Art School Boot Camp: Harnessing Color | Christine Nishiyama | Skillshare

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Art School Boot Camp: Harnessing Color

teacher avatar Christine Nishiyama, Artist at Might Could Studios

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      The Color Wheel


    • 3.

      Color Schemes


    • 4.

      Color Palette Process #1


    • 5.

      Color Palette Process #2


    • 6.

      Tips on Working with Color


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About This Class

In this installment of Art School Boot Camp, we’re diving into the deep world of Color. Color is often the most confusing and frustrating part of art making—but it doesn’t have to be that way!

In this mini-class, Christine will introduce the color wheel and quickly explain terms like hue, intensity, saturation,value,  tints, and tones. She’ll take you through the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, and introduce the five basic color schemes. Then she’ll take you through two simple step-by-step processes of choosing and making a color palette using color harmony and inspiration.

If you’re looking to dive deeper into color, be sure to download the Project Guide PDF when you enroll! Included in this PDF is extra information on color relativity, harmony, brightness, tips on using value successfully in your colors, as well as some color inspiration from Christine's favorite artists!

By the end of the class, you’ll have a better idea of how color works, two simple processes to use when coloring future artwork, and your own brilliant color palette!



Check out my other Skillshare classes here!

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Thanks so much! <3


Meet Your Teacher

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Christine Nishiyama

Artist at Might Could Studios

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Hallo! I'm Christine Nishiyama, artist + founder of Might Could Studios.

I make books and comics, and I draw a whoooole lot. I teach aspiring and established artists, helping them explore their art, gain more confidence, and discover their unique artistic styles.

My core belief is that art is good and we should all make more of it. 

Instagram: Yeewhoo, I quit all social media! 

Books: Check out my books here, including a graphic novel series with Scholastic!

Subscribe to my Substack newsletter: Join over 10,000 artists and get my weekly essays on creativity and artmaking, weekly art prompts, and behind-the-scenes process work of my current picture book. Subscribe here!

