Friday, August 8, 2008

Coloring Black Things with Grays

Have you ever tried to color something you wanted to look black, so you color it with black and it just looks bland and bad? You're not alone. Lots of people have this problem and hopefully I can help your black things look better after this post.

Why does it look so bad?
Your black lines disappear and your area looks totally flat if you color with black. Black is a monster that sucks in all color, especially color around it. If you have large areas of black it can be very overpowering.

So how can we make something look black without coloring it black?
This is why Copic makes so many grays. There are 44 shades of gray, which seems like a lot when you only use a few of the lightest grays every now and then for light shadows. The darker grays are what you would use to get black.

Note: In this post I am about 1 or 2 shades lighter than you will want to work, mostly because I needed to make sure my scanner would pick up the subtle differences between blacks. You may like these blacks as they are, or you may want to go a couple shades darker. That's a matter of personal preference.

Look at this shirt. The black shirt is just a black shape. It has no life. Next, we have a t-shirt colored with two shades of toner gray, T6 and T8. The shirt still looks black but now we can see the black lines around the shape.

Now look at the last shirt. This shirt has been through the wash too many times and looks faded. This was an easy effect by going over the shirt with the lightest gray of the same family T0. I could have used the blender but it would have been too much and too harsh.

Usually you can get a good "black" by using the 6 or 7 in each gray family as the base color and shadowing with the 8 or 9 from the same family. Sometimes you may need to use the 10 in that color family, but rarely do I reach for a black.

So why are there so many grays?
Each gray has a slightly different feel. If you look at this sequence you can see that the W's are warm, almost brown, the T's are a little less brown, the N's are truly neutral, and the C's are sort of blue.

I'd use the Warm grays for warm feeling natural things, trees, dirt, etc. I'd use the Toner grays if I didn't want the grays to be quite so brown but not cool or neutral. The Neutral grays are really that- neutral. If you look the Neutral circle looks more black than the others when you see them in this sequence. The Cool grays are more for metal and cold things.

The shirt above is a fabric that I wanted to be sort of neutral, so I used the Toner Grays, since the warm grays were too brown. I could have used Neutral gray, but I didn't feel like it at the time. I drew the circles with lines through the light area so you can get an idea of how the black lines compare to the blacks of the shape. (Note: the T4 you see in this picture is one of the first two markers I was given over 8 years ago- it still has the original brush tip).

What about the black markers?
First, never use the black 100 or 110 for drawing a shape you're going to color in with other colors of Copic markers. These markers are meant to blend, so the lines will just get blurry and look bad. Use these if you need deepest shadows in your artwork. If you want black lines draw them with a multiliner. The lines will be crisper and they won't bleed with other marker colors.

What's the difference between 100 and 110?
Have you ever worn a black shirt with black pants and it's not the same shade of black, yet each piece of clothing by itself looks black? That's the difference. You can't really see it unless you're on certain papers and the two are next to each other.

100 is equal to a C11, or a cool, deep blue black. This is what most people consider true black.
110 is equal to a T11, or a slightly warm black.

Coloring black shiny things
Black metal you can color in exactly the same way as other black things, but where a t-shirt is fabric and has a matte finish metal is shiny and will reflect light back. This is another case where you need to use opaque white. No way can I leave the white areas white when I'm working on such a small shape and with such dark colors.

However, a little dab of thick opaque white covers up the black nicely and makes our little ball look like dark, shiny metal (it's cool gray so it's supposed to look like metal or hematite, my favorite stone).

The final picture is from Flourishes. The young man in the tux was so dark compared to the simple white wedding dress that I added a black Spica glitter pen to break up the black areas. My scanner picked those up as rainbow flecks, so that's the speckles you see on his outfit. Image: Wedding Party by Flourishes Paper: Neenah Classic Crest Ink: Memento Tuxedo Black Other: Atyou Spica Black pen


Jana said...

This is really helpful Marianne. Thank you! I think I need to invest in some darker grays than I've bought so far.

Nicole said...

Thanks, Marianne! I was wondering what the difference was between the blacks 100 & 110. AND also wondering about the difference between the Neutral and Toner shades. GOT IT NOW!

I never heard of Flourishes stamps, but checked them out, they have a great variety of stamp styles, so thanks for passing their name along... but YOU know who I would rather see have a stamp line... wink wink....

Marci Pie said...

This is one of the things you showed me at the Anime Convention and has really helped.

Could you tell me what would you use Black 100 for?

Judy in Indiana said...

I have been using greys for black but did not know it was really the right thing to do. Wow. I did something right! But I still needed this post, so thanks for sharing!

Sharlene said...

OMG! this is just what i needed.
i couldnt figure out how to get things to look black but not so flat. i need more colours!!!
thanks marianne.

Saundra Grose said...

This was extremely helpful as I was having a problem when I used black; I have really enjoyed all of your lessons and want to thank you for taking your time to do this for us; I have learned so much and look forward to learning even more.


Diane S said...

Your blog is so helpful to me while I learn how to use my copics. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and talent...

shooskua said...

I spend time in Antarctica and wondered if you have any tips on coloring ice (flat ice, snow, icebergs, icicles, reflections on ice, clear ice, snowflakes...anything frozen).

Elaine said...

Thank you soooo much! You answered my question!! It's exactly what I needed to learn and read. The examples are perfect and very helpful. :)

Sandy Knecht said...

I rarely like my black so these tips are of great help. Practice, practice, practice. Thank you!

Krystinah said...

Thanks so much Marianne...I have struggled with this for so long...I need to practice more but this information is just wha I needed...Thank you so much for sharing...Hugs Kristina

Linda said...

Thanks for the great information. This was very helpful. I am a beginner and I need all the help I can get. It was easy to follow.

Stampin_melissa said...

I've been meaning to ask you what the difference is between 100 and 110. I'm glad I found this! Thanks so much for all the knowledge you have shared! You're invaluable!