Fun With Colour: 5 Exercises for Picking Unique Colour Palettes | Charly Clements | Skillshare

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Fun With Colour: 5 Exercises for Picking Unique Colour Palettes

teacher avatar Charly Clements, Greeting Card Designer and Illustrator

Watch this class and thousands more

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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.

      Class Intro


    • 2.

      Download Your File


    • 3.

      Create a Layered Illustration


    • 4.

      Exercise 1: Monochromatic


    • 5.

      Exercise 2: Create a Moodboard


    • 6.

      Exercise 3: Primary Colours


    • 7.

      Exercise 4: Complementary Colours


    • 8.

      Exercise 5: Colour Thumbnails


    • 9.

      Bonus: 5 Tips On Colouring


    • 10.

      Thanks For Watching!


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About This Class

This class is packed full of fun exercises to help build your confidence when picking colours. I didn’t want this to be a boring class on colour theory so I’ve put together fun and actionable exercises that you can apply to your own work.

Throughout the class we’ll be building up our library of colour, so by the end of the class you should have lots of colour palettes to work with. We’ll talk about saturation and brightness, how to create mood boards using Pinterest, and fun ways to explore and experiment with colour combinations.

I’ll walk you through my process on how I create colour thumbnails for more complex illustrations, like scenes and share lots of useful tips a long the way.

This class is for anyone who struggles with colour. I’ll be working in Procreate for this class but feel free to use any other drawing software! 

Resources: A great website for color palette inspiration created by the awesome Gal shir

Color Collective (Online colour resource for designers)

Color Theory (Great blog post on Colour Theory)


Colour Thumbnail brush: Tara Oval Sketch 2

Music by:

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Charly Clements

Greeting Card Designer and Illustrator


Hey, I'm Charly!

I’m a greeting card designer and freelance illustrator from the UK, mostly known for my stylised portraits and fun colour palettes. 4 years ago I decided to sell all my belongings and travel around the world armed with only my iPad Pro. I now run my creative business full time from my laptop and iPad, working on projects that I love, collaborating with dream brands and licensing my work out to stores around the world.

You can find my work online and in stores internationally on mugs, greeting cards, apparel, and more. 

I love sharing my latest work, process videos and mini tutorials on Instagram and YouTube so feel free to check them out :)

