Colour thumb­nail­ing

Anand Rad­hakr­ish­nan on colour.

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Contents -

Very few artists be­gin work di­rectly on can­vas with­out any prior prepa­ra­tion. Thumb­nail­ing for value and colour is one of the most im­por­tant stages in the paint­ing process and is widely prac­tised among artists. It helps to have a clearer idea of the im­age and can save a lot of time while work­ing on com­mis­sioned as­sign­ments.

The process of thumb­nail­ing in­volves break­ing down of the im­age into shapes and then deal­ing with the prin­ci­ples of de­sign with re­spect to the light and dark por­tions of the de­sign. Work­ing in colour

1 Idea and graphite sketch

This is a sketch for a scene from the sci­ence-fic­tion book, En­der’s Game. In the scene, En­der is hav­ing a tele­pathic con­ver­sa­tion with the queen bug­ger – an in­sec­toid alien in­vader. I’ve taken quite a few lib­er­ties to keep the de­tail sim­ple. I usu­ally start off very loose, try­ing to find the right pose and com­po­si­tion. Graphite works best at this stage for me. could be looked at as an ex­ten­sion of work­ing in value. An im­age can work and be ef­fec­tive to a cer­tain limit, as long as the val­ues are in place and the de­sign works at the thumb­nail level.

The colours would, at this stage, add to the de­sign by giv­ing it a sense of mood and tim­ing. Colour should al­ways be looked at in re­la­tion to value, be­cause ev­ery colour has a value and it can be very help­ful if the eye is trained to look at colours in terms of the greyscale.

I ap­proach colour by think­ing of the colour wheel and how var­i­ous colours ap­pear in re­la­tion to one an­other.

2 Value thumb­nails

While plan­ning for a paint­ing, take colour out of the equa­tion and solve com­po­si­tion and value prob­lems on a black and white level. The idea is to cre­ate pleas­ing light and dark shapes, and then fill in the cor­re­spond­ing colours in those shapes. Here I want a cool light against his black hair to cre­ate a fo­cal point and hence a lot of my de­sign de­ci­sions are made from that. I usu­ally make be­tween four and 10 very quick colour thumb­nails, about three inches in height to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ent colour com­bi­na­tions. Then I choose ei­ther the best one or a com­bi­na­tion of two for the paint­ing.

3 Colour wheel and colour schemes

The colour wheel can be sim­pli­fied to warm colours and cool colours. Com­bi­na­tions of th­ese colours can be used ef­fec­tively by ap­ply­ing colour schemes and study­ing the colour wheel in depth. I’ve high­lighted four ba­sic schemes here, each of which can help con­vey a dif­fer­ent mood and ef­fect.

4 Colour thumb­nails

I cre­ate thumb­nails for the En­der’s Game piece, based on th­ese colour schemes. Each of th­ese fol­lows the val­ues that I fixed ear­lier in step two. It helps to set one colour as the dom­i­nant one and then sup­port it with the other colours in the scheme, de­pend­ing on where your fo­cal point is.

5 Colour study be­fore start­ing the piece

A more re­fined colour study helps iron out the kinks in your fi­nal de­sign. I usu­ally im­pro­vise at this stage and at the fi­nal stage, just to keep the paint­ing process more en­gag­ing. Here you can see that I am us­ing a split-com­ple­men­tary colour scheme with Red-Green-Blue with muted greys to sup­port it. Reds are dom­i­nat­ing the pic­ture with ac­cents of blue at the point of high­est con­trast.

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