How to: colour backgrounds #3

A Background Tutorial

Now that you’ve practiced the technique on a sky, let’s try a split complementary color scheme. The steps are the same, but the blending takes a little more finesse. For this tutorial, our color scheme will be purple, orange, and yellow to evoke the feeling of a sunset.

1 Lay out a shape for the area you plan to highlight.

Use the highlight color (yellow) to lightly sketch in the shape of the highlight.
If you are highlighting a strong, central element, you might want to use a roughly circular shape and then blend your colors out in concentric circles.
If you are working with a picture that depicts a landscape or a seascape, you might choose to use horizontal stripes to represent the land, sea, and/or sky.
Leverage the layout of the drawing as you choose the highlight shape. If you have a drawing with a lot of foliage, such as some of Johanna Basford’s drawings, you can use the layout of the drawing to help determine what should be highlighted.
In general, remember that what you highlight will come forward and what you put into shadow will be pushed backward. Allow the drawing on the coloring sheet to be your guide. Also keep in mind that the highlight will suggest the direction of the light in your project and will determine your shading.

2 Lightly color in the highlight area.

If there are drawing elements in the way, color right up against them.
Using a light touch is important in this step.
Remember that you can always put down more layers of color, but it’s hard to take up color if you make a mistake.

Highlighted area

3 Color in the transition color.

For our sunset, so we’ve chosen a warm orange.
Remember to use a light touch in this step. Color right up to the boundary of the highlight area and right up to any drawing elements that are present.
You are not doing any blending at this point, only laying down the first layer of each color.

I made the yellow area a little larger

4 Color in the darkest color.

For our sunset, this is a deep purple or plum. For a sky, this would be the deepest blue.
Keep a light touch and just put down a wash of color all the way to the edges of the coloring page.

The whole background is coloured.

5 Blend and deepen the colors.

You won’t always have to blend.
If the color transitions from the highlight to the mid-tone in an area where there is a lot of drawing detail, just allow the colors to butt up against the drawing elements without blending.
In nature, there are sometimes sharp transitions of color. If there is an open area, use small, elliptical or round strokes to layer some of the yellow over the orange. Most high-quality coloring book pages can withstand four or five layers of colored pencil before the paper starts to break down, so you can lay down a total of three or four layers in this step. (If you’re coloring on Bristol board or another high quality art paper, you can lay down as many as ten layers).
Continue layering until the colors are as saturated as you would like and blended thoroughly in the overlapping areas. Repeat the process to blend the purple and orange where they meet. You will want the purple to be the darkest in the corners of the page, so really use a lot of pressure and lay down two or three layers in these areas.

dI have no high quality paper, so I have coloured 3 layers. After this step I am not satisfied with the orange. It’s too much of it. But I can’t change it anymore; there is too much pigment added now for the eraser to wipe it out. We’ll see how it will turn out.

6 Perfect your blend with a blender pencil.

Use a white colored pencil or a colorless blender to go back over the areas where you want the colors to be completely blended. White will lighten the tone of the colors you’ve already put down, so you may need to deepen the colors before you add white to the mix. The colorless blender (a wax pencil without any pigment) will allow you to blend pigments without changing the tone. Use the burnishing technique with heavy pressure and small, circular strokes so that the friction will melt and redistribute the pigments that are already on the paper.

I used a white pencil, hoping it would lighten up the orange It did, but not enough.

Using these techniques, you are now equipped to color a wide variety of unique and creative backgrounds. If you get into the habit of planning how you will color the background of your project first, you will improve the outcome of your project by highlighting an important area of the composition. You will also add depth and realism to your finished project by determining the direction of the light to improve your shading. Instead of potentially ruining your finished project, coloring the background first can take your project to the next level of coloring artistry.

Source of the article:ColorOn!Magazine

And…….this is the result!
I could erase some of the orange after all and I think It’s looking better like this although the overlapping from orange and purple should blend much more.

What do you think?



I had fun following the steps from the article out of Color!On magazine to practice and I did learn from it. I hope to see progress in my future colourings.

Do you want to show your great backgrounds in your colourings?
Show us on Facebook. I love to get inspired!!





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