Join our amazing creative communit... See full profile

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1. Class Intro: Hey, I'm Charlie, a greeting card designer and freelance illustrator from the UK. This class is packed full of fun exercises to help build your confidence when picking your own colors. I didn't want this to be a boring class in color theory so I put together fun and actual exercises that you can apply to your own work. I'll also show you step-by-step how to create a layered plant illustration so that you can focus just on color. Throughout this class, we'll be building up a library of colors so by the end, you should have lots of color palettes to work with. We'll talk about saturation and brightness, how to create mood boards using Pinterest and fun ways to explore and experiment with color combinations. I'll walk you through my process on how I create color thumbnails for more complex illustrations and share lots of useful tips along the way. This class is for anyone who struggles with color. I'll be showing my examples in Procreate, but feel free to use any other software. Learning about color doesn't have to be boring. Let's get started. 2. Download Your File: Because this is a class on color, I want you guys to focus on color and not worry too much about what your illustrations are going to look like. I've put together a PNG file for you guys to follow along with. You can find this download on the left-hand side of the resources section below. Once you've downloaded the sketch, you'll be able to import them into procreate or whatever software you guys are using. I'm going to click "Import" and you should be able to save it to your iCloud Drive or Dropbox. I'm saved it to my iCloud Drive. Click on "Download", and what you should have is the sketch on a transparent background. If you have an illustration that you want to work on, that's fine too. You can still follow along your initiations. Now that you've downloaded your file, let's jump into the next class where I'll be showing you how to create a layered illustration using the sketch. 3. Create a Layered Illustration: This class is made up of fun exercises to build your confidence when picking colors. Before we start having fun with color, I wanted to make sure you have an illustration to follow along with. I'm going to walk you through my whole process on how I create a layered plan illustration. This way you have something to play around with in the exercises below. Feel free to work on your own illustrations too. I'm going to start off by bringing the pasty down on my sketch and then create a new layer and put it underneath. These lines will act as a guide for booking out my illustration. I'll carefully start outlining the shapes of the leaves. Then, I'll drag and drop the color here to fill the shape, making sure there's no gaps in the lines so it doesn't flood. I'm going to put the stems on a new layer. That way I can easily change the color and I'll erase this part here so it's not overlapping. I'm going to use the shape tool for the pot. I'm going to draw that square until it clicks into a square and then I hold down my finger at the same time and you see this up here. Added shape. I'm going to click on rectangle, click a far and I'll resize it manually and once it's aligned, I'll create an arc that goes through the part and repeat on the other side. Making sure these lines are all merge down, so I can fill the whole shape. For the inside of the pot, I'm going to create a new layer again. Then I'll create an ellipse shape using a darker shade. I'll create the shape and then hold my finger down until it snaps into this ellipse and then I put that layer behind the stems. Let's start working on the pattern for the part. I'm going to create a new layer and then use the shape tool. If I'm using the same shape, I'll just duplicate that layer. I want to make sure that the pattern stays within the pot shape. I normally create a clipping mask. I just continue creating my shapes and then I'll just repeat the process. Once I'm happy with the position of all the shapes I'll merge down, making sure I got that layer set to clipping mask. We're going to start working on the lines of the leaves now. Again, we'll create a new layer, set that to clipping mask, so I will be drawing in that shape. To add the shadow to the leaves, create another clipping mask and then set that layer to multiply. Then, we'll curve it at the shadow where the leaves overlap and then when you're done, bring the opacity down. I'll create a layer underneath, so if you really like gray create another leaf shape, fill that in for the shadow underneath. Then you should be left with your final illustration. It's all about building up your illustrations using shapes. It's really important that you create each element on a different layer, so you have more control over changing the colors later. Now, that we have our layered illustration, we're ready to have fun with color. Joined me in the first exercise where I'll be showing you how to create a monochromatic palette. 4. Exercise 1: Monochromatic: The exercise 1, I would need to create your own monochromatic palette using your favorite color. Monochromatic mean the design based on one color. It's comprised of different tones and shades. I'm just going to give you some tips to think about when picking your monochromatic palette. Tip number 1, a common mistake a lot of people make is they try to choose their color palette, going down by adding black, but this can make your colors look muddy and dull, also try to avoid really saturated colors. These can be quite harsh on the eyes. I usually limit my palette to this area here and only a black fisher days. Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to every color. So you do have to be careful when picking your main color to work with. As you can see here, it's fine with blues and purples. But when we get to cyan and green, then this top row can be a little bit to over-saturated and bright, so it's okay to come down slightly. This will create more contrast when picking your colors.Tip number 2. Start with the background color first, and then build your illustration up from there. Decide whether you want your background to be saturated or desaturated, making sure there's enough contrast between the object and the background. I want you to use the layered plan illustration that we created in the first video and follow along with this example. I just want to quickly talk to you about the different ways you can pick colors. The outside of the desk is the hue, so the colors and the circle in the inside is saturation and brightness so your values. Then classic is where you have a lot more control over saturation and brightness. I'm just going to start by picking the color I want to work with. At the moment, I'm obsessed with core. So I thought it'd be fun to create my monochromatic palette using this color. So at the moment I'm controlling the saturation, making sure I keep the brightness high. I'm going to work on the background color first and then change the colors of the main illustration. This is really important so I can see how the colors are interrupting the background at all times. Because I've started with a light tone, I now know I need to pick a more saturated orange to create enough contrast. If I bring the brightness down, it can start to look a bit muddy. So normally set the brightness quite high and work a lot with the saturation. If you want to recolor a layer, click here, recolor, and then drag the X on the layer you want to color, making sure the leaves pop against the background. Then I go darker with the shadow. Now I want to work on the pole. The more shapes and touchy use can make it harder to create contrast so this way it can be quite tricky. If I go too light, the pattern gets lost, but if I go too dark, there isn't enough contrast with the background color. What I normally do is add white and then that way there's enough contrast between each element. Then I'm just going to play around with different tones for the shadows and then play around with opacity. This exercise, want you guys to create your own monochromatic palette using your favorite color. Remember, don't change the color, play around with the saturation and brightness. I can't wait to see what you guys come up with. 5. Exercise 2: Create a Moodboard: In this exercise, you're going to be creating your own moodboard in Pinterest. A mistake a lot of people make, is they color pick from the same illustrators and end up copying their colors. Instead of doing that, try to find inspiration from as many different sources as you can. These can be from ceramics, photographs, home decor, graphic design, this way you will start to find your own unique color pallets. One of the easiest ways of doing this is Pinterest. I spend so much time on Pinterest, but it's really helped with my work. If you haven't already create a board on Pinterest and then spend about 10-15 minutes painting different images into your board. Remember, don't limit yourself just to illustration when picking your colors, branch out into different mediums. Why not look at the color of houses or packaging home decor? There's so many different ways that you can get inspired by color. Once you've finished pinning to your board, go back to your profile and have a look at the images you've collected. Having an overview of all the images that you've paint is really great for getting an idea of what colors you like. I'm really drawn to taze and oranges and green. You can really see this in my board. To get a better overview of your colors, I want you to zoom out to about 50 percent. This way you get all of your paints on one page. I want you to have a look at your images and see if you can see certain colors that you're drawn to or patterns in colors that you've chosen. This is going to be the base of our color palette. Instead of color picking from one source, we're going to be using all of these images together. What I'd like to do is try and create my own color palettes using lots of different images. We're going to take a screenshot of this, so ''Control Shift 4'' on a Mac, and then we're going to move that into our Canvas. Now that we have our screenshot in our Canvas, we can start color picking some of the colors that we're drawn to. At the moment, I love this purple. I'm going to start creating my color palette, and I put down some spot checks like this, and then have a look to see what color would maybe go with purple, and that green, extremely nice as well. It's about building different color pallets from multiple images. Color like this. Maybe a nice pink. Then I've really liked this dark electric blue to pair with that pink. I know that blue and orange are complimentary colors, so I'm going to pair this with the color. I'm putting swatches down and trying to work out what kind of color palette I want. For my next one, I want it to be more of a neutral color palette, so I'm going to go with lots of different grays and pustule colors. Now I'm going to create a more vibrant color palette, so I'm going to go for these really nice vibrant greens, and I love that orange as well, so I'm just going to put that in. I relight that pink and blue together. Now that we picked our colors from moodboards, I wouldn't need to create thumbnails to see how these colors are interacting together. This is a very fun exercise to get those unique color combinations down. Sometimes they don't work, so try switching up, maybe bring in a darker color or a light color to create contrasts depending on what color your background is. If I pick a light purple, then I want to go in with maybe a darker color to make my illustration pop. This is all about having fun, so don't worry if colors don't