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Color is a fundamental element of our lives. Understanding how to use it for visual communication in a variety of contexts is essential for designers and artists. This course is about learning how to use color, not only to create more effective designs, but also to tell a story. Illustrator, professor, and author Mary Jane Begin explains how color intertwines with brand identity, how it affects the mood of a piece and directs the viewer's attention to areas of interest, and how it can connect images or create space between elements. She removes the mystery surrounding the color wheel and color relationships; shows how to layer, mix, and digitally alter color; and use light to integrate temperature, translucency, and contrast.
These lessons are applicable to a number of fields, including graphic design, photography, and illustration, and both traditional and digital media. Dive in and get a fresh look at color that is sure to revitalize your creativity and your work.
Using multiple light sources and reflective color creates the magical illusion of believe-ability, and pulls the viewer in. This might be easier to see if we look at one of my pieces in progress. The linear structure and composition of my pieces are always established first as a small thumbnail sketch, then revised to this larger image. The final sketch is then copied onto a tone paper, in this case a vibrant blue because it takes place under water and this serves as a unifying ground.
Remember, a ground is the color that you start with as an overall tone for an image when not working on white. As I develop the form with the most opaque color in the highest light, I consider what colors will pop off the chosen ground. Because the ground is vibrant, deep, cold blue, I choose to push a yellow green tone on the highest lit area with flecks of a peachy tone and let the shadow be closer to the blue. As a purple tone, then reflect a vibrant minty green, much cooler than the light, and a deeper value than the highly lit area to pop off the background and turn the form around.
I use reflected color that is cooler in temperature than the slightly warmer light to create an illusion of dimension. It appears to be reflected from something blue-green near the characters. Here you can see that the color value is being addressed as I push the overall contrast of the image, and focus more attention on the intensity of the light as it hits the characters in the foreground here. Contrasting the dark water and the background. I've also used complementary relationships to make them appear closer to us, spatially, because the ground is blue-purple, I've made the narwhal overall blue-green and pink, over green in the shadow area, so that the color in the shadow is a bit more neutral, and the seahorse is a green, orange, red, and blue-green, to contrast the background color.
Arrows face is the exception, as it is a blue, not unlike the background. A design that works on most of the other pages of the book so here I edge the color in a minty green so that he would still be visible. Tada! The finalized painting explores the overall color. I added in more blue over the entire piece so that it would feel as though it were under water. My goal in addition to creating drama was to push the dimensionality of the forms and create the illusion of depth of field in the image.
I contrasted value. Temperature, opacity, and complimentary color against the background color. This helped to create the maximum amount of space, perceived space, between foreground and background. For dimensional form, I use reflected secondary light to achieve volume, making sure that the color was a compliment to the color used in light. Into the shadow tone as well. By using light in a more complex designed way, I captured the feeling and concept that I intended, for maximum drama and interest.
But you'll have to read the book, to see how it all turned out.
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