, and I am back from traveling for a while. The tutorial I was going to post this morning sadly I was having too much fun coloring and I totally forgot to stop and scan in the steps, so I have to re-do it for the weekend, but it will be worth the wait.

Meanwhile, to celebrate that I'm back in town for a bit I want to offer a prize. Please leave a comment on this post stating:

1. How do you use copics
2. Why do you like them?

or, if you don't use Copics,

1. Why do you want to try them out? What are the things that you've heard about them that makes them sound so great?

I will randomly choose a winner on Monday at Noon. One winner will receive a free Sketch Set, a value of over $70!! (Actual set may vary from photo) Please make sure you leave a valid e-mail address for me to contact you at. Contest open only to North America.

Thanks for leaving a comment, and good luck winning!