work together, just move on and try a different combination. Then when I'm done, I normally go over my illustrations with a white, to add some highlights and contrast. For this exercise, I want you guys to create a moodboard in Pinterest and gather lots of different inspiration for your colors. Then take a screenshot and put it into your Canvas and start color picking and creating color pallets from those images. I can't wait to see what you guys come up with. 6. Exercise 3: Primary Colours: In this exercise, I'm going to be showing you a really cool trick that I learned from Gauche. If you don't know who Gauche is he's an amazing illustrator, he uses procreate for his work, so I'll link him below in case you want to check him out. I think it's safe to say that we all know the primary colors blue, red, and yellow, and when combined can make really interesting color combinations. If you create a new layer and put a color over the top of these primary colors, and then put the opacity down, you will start seeing an interesting color combination. I'm just going to start color JPEG from these three new colors and create swatches. To get a different color palette, just change the color, so I'm going to go with a bright orange and start color picking from this new color palette. It's so fun to play around with all the different colors and see what you can come up with, so I'm just going to go for a nice pink now, will be like that purple, but I think I'm going to go with this color palette. I like how much the gray and yellow is contrasting, so I think that could work quite well for illustration. I'm just going to pick the colors, put it into a new palette and then I'll start working on my illustration. I'm going to be using a different illustration for this example but feel free to use the plant illustration we created in the first class, or why not try on your own illustrations? I'm just going to start changing up the colors, maybe do the pot yellow. At the moment I can see that the yellow is a little bit too saturated for the gray. If you look here, we have disc, classic, value and palette, so I'm just going to go on classic just to have more control over the saturation and the brightness. As you can see here, this is the saturation, and then this bar here is the brightness, dark or light. I'm just going to keep the brightness up and maybe come down in the saturation to create more contrast. Now looking at my illustration, I feel the orange and gray are slightly hurting my eyes. Just because they are not working together doesn't mean it's the color, it could be the saturation or brightness, so make sure that you play around with this before changing colors. I'm just going to change the gray, and I'm going to make it less saturated to see if I can make that orange pop, so just by making that small adjustment, I've made the orange pop a lot more. For this exercise, I want you guys to create your own unique color palette from the primary colors. Remember these colors are just a starting point. You can play around with the brightness and saturation until you feel the color palette's right. 7. Exercise 4: Complementary Colours: In this exercise, I want you guys to create your own unique color palette using the complementary colors. These are the colors opposite each other on the color wheel. I don't want to bore you too much with color theory, but I do think it's important for you to have a basic understanding of what colors work together. To make it easier for you guys, I've put together a free download that you can find in the resources section below. This way you have easy access to the colors so you can play around with your own illustrations. Here's an example where I've used these colors in my work, so I thought I'd share some tips with you guys before I walk you through my process. Tip number 1, if you want to add a third or fourth color to your pallet, use neutral and pastel colors. Complementary colors can be very overpowering, so by using neutral and pastel colors, you'll be able to tone down your illustrations. Pastel pinks and grays are really good for this. As you can see here, I've used the complementary colors orange and blue together, but I've broken it up by using this neutral color, gray. Tip number 2, use one of the colors as a background color and then use the other as an accent color. For example, I've used a purple for the background and then hints of yellow for the earring and the hat. Now that we know what complementary colors are, we're going to now start adding it to our own illustrations. Going back to the PDF, hopefully you've downloaded it, I want you to pick three of the complementary colors and then add them into a new color palette. Here's an illustration I created with my other class, fun with faces. If you haven't already, be sure to check out. This illustration is made up of lots of different layers and each color is put on a separate layer, so it's easy to edit the colors. I just realized that I color picked the wrong blue. It's fine, I'm just going to change it to more of a greeny-blue. I feel that works a lot more with this bright red. It's really good to try and remember the complementary colors, because straight away I realized that something wasn't working. Once you start understanding what colors go together, it does become a lot easier. I'm going to go with the red and I'm going to recolor and just adjust it until I'm happy. You don't have to stick with those colors, they're just starting points. I'm quite happy with that, and then I'm going to do a lighter color on the pattern. It's always really exciting to start seeing the color palette come together. I'm just going to do the hat pink, and make sure it's contrasting enough with the blue background. Then I'm just editing the texture as well to make sure that it's the darker shade of that pink. I'm just going to make sure that I've changed