Monday, June 15, 2015

Artist of the Month Week Three: Color Journals

Hey everyone! Melissa here again. Big thanks to Terri for coordinating all this. For those of you just tuning in, Terry organized an Artist of the Month for DLP and 52 Friends, a Facebook group of fabulous artsy lovers and mail swappers. I am June's teachers and this month we will be studying color.

In week's one and two we discussed monochromatic colors and a basic, but bright, cyan-magenta-yellow triad color. Now that we have the basics down for stretching a single color and achieving bright mixed colors, lets talk about creating our own color schemes and how keeping a color journal can help. Mixing colors easily becomes overwhelming, not to mention muddy. 

Then there are colors that just seem to "work". Have you ever walked into a room, your eye seamlessly flowing across all the colors, each time noticing the colors repeat? Or maybe sat in awe of a journal page that was chock full of of colors, yet never felt overwhelmed? This is typically the result of a balanced color scheme. It can be difficult picking out the dominant color to use and knowing what and how much of supporting colors to incorporate. 

As with most of color theory, there are a lot of technical things we can discuss (balanced triad, rectangle schemes, analogous colors), but instead, here's a few of quick tricks for creating a "stock" of colors for future projects. For all of these you'll need photos with colors you like or think work together. They can be from a magazine or ones you took on your own. Since we are just pulling colors out of the pictures, it shouldn't be an issue using stock photos, but its always a good exercise to work from your own photography. 

The first trick is great when out and about, is to squint your eyes at a photo or scene. Here's a pillow I saw while out shopping.

As the images becomes fuzzy, its easier to see what colors pop out. These are typically the dominant colors  and are a good start for picking colors for a project.The magenta, gold and lime really pop out of this photo.

If you are drawing on location, this is a great tip to help you block out basic shapes (drawn on top below) and contrast (the darkest darks and lightest lights).

A second tip is to rely on a color picker program. While there are some web based programs, you can use the efforts professional paint companies spend coming up with decor schemes. There are several free free apps some of the big name paint stores have for your phone, in which  you can upload a picture and it will pull the top colors. Here's a few examples.

In this photo, the orange that jumps out at you. The photo picker (I think it's by Benjamin Moore) also picked out the red accent from the edges of the rose, the green foliage, some dark shadows and the blue from the delphinium. Over all, this color scheme makes me think of the fall, despite the subject matter being very spring-y flowers, so I will most likely save this photo/color scheme for a fall project.

In this sun rise photo (don't worry, I was in the passenger seat), it's easy to see the dominant light blue, then the accentuating yellow and pink. Even though I know the trees are really green, the color picker interpreted them as black, which will provide good contrast (remember week one?) for our color scheme. This would be a great scheme for a beachy layout.


You can also take this a step further, and zero in on a specific color. The aqua on this bird's throat really jumped out at me, so I tapped on the color, and the app gave be a range of aquas to look at.


By tapping the little expand button in the bottom left corner, the app will also give a simple triad, with proportional representation of the main color and two accents, in this case, the aqua, a gray and a taupe. Once you can see how to balance the colors, its easy to keep from over using the accent colors. 

The third tip is similar to the second, in that we will take cues from the resources magazines put into their work. The following photos are all from Better Homes & Gardens and Stampington, and were glued into my personal journal. Its a good exercise to try "pulling" out colors yourself.

I typically will recreate the color scheme in my journal with supplies I have, documents what I used and if I mixed colors to save time down the road. 

In this photo, there were lots of yellows and creams, so I proportionally ranked the colors from the photo.

This pillow has a lot of colors in i, but the blue and green really jumped out. It would be easy to create a scheme with just those two and one of the accent colors (do you see the touch of orange and black?) or challenge yourself to try to integrate all the colors. If you are struggling trying to pick out the colors and how much of each to use to keep things balanced, you could even cut of the picture to have visual sums of the colors. 

This is a very simple complementary color scheme, which just means the colors are on opposite sides of a color wheel, with one a primary color (blue) and one a secondary color (orange). As we talked about in week two, any time you have all three primary colors present, you are more at risk of making mud, so just be careful how you choose to blend the colors, or use a neutral or white to separate them. 

This photo is a great example of how you can alter the color scheme from the photo. Although the orangey color on the face is more predominant, the violet around the eyes was more appealing to me. The violet would also blend better with the blues then the orange (see above), so I ramped up the purple and lessened the peach and orange for this scheme. Its still balanced, mostly blues and greens, with a touch of a contrasting color. 

 So, to recap real fast:
 1. Squint at a photo to pull out colors and shapes
 2. Use a color picker program
 3. Recreate color schemes from magazines

Pretty easy, huh? Once you start collecting color schemes, you will be surprised how quick the accumulate.I keep an entire journal dedicated to colors schemes for inspiration in future projects. Its a fun process to work through when you are feeling less than inspired and it wastes less time mulling over what colors to use.  So play away and have fun!

I hope you will share your work with us! Please feel free to post links to your work (be it blog, flickr, etc) in the comments below.

Here are the other weeks' lessons

I would love to hear your thoughts on this course. Feel free to hit me up on Instagram @mbochat, Facebook BochatArt Twitter @melissabochat


  1. Squinting also helps you to recognize the lights and darks. This was fun.

    1. Good reminder Iti! Thanks for sharing. So glad you enjoyed this post!