Join Jim Krause for an in-depth discussion in this video Seeing and fixing problems with color, part of Color for Design and Art.
- I'm going to open up an illustration here in just a minute, then I'm going to color it poorly. And what I'm going to do is point out how the palette fails, then I'm going to show how I will fix it. After that, I'm going to do it again. Another poor application of color, and another fix. And then one more time after that. Three very different and very common color problems, and three different solutions. And hopefully these demonstrations will put some useful ideas in your head for the next time you come across similar color-related issues.
So, here we go, my illustration and a poor application of color. Now, to be honest, it's not like this is a complete disaster. It's pretty nice colors really. But still, I do see a problem. It's subtle, but since we're professionals here, or soon-to-be professionals, we're all about fixing problems, right? No matter how subtle, or how obvious. It's the teal and the orange. They're about the same value. So, wherever they touch, they tend to blend a little bit. And since they're complementary colors, they also tend to set off a kind of visual vibration wherever they meet, and that's bad stuff.
The fix is simple. Just make one color notably darker or lighter than the other, like this, or this. Take your pick, but do pick, because good color schemes can not be built around weak value structures. OK, I'll wipe away this palette and start over with a fresh set of poorly considered colors. Now this time, the problem is way more serious. Pretty much all the colors here are about the same value. And obviously, that's not a good thing, but let's just say for whatever reason, we're stuck with these colors.
Maybe it's because you have a client who thinks they're an art director, and they pick the colors, who knows. So, is there any hope? Well, yeah, it's called line work. If value differences aren't going to make this illustration look good, which is what value differences are supposed to do, then we might need to add some line work to make the boundaries really clear between all the colors, and also to visually define the image's content. There are all different kinds of line work options to consider.
Another thing you could do is take an illustration like this into Photoshop, and airbrush some subtle hints of shading between the colors in strategic places, like so. So here's before, and after. These are small fixes, but they're a really big help. All right, moving on and back to Adobe Illustrator. Let's hit reset, apply some more poorly chosen colors, and again actually these colors aren't all that bad. There's a good value structure going on here, nice range of bright and muted hues, so what's the problem? Well, here's what I see, OK, the bright orange-yellow inside our central globe is meant to be its accent color.
Now I'd say it's doing a good job especially since it's surrounded by darker and more muted hues. My only problem with this thing is that this accent color, it's used too much. It's used too much in other places, I mean. It's nice how three other planets connect with the central globe here by sharing this color, but, in this case, I happen to want my earthly globe getting all the attention it can, which isn't happening since my attention-grabbing yellow is spread around here, here and here.
Easy fix, I'll just mute this yellow a bit everywhere it appears except within the globe. That's way better. Now there's a nice echo going on between the globe and its outer space neighbors, but those neighbors are no longer fighting with our home planet for attention. Now the color issues we just looked at, they can happen with more than just illustrations. I often see these issues coming up in all kinds of design, illustration, and fine arts projects. So be on the lookout for them, and consider applying fixes, like the ones we just looked at, to make things right.
Primarily aimed at designers and illustrators, the course leans heavily toward digital tools such as Photoshop and Illustrator, but concludes with some challenges using real-world media (inks and paints!), so members can get a solid understanding of mixing colors and what tools and combinations work best.
- Navigating the color wheel and color vocabulary
- Why a color's value is so important
- RGB vs. CMYK vs. spot
- Finding the perfect color
- Working with grays and browns
- Building a color palette
- Borrowing hues for palettes
- Establishing color hierarchies
- Fixing color problems
- Altering color in photos and illustrations
- Using texture with color
- Painting for learning and fun