…but what colours should I use?

When teaching classes here at the art school I’m often asked what the major differences between working up images digitally rather than traditionally are.

I usually answer (quite glibly I’m afraid), working digitally makes my tea taste better…

In that I no longer dip my paint loaded brushes into my drinking mug by mistake.

Well, that and working traditionally used to drive me crazy as I could never choose colours confidently (particularly when not working from observation) and always began to see jarring mistakes in my choices when it was way too late, like the moment just before I sent the work to a client!

I don’t feel that way so much any more.

Over the years I’ve become a much more confident colourist, both traditionally and digitally, and strangely I believe its my exposure to the latter medium which has brought this about.

I began to use Photoshop in my professional work on a regular basis sometime in the mid-nineties, and after a period of estrangement from creating my Scenographic visuals for clients using Watercolour and Acrylics in favour of this new digital media I remember returning to the old media and finding that my palette choices were less muddy and jarring for some reason.

Looking back I think it was probably the ability to change (right up until the last minute) the colours and tonal relationships of any image I worked on, that led to me slowly developing a sense of what did and didn’t work.

I also began to realise that sometimes what I thought was a problem with colour, was in fact in issue with the tonal values of my work.

Again Photoshop has allowed me to develop visuals using tone first and then add colour to this, all of which has, as I said, made me a little more confident when colouring my visualisations.

However, I still occasionally have the occasional bout of palette blindness… sometimes which I’m able to circumvent with some of the amazing online resources available to us.

So if you are anything like me and sometimes little tentative when it comes to adding colour to a new project or images you might want to take a look at the following links.

1, ColourLovers.com


An online community that sees individuals posting ready made and tested colour palettes and schemes ready for you to try yourself, adapt and perhaps even recontribute to the site.


2, the excellent Colour Scheme Designer as introduced to me by my colleague Paul.

http://colourschemedesigner.com which is similar but allows to to create “live” using their software, a range of palettes and schemes based on a massive amount of variables.

And a late addition from my designer friends Simon Clarke and @cosmonautilus (Andrew Segal) “Don’t forget Adobe’s Kuler – http:// kuler.adobe.com – that enables you to create and work with colour palettes and colour wheels, using your own photos.”

Elsewhere James Gurney also has some interesting things to say about colour and its use in painting, all of which can be useful, even if you are working solely digitally these days…

~ by hesir on December 9, 2011.

4 Responses to “…but what colours should I use?”

  1. I was having this very discussion yesterday. Well said. I like to work traditionally and then scan into Photoshop or Corel Painter for tweaking.

    • Thanks Ian,

      I am a big fan of hybrid colour-working too, whether that’s as you say, tweaking traditioanl work or as I sometimes do, creating trad textures and adding as a layer beneath digital colour…

  2. Don’t forget Adobe’s Kuler http://kuler.adobe.com enabling you to create and work with colour palettes and colour wheels, using your own photos.

  3. […] some thoughts on Colour can be found HERE: Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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