Color Picking Strategy- Picking light and color together
I believe it is a bad strategy when planning color to think exclusively in terms of color schemes i.e.- I want t0 make a painting with an analogous, monochromatic, or complimentary scheme- rather than thinking of the lighting scheme in tandem with color.
You may have difficulty imposing an intended color look after you have already planned or composed the picture with certain light source choices.
Instead think of what type of color look you want to end up with, see previous post, maybe something cool you have seen in a different picture, a strong complimentary temperature contrast, an analogous scheme with subtle variations and strong accents, a more balanced complimentary scheme with a play of rich contrasting temperatures in ambient overcast light etc., plan how to achieve and maximize that effect from the get go in tandem with composing the appropriate lighting conditions because each lighting leans towards specific possibilities and constraints:
•Neutral light/Local colors
•Colored light/ single source.
•Colored light/ multiple source.
•Stylistic gamut color.
Only after you have made that decision are your color options clear.
Importantly if you are illustrating content which must be a certain time of the day and in a specific setting which imply certain light source configurations you might be somewhat further limited in some of your lighting options and resultant color schemes and you will have to work your color theme options from that point.
For example if you want that super strong contrast of complimentary color in a reverse temperature reversal from the dominant color you might want to go with a multiple light sources. It will be difficult if you have composed a scene with a strong cast from a single color light to achieve the look of a bright compliment from the opposite temperature because of natural plausibility constraints.
To be clear there is enough flexibility to achieve most color goals in most relatively balanced none extreme lighting with the use of artistic exaggeration and clever improvisation of secondary light sources if necessary, you can always tilt it toward analogous or subtle complimentary, but certain lighting scenarios lend themselves in a more straightforward fashion toward certain color looks from the first place and certain more extreme color looks are hard to achieve unless you plan it.
So the process of deciding color for a picture can work this way:
If there are specific content based constraints on lighting conditions and local color:
1) What lighting options do you have choices on and which ones don’t you because of practical content-based time and location based considerations?
2) What local colors do you have choices on and which ones don’t you because of practical content-based considerations?
3) In context of those constraints what are the overall plausible color looks available?
4) In context of these constraints what color and lighting choices remain that will take the constraints into account and help achieve and maximize the intended final color “look”?
Once you have figured out:
• The none negotiable lighting constraints
• The local colors that are none negotiable
• The overall color “look” end goal
• An appropriate light and local color choice strategy that will help achieve the desired color look taking into account the none negotiable factors
than the small local color, variation, and exaggeration decisions that happen throughout the process have more to do with understanding how color juxtaposition works and how those small decisions can bolster the overall look you are going for.
Example 1: The picture calls for a sunny midday scene of a red barn on a green field with brown horses and cowboys.
Knowing that the midday sun will tend toward a predominant warm light with subtle cool light from the blue sky and the dominant local colors are largely red, green and the blue sky- These lighting conditions and local color necessities lead to the recipe of an overall warm look with subtle cool complimentary contrasts.
Keeping in mind that the beauty of that recipe is in the subtle cool contrasts that run through the warm and in the color variation in both passages I will try to use available remaining color, composition, and lighting arrangements to maximize that feel.
The warm overall light will unite the blue, green, and red of the blue shadows, plus a few intensely saturated warm focal points, and good color variation in the reds and greens. Probably smuggle some cool red strokes into the grass shadows as well.
What color should I make the saddle and the cowboys shirt? What shade of red should I make the barn?- Those decisions have more to do with understanding how color juxtaposition works and how neighboring color contrasts can bolster the overall look you are going for. I am trying to play subtle cool shadows against warm light as much as I can so I can warm the browns of the horses and have the cowboy wear a blue shirt etc.
If there are no specific content based constraints on lighting conditions and local color:
In this case the process can work backward from understanding what color look you want to end up with, what is the inner beauty/power of that look, and what lighting conditions and local colors maximize that opportunity.
The decision as to what final look you want to head toward is not constrained in this case by practical light color choice constraints and instead might be based on think about your subject/composition, the context it will be presented in, and what color/light feel will maximize the impression you are trying to create.
For example when illustrating a children’s book you might want to end up with a page of strong bright diverse pure colors and using a single strongly lit light source will actually make that harder. Instead create a situation with multiple temperature sources, or balanced light. On the other hand you might be trying to create a color sequence or theme and a strong uniting colored light source will work or the stylistic gamut method.
so in this case:
1) What is the final color/light look that will maximize my subject/composition?
2) What are the lighting sources and local color choices I can set up from the beginning that will maximize that intended look?
3) Once the larger theme and strategy is set the smaller local color choices throughout the process will again depend on understanding color juxtaposition and how to use that to underscore the theme.
“Alla Prima II” by Richard Schmid.
“Creative Illustration” by Andrew Loomis.
“Light for Visual Artists” by Richard Yot.
“Color and Light” by James Gurney, as well as Gurney Journey- the blog.
“Stapletonkearns” Blog by Stapleton Kearns.
“How to use color” Online course by Will Terry at Folio online Academy.
“Becoming a Better Artist” Online course by Robert Chang. (Excellent online fundamentals course.)
” Illustrate Color & Light” Online SkillShare course by Denis Zilber
“Illustration Fixation” Blog by Chris Beatrice
Please feel free to comment if you have any related insight into this topic.