Learn to con­trol vis­ual con­trast

Demon­strates how he’s able to bal­ance the com­pet­ing de­mands of a com­pli­cated il­lus­tra­tion us­ing just three sim­ple rules…

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aint­ing dig­i­tally is al­most with­out its lim­its. You have ac­cess to any colours you want, a mas­sive se­lec­tion of brushes, as many lay­ers as your com­puter can han­dle, and the power to in­tro­duce tons of de­tail and tex­ture very eas­ily.

How­ever, bring­ing th­ese fac­tors to­gether in the same piece is likely to re­sult in a poor il­lus­tra­tion. For this rea­son, half of good paint­ing is about know­ing anatomy, tex­ture, light and so

pforth. The other half is about con­trol­ling those choices and align­ing con­flict­ing el­e­ments to what the im­age is say­ing. Most of the tricks I use to dis­ci­pline my art process come from one de­sign prin­ci­ple: con­trast con­trol in com­po­si­tion. The rules for con­trast con­trol have three parts. First, peo­ple’s eyes are drawn to higher con­trast ar­eas. Sec­ond, too many high-con­trast ar­eas are fa­tigu­ing to the eye. Third, ar­eas of in­ter­est should be sur­rounded by ar­eas of sim­plic­ity or rest, and this fluc­tu­a­tion of rest and de­tail should cre­ate paths you want your au­di­ence’s eyes to travel along. Th­ese rules are sim­ple to re­mem­ber, but dif­fi­cult to ap­ply while paint­ing.

This con­trol over contrasts must be ex­pressed si­mul­ta­ne­ously in the colours of the piece, the val­ues, the edges, the tex­tures and more. All th­ese things must also be done in con­text: the de­tail ar­eas should com­mu­ni­cate the story, and the rest ar­eas can’t be too bor­ing or messy!

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