How to: colour backgrounds

I found this great article by  about backgrounds in ColorOn!Magazine

In this article you can find advice about how to:

1. decide to colour a background or not
2. colour the background FIRST and why
3. choosing a “sweet spot” in the drawing
4. choosing a colour scheme

Then she gives step by step tips for practicing:

1. a sky
2. a background

To Background—or Not to Background

Deciding how to color the background can be one of the hardest decisions to make when coloring. Every coloring artist has experienced the frustration of coloring a beautiful sheet only to not know what to do with the background. Some intricate drawings such as mandalas are best suited to a white or solid colored background in order to give the eye a place to rest in the composition. Other times, a solid background can spoil an otherwise beautifully colored page.

Few things in nature appear in a solid color. You may notice that he sky, for example, appears to be darker directly overhead and gradually lighter as it approaches the horizon. Landscape appears darker and more muted or gray in the distance and gets lighter, brighter, and more detailed in the foreground. For this reason, coloring sheets of nature drawings might benefit from a graduated background that suggests the sky with or without landscape details. Other types of coloring sheets may turn out more polished and professional-looking if done in a graduated background using complementary colors.

Coloring the Background First

Many coloring artists wait until last to color the background; however, coloring (or at least planning) the background first can improve the outcome of your project. Coloring in the background first allows you to determine the direction of the light source in your composition. This decision alone will improve your shading and result in a more polished project. Additionally, coloring in the background first allows you to choose and highlight an area of your sheet. You can emphasize a strong central element by coloring a lighter, brighter background around it.

Or, you might choose to emphasize a visual “sweet spot” in the composition. In order to find a “sweet spot,” imagine your coloring equally divided in to thirds in every direction—like a tic-tac-toe board. At each place a line would intersect is a “sweet spot.” If there’s not an element in the drawing at one of the intersection points that would make a good highlight, then anywhere along one of the imaginary lines would make a second-best choice. Choosing something off-center to highlight is visually appealing and helps to lead the viewer’s eye around the composition.

Use the Color Wheel

The next important decision to make a graduated background work for your project is to determine a color scheme. One choice is a monochromatic background. This is a good way to make the traditional_color_wheelappearance of a sky. You can use multiple pencils in a single color family, such as blues, or you can use one pencil and vary the amount of pressure and the number of layers of color you put down. In all graduated backgrounds, pencil pressure helps provide variation and achieve smooth blending.

Another possible choice is a graduated background that uses complementary colors to enhance your drawing. An important tool for this is the color wheel. You can pick up an inexpensive color wheel at your local craft supply store, or you can make your own (search for “color wheel” online for an example to follow). There are two kinds of complementary color schemes: direct and split. Direct complementary colors are positioned exactly opposite each other on the color wheel—for example, red and green. Direct complementary colors bring a high degree of visual contrast and tension to your project.

Split complementary colors are positioned adjacent to the direct complementary color. For example, yellow is the direct complementary color of purple, but orange, which is next to yellow, is one of the split complementary colors of purple. Choosing split complementary colors for your background maintains a good visual contrast, but with less tension. You might decide to create a feeling of sunset or twilight by using orange and yellow with purple or to bring out the cooler tones of water using blue and green with purple. A good rule is to choose three or four colors or shades of a single color. Using too many colors can be difficult to blend.

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