all the colors to the new red. Again, just trying to adjust that background because it's not quite right. Let me just put the opacity down to make sure that the texture is not too obvious. I just want to match the earrings to the T-shirt to make sure that I get rid of all that green. That's why it's really important to create everything on separate layers so you can adjust the colors. Again, I cannot get that background right, and this is a problem when you start off with the wrong color. It's really difficult. I think that works a lot more. I'm really happy with the red and the blue, so I'm just going to change the brightness of the pink. It's just about making those little adjustments until you're happy with it. For this exercise, I want you guys to play around with the complementary colors in your own illustrations. Maybe you could use support shape that you created in my last class. Remember, these colors can be very powerful when used together, so try and tone it down with a neutral color. I can't wait to see what you guys come up with. 8. Exercise 5: Colour Thumbnails: In this exercise, I want you to create your own color thumbnails. I love creating color thumbnails before going into my final, just because it gives me the freedom to explore and experiment and change the colors really quickly. I've included a practice sheet for you guys to follow along with. You can find this in the resources section below. But feel free to use your own illustrations too. Because I've been showing you lots of examples with simple illustrations, I thought it'd be really interesting to walk you through my whole process of how I create thumbnails for more complex illustrations. For example, a scene that has lots of different elements to color. I want my page to be divided into four squares. An easy way of doing this is we turn on your drawing guides and then put the grid size all the way up to the max, and this will divide your page into four. Then we're going to take our illustration and place it into a square, giving enough room around all of it, so when you're adding your color, it doesn't blend into the other color palettes. I'm going to duplicate and slide that over to the other side, merge down and then duplicate again. We should have four on the page. Put the opacity down and we're going to start adding some color to our thumbnails. As you can see here, I have a lot of color palettes saved and these are from experimenting, creating mood boards. Some of my favorite artists say, "Don't worry if you don't have too many color palettes at the moment, the more you experiment with different color combinations and color palettes, the more your library of colors will grow." I'm going to create a new palette by clicking the X up here and set that as default. I really like pink and blue, so I'm going to use these as starting points for my new color palette. I'm going to try a few grays and shades of that gray as well. I always try to limit my color palette as much as possible. I'm going to put the base color down first, which is pink, and fill that in and it's really good to use a quite a thick soft brush and this brush is by TABA, and it's also doubles up as a really nice sketch in brush as well. I'll link that also in the description below for you guys to check out. It's really important that the brush is quite thick and quite soft just so you're not spending too much time coloring. You just want to block out the colors and the shapes. Make sure that you create each color on different layers. That way you can keep changing and experimenting as you go. At the moment I'm quite happy with that, so I'm going to add blue to the layers as well and this will help balance the image out a bit. I normally remove the layer just so I can see how the color is interacting with the background. Straightaway, I can see that this gray is not going with that pink at all. The great thing about experimenting, is you can go back and easily change that, maybe, to a lighter color to create a lot more contrast with the background. Already I can see that's popping a lot more. So keep playing around and make sure that there's enough contrast. Now I've noticed that the pink looks a little bit washed out with the gray. I want it to pop a bit more. I'm going to make it brighter and then I want to swap it over from the old pink to the new pink. If you want to delete a color palette, just hold your finger down on the square until this pops up and then you can delete it, and then you can swap it over for your new color that you've chosen. I'll just put the pink in here. I've just decided to recolor and just keep playing around with my color palette. I want to add a white, because white's always good for adding contrast and highlights. I'm just going to add a color for the floor. I'm not sure of this gray yet, but it's good just to get those layers down and then you can start playing around. Maybe I'll change that to a blue carpet and already I'm liking that look more. I think the image is a lot more balanced. I'm thinking that I'd like to add a third or fourth color, something that will compliment the pink and the blue. An aqua color is always quite nice to this. This is a bright aqua blue, so it's still complements the blue because it's still a shade of blue, but it also works really nicely with the pink. I'm going to add that to my color palette and then I'm going to start playing around with work and add the aqua blue. It's interesting how these colors interact on the white. I really like how the white makes the colors pop. Now, I'm just going to see how the aqua blue works with this dark blue. Already I'm seeing that there isn't enough contrast. Sometimes not all the colors work together when they're next to each other and that's fine too. You can still add them in, just make sure that you don't overlap with those two colors. Maybe I could try, bringing a fourth color, but