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Light, Bright, Color, Right

... how color palette can make your vision sing

Using colors to evoke a feeling, mood, sense of time or place, has been one of the most important tools for painters, designers, illustrators and decorators for hundreds of years. By "tinting" or lightening your color palette, you create pastels -- softer, lighter and fresher than full saturation colors. Let's take a look at some works of this year's Designing Women, and see how they use color to bring their visions into full light!

Blues without the blues

In this wonderful cartoon, blues are used together to evoke a fresh, aquatic creature. However, notice the care taken to make all the blues compatible. This is important because the slightest shift to green in one of those colors could have spelled disaster to this great illustration. Use blues carefully. (Cartoon by Becky Bohanon ablstudios.com)

Cartoon by Becky Bohanon

Two-color Magic

Here's a handsome