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Welcome to the next session of Art School Boot Camp. I'm Christine Fleming, illustrator at Might Could Studios. In this class, we're going to dive into the deep world of color. In this installment of Art School Boot Camp, we're diving into the deep world of color. Color is often the most confusing, and frustrating part of art-making, but it doesn't have to be that way. In this mini class, I'm going to introduce the color wheel, and quickly explain terms you've probably heard thrown around, but aren't quite sure what they really mean. I'll take you through the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, and introduce the five basic color schemes. If you're looking to dive deeper into color, be sure to download the project guide PDF when you enroll. I've included extra information on color relativity, harmony, brightness, tips on using value successfully in your colors, as well as some color inspiration from my favorite artists. For the class project, we'll be making our own color palettes, using one of the two simple processes I'll show you during the class. By the end of this class, you'll have a better understanding of color, two simple processes for making color palettes, and two brand new color palettes of your own. Now that you're on board, let's jump right in and get some of those confusing terms out of the way. First up is hue. A hue is just the name of a color like green, blue, or red. Saturation is the intensity of a hue. A high saturated color is very bright, while a low saturated color appears washed out, and a desaturated color is gray. Finally, value is the amount of lightness or darkness of a hue. We'll get into value more later in the class. Now that we've got a few definitions down, let's move on to the color wheel, where things really start to get exciting. 2. The Color Wheel: Let's start with the basics. There are three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. By mixing the primaries in pairs, we now have the secondary colors: green, violet, and orange. Then, by mixing each with its neighbor, we get six more colors called the tertiary colors: red orange, yellow orange, yellow green, blue green, blue violet, and red violet. This gives us the 12 colors of maximum intensity, also known as brilliance. If we add black and white, we now have our full color and color value scale. The maximum intensity from our original color wheel is at the center of the wheel. A tint is when a color is mixed with white, increasing its lightness or value. The tints can be seen towards the inside of the color wheel as the colors approach white. A shade is when a color is mixed with black, reducing its lightness or value. The shades can be seen towards the outside of the color wheel as the colors approach black. Here's the full color wheel again with maximum intensity, tints, and shades. Let's review, a tint is increased value and a shade is decreased value. A tone is when a color is mixed with gray, which can increase or decrease its lightness depending on the color. It's like applying a gray-scale to your original color scale. Now that we understand the color wheel, how can we use it to create color palettes? That's where we'll get into the color schemes. 3. Color Schemes: Now, we'll go over some basic color schemes that come from the color wheel. First step, we have monochromatic. This color scheme begins with one hue, and adds white, gray, or black to create a palette. Primary complimentary colors. Complimentary colors are colors that sit across from each other on the color wheel. The primary complement of a color creates the most color contrast, because it's the color farthest away from on the color wheel, containing none of the other color. For example, red's complement is green, and green is made up of yellow and blue, so it contains no red. The primary complimentary colors are red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and violet. The secondary compliments use the same principle, but are made with secondary colors. The secondary compliments are colors farthest away on the spectrum, but containing the same ingredient. The secondary complements have less color contrast than the primary compliments, but the less extreme is sometimes the better choice. For example, yellow-green's complement is red-violet, and both contain the color blue. The secondary complimentary colors are, yellow-green, and red-violet, blue-green and red-orange, and blue-violet and yellow-orange. An analogous color scheme uses 2-4 colors next to each other on the color wheel. A triadic color scheme uses three colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. Here's an example of this color scheme. A split complementary color scheme, first chooses a base color. Then the two additional colors are the two colors adjacent to its complimentary color. In this example, blue-green is our base color, so red-orange is its complement. The two colors next to red-orange on the color wheel, are red and orange. So our split complementary scheme is blue-green, orange, and red. Now that we've got all the base knowledge down pat, let's move on to some other processes for making color palettes. 4. Color Palette Process #1: Now let's dive into the actual process of making a color palette. I call this process the pixelated palette. No matter what process you're using to create your palette, before you begin thinking too hard about which colors to choose, you should give your artworks some thought. Think about these questions, what is your artwork trying to communicate? What mood is it trying to show? How do you want the final artwork to look and feel? Are there similar artworks out there on the Internet that have a similar mood to what you're trying to achieve? Once you've put some thought behind what you want your colors to communicate, you can begin to choose colors with a bit more meaning behind them, instead of just sticking to your favorite colors, or choosing colors at random. For the pixelated palette process, we're going to focus on that last question. Are there similar artworks out there on the Internet that have similar messages and moods to what you're trying to achieve? Your first step is to search the Internet for color inspiration that fits the mood of your artwork. Pinterest is a great go-to site for artistic illustration, but you can use any blog, book or even a movie for inspiration. I know a bunch of artists who flip out over Wes Anderson movie Color Palettes and use that as inspiration for their own color paletes. So here's my illustration that I'm trying to color. The mood I'm attempting to convey is melancholic and mysterious. Here's my color inspiration, an illustration by Tove Janson. You can see that the subject and overall illustration is very different than mine and that's an important part to remember. We're not here to copy other artists, we're here to get inspiration and spur off new ideas and palettes. So I've got my inspiration in Photoshop and I'm just going to select that layer and go up to filter in the menu bar down to Pixelate and then Mosaic. Now you can see that I've got my menu here and it's pixelated my image. You're going to want to mess around with the cell size square, and it'll depend on the resolution of your screen and also the size and complexity of your illustration. You don't want to have too many colors to choose from because then you'll be overwhelmed, but you also don't want to have just one or two colors, you want be about the 10-15 range. So I think this looks good here and then I'm going to click "Okay" and now my image is pixelated. Now the illustration has been broken down into basic colors that are easier to see and pick out. You can now study the image and choose three to four general colors with your color picker tool. You can see that tool here or just by clicking I on your keyboard. I'll just go ahead and pick out a few of your favorite colors from the palette. Once you've selected the color with your eyedropper, click "W" to select the wand. Select a background and then you can select this circle. Create a new layer where we'll be painting our colors. Then hit "B" for brush and paint in your new color. Then you can hit "Command Div" to deselect. We'll just do that a couple of more times, picking out our favorite colors. Once you have your four colors chosen, you probably want to adjust the saturation of those colors to make them a bit more vibrant. First, let's rename this layer to our color hues and then I'm going to make an adjustment layer by clicking this little icon here and then holding option until I see this little arrow and click in between the two layers, which creates a clipping mask so that whatever we do here in this layer style will only apply to our color hues and not the overall image. So now on this adjustment layer, I can just drag the saturation bar wherever I would like it, you can make it desaturated if you'd like, but I'd like mine to be a little brighter, and that's it. I typically like to work with limited flat color palettes like this, so most of the time I would stop here with my palette, but if you're interested in making more complex color palettes, the next process is just for you. 5. Color Palette Process #2: I like to call this second process that three piece harmony. It's a bit more complex than the last process, but it uses traditional tools and it gives you nine hues using your palette instead of just three or four. So it'll be good for you artists out there who like pencils, paints and more detail. You can also do this process almost the same way in photo shop just using shapes and the bucket tool instead of colored pencils. You begin by choosing three hues. Here are the three that I've chosen for this video. The problem with just using these three initial colors, is that they're straight out of the box and they don't have anything in common with each other, which translates to your artwork having little harmony. To fix this problem, we're going to choose a fourth hue and add some of that hue to each of the three original hues, which will give us three new harmonious hues. First, let's color in these six circles with our three original colors. Then choose a fourth hue. I'm going to use a dark blue like this color. Now use your forth hue to lightly color over the three circles in the second column. Feel free to go back and adjust the color between the original color and the fourth hue until you get them looking just right. Now we have three colors that are more harmonious because they each contain this dark blue color. Like I mentioned before, I prefer to work with limited color palettes for my work. For most of my projects, I would probably stop here with these three colors. But if you make more detailed artwork or prefer working with more colors, let's keep going. Now let's make some more harmonious colors to add to our color palette. We're going to start by drawing a grid. Or you can also download the template from the project resources and use that if you don't want to draw your own. Then we're going to label the vertical and horizontal borders with our three colors like this. Starting with the top and going down in each column, we're going to color in it 30 percent so I'm going to label this 30 percent and starting at the left and going to the right and the rows, I'm going to color it 70 percent. I'll label this 70 percent. Now I'm just going to go through each of our columns using our labels that have already made and color hand at about 30 percent. Obviously, we're not software so I can't make it exactly 30 percent but just estimate the best you can with the pressure that you're using. So I'll do that for each color. Now, I'm going to go over to the rows and using the labels there, I'm going to color in at 70 percent going across the row. After you've done that, you can see how the colors are starting to mix together, but we need to darken everything and adjust the ratios a bit. Now you can go back through the colors and darken them where you think it needs some more dark like maybe this needs a little more purple or a little more green. It's really just filling in and out until everything works together. Once we're done, we have nine hues that all work together but we also have families of hues. Setting out your color palette like this gives you rows of dominant colors that can easily be used together in the same family. For example, we have a purple row and a purple column, a green row and a green column and a blue row and a blue column. In the middle diagonal line, we have our original three hues which are now the most intense hues on our palate and that's it. Now we have a set of nine harmonies hues in our color palette that all work well together. If you're using this color palette to create an artwork, you could use this color palette as a reference as you're going along to make sure that all your colors are working together and part of the same family. 6. Tips on Working with Color: Before you go off and make all your brilliant new color palettes, I want to mention a few quick tips in case you run into trouble. Remember, in the project guide PDF there's much more in depth information on color. What if you make your palette but it feels pretty blunt? Here are a few things you can try. Tip 1: try graying all but one of your colors, which will allow that color to appear more intense and give your palette focus. Tip 2: create values studies in grayscale and try using this few values as possible. After making your value studies, experiment with color traces by making quick little color studies in Photoshop. Just paint swaths of color over your pencil drawing in Photoshop to see quickly how colors will interact. Don't worry about being me, you're just trying to see how the colors will influence and contrast each other. Tip 3: try reducing your palette to only two or three hues. You can still use various tints, shades, and tones of those hues. Tip 4: try not to use primaries at their full intensity as they tend to overwhelm all other colors. Tip 5: try adding gray, black, or white as one of your chosen colors. Be careful using black in your color palette, it can be used well, but it can also dull the colors around it. If you think black is dulling your colors, try using a very dark blue or brown instead of black. Thanks so much for taking this class, and I hope you'll learn some helpful techniques for making color palettes. I hope you decide to make your own color palette, and I can't wait to see what you come up with. If you'd like to dig deeper or find more color inspiration, check out the resources on the class project page and the project guide download. I really hope you create your own color palette, and I'd love to see what you come up with. You can upload your color palettes to the project gallery, click in on the start your project button on the community page. You can also check out your fellow students works and see how they tackled color. I look at every project that's posted in all my classes and I really love to see what you guys come up with. Have fun with color and I can't wait to see what you come up with. See you in the next Art School Boot Camp.