sometimes this can look a little bit busy. Just keep that in mind when you're playing around with adding colors just to make sure that they are all working together. Straightaway, I can see that this yellow isn't working too well. Maybe the pink, it's not contrasting at all where it's touching at the top of the chair. I'm just going to change that I think to white. There's quite a lot of white at the moment and maybe just put this down a little bit and maybe change the color of the pot to a lighter gray, just so there's a bit more interests going on in the image. Then I'm going to do the same for the bookcase too. Because that gray is getting lost slightly easy. It's about trying to find contrast and also add a bit of interest to your image as well. I'm spreading out my colors quite evenly just to create more balance in my illustration. I really like how the gray pot and the gray shelves are on either side of the chair. I'm just adding some little touches. I think the pink works quite nicely on the white rock and I'm going to see what color I can do the legs of the chair. Black or a dark gray always looks really nice to create that really deep contrasts and to add a little bit more detail. Black and white normally goes with every color, so if you're getting stuck and you can't use some of the colors to overlap, because they're not working together, always rely on a black. As you can see here, with the black chair legs, that's the only color we need that would have worked against that blue. If you have some little elements that you also want to color them, but you feel like you've used all the colors a lot, start working with shades of those colors because they're always going to work. It creates a lot more interest if you maybe experiment with lighter shades of say, the blue, or go in with a darker shade of pink the as well. As you can see, I'm still limiting my color palette, but because of the shades, there's still a lot going on. I'm just going to change the color of the rug, maybe to a white. Now that I'm happy with my first one, now I'm going to swipe and select each layer and put this into a group just to stay a lot more organized. Now I'm just going to go through my colors and make sure that I have all of the new colors that I created in my color palette saved. Once I've done this, I'll repeat the process with the next three. What I like to do is just have a look at my thumbnails and see which color palette I may store in too. You got to think about what mood you want to create through your illustrations. At the moment, even though I like the pink and blue, I think the fourth one is a lot more cozy and what I was going for with this illustration. That would probably be the thumbnail that I choose. But it doesn't mean that your other color palettes are wasted. You can always save them for future illustrations. For this exercise, I want you guys to create your own color thumbnails. You can either experiment with the practice sheet I gave you earlier or if you want to use your own sketches, that's fine too. I can't wait to see what you guys come up with. 9. Bonus: 5 Tips On Colouring: Tip number one. Limit your color palette. A common mistake a lot people make is they will try combining lots of different colors together. But this can make your illustrations look messy and inconsistent. Try limiting yourself to three to five colors, this will make your work a lot more coherent and harmonious. This is really important when working for clients in editorial illustration, because it will show you are confident in the colors you choose. Tip number two. Avoid using neutral colors. When it comes to picking colors for your illustrations, there are no rules. Choosing unexpected colors can create a lot more interest in your work. For example, using the color blue for hair, yellow for plants, or even pink for the sky. Being more playful with your colors can completely change the mood and atmosphere of your illustration. Tip number three. Use color websites. A great website to check out is Callahan by Gal share. Callahan is an open platform where people can upload their own color palettes. Once you have found a pallet you like, either copy the codes or take a screenshot and import it into your canvas, then you can color pick from there. Play around with these colors on your own illustrations and see what you can come up with. Tip number four. Create contrast. Creating contrast is really important when you want your illustrations to pop. Sometimes when you have all the colors desaturated, your illustration can get lost and look quite flat. Do not be scared to use more saturated colors in your work. Try tweaking each element until you can see more contrast. This way you will create more impact and depth to your illustrations. Tip number five. Experiment and explore. I still struggle with colors and I do not always get it right the first time. This is fine because it is important to understand where you go wrong with your pallets. Always ask yourself those questions. Do these colors work? Are they contrasting enough? Are these colors rite for the mood I want to create? The only way to get better at something is to practice, and a great way to do this is by creating color thumbnails. The more you pay around with different color combinations, the more you start to find your own unique color palettes. This will also help you gain confidence in knowing what colors work well together. 10. Thanks For Watching!: Thanks so much for watching my class. I hope you had fun and have lots of new ways to create your own unique color palettes. Remember, the more you practice with color, the better you will get, so make sure you experiment and explore as much as possible. Don't forget to upload all your exercises and color palettes to the the projects section of the class. I can't wait to see what you guys come up with. Thanks again for watching. Bye.