Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What Color did I use?

Before I get into the next background technique I wanted to touch breifly on something that may help many of you. You're digging through old artwork and you come across one that was colored with markers a while ago. Looking back at it now you think, "Wow. I really did a bad job coloring. I wish I could fix it."

You can! I mentioned a while ago that you can come back at any time and re-work old pictures. I briefly mentioned my method but I want to cover it in depth so I can build on it later. The first question to ask is-

What color did I use?
Hopefully you were good and you wrote down what you used. Build good habits now and it will help you in the future.

Plan ahead - Write it down
If you find yourself always looking at something and wondering what colors that you used then you should probably write them down. It's been a while since I plugged keeping an example book or a swatch book, so I'm going to remind you again- Keep a book with color combos you like / don't like. You'll never remember them all. As an artist that scans in all my work I can just write things off to the side so it's always there. I've talked to stampers who get into the habit of always stamping two copies- one for their project and if it comes out good then they color a second copy to keep in their example book.

A simple way to know your colors is to write it lightly on the back of your picture with a pencil. That way it won't detract from the beauty of the front. Especially if you're coloring a large stack of pictures and you have to stop in the middle- you'll know what the last color you used was.

Then, I keep two separate example books for papercrafting (my other example books are broken down by category- Fine Art, Manga, or Blog). I have one book with just techniques and one book filled with color combos. Next to each picture I wrote down what works or not so I don't forget (these Jeans are original art, not a stamp).

Example books for teachers or stores
For those of you who teach workshops, having little example books is invaluable. Class participants can flip through and get ideas or "recipies" on how you made a picture look the way it does. Then, if you find them always asking "oooh, how did you do this one?" you have a good idea of what to cover in your next workshop. I can't tell you how many times people have asked if they could take photos of my example books so they can remember a technique. If you make one yourself then you'll remember better what you did to get that look.

For store owners, having a simple technique or color combo book next to your display is a great way to help people who come into the store get more ideas on how to use the markers. These books don't have to be elaborate- just a few examples held together with a ring is usually enough, though more detailed books are inviting too. Whatever you make, make sure it's attached, since these have a tendency to wander off when you're not looking.

I forgot what color I used
For the pictures that you forgot the colors you used here are a few solutions.

1. Trial and error. On a similar paper scribble a bit and see what color it could be. In many cases I layered colors so I don't know what I used. When you test, test with a single swatch and test with an area you colored twice. This helps you know the range of one marker color, from it's lightest to it's darkest value. Then hold up your swatch and hopefully you'll find a match.

2. Use a hand-color chart. I know I've mentioned before, but if you haven't already started your own color chart, you should do so now. Go to the Copic Library and download our chart. Print this on the paper you use most frequently so your colors are most accurate. Then fill in what colors you have. That way you know.

Karen Lockhart, of Lockhart Stamp Co, took her large color chart and punched a tiny hole through each color so she can easily match up Copic colors with papers, old artwork, or whatever she needs to match. Some people make their own spreadsheets in a format that is easy to line up to get an exact match.

Secondary Color Chart
I say take this another step. Make a secondary color chart with your favorite blends. All on a clean sheet of your favorite paper, in a list, as easy as the main chart. Then you have a quick reference (papercrafters- you should make your own charts using your favorite ink colors and paper combos, or you can just use my chart).

Remember when I show you a color spotlight and I show little blended swatches? Here's your chance to do the same. I made you a blank chart you can use and share. This is half-page size, so you can get two on a page when you copy it or scale it to whatever size works best for you.

To use this chart-
1. Print copies on your favorite paper. For best results make these on a laser printer or from a regular photcopier, unless you know that your printer's ink will not bleed with Copic Markers.
2. Fill in the color family at the top. For instance, Y or E
3. For each row of swatches, start on the left with your base color. In the following boxes make your blends. I included 3 spaces under each box. You can make two or 3 color blends, just write them down!

Don't think that you should only do the Natural Blends for each color. This is your chance to experiment with odd combos (Or check the sidebar for people like Debbie or Sharon who have their favorite combos listed). For the really dedicated user, you may wish to have a different chart for each color you own. With 322 colors, you can see that the colors to blend are limitless. Just be warned, your book of these combos might get pretty big.

Care for a hand-color chart
Be careful where you store your hand-color charts. When you're not using it, tuck it away out of the light. This keeps the dye from fading and your chart will last a long time. Our warehouse keeps a hand-colored chart out in the open since they need it so often. It needs to be replaced each year, since the palest colors fade from the lighting. If you need to have a color chart out in easy sight, put it in something that will protect it from the UV rays.

It's getting late, so I think I'd better stop for the night. This wasn't the exact direction I was planning on going, but I feel that organizing your colors can help you with your creative process. Have a great day!


Sharon Harnist said...

Well it's good to know I'm not nuts in thinking my hand-colored chart had faded a bit . . . it sits right under my desk light. Guess I'll be making a new one and tucking it away out of the light! Thanks for the tips, Marianne!

kris fulk said...

I'm so happy to see that there is an empty Copic color chart I can fill! I have made my own, but I found that as the amount of colors I had grew, groups of colors started getting scattered around the page. I will be using this right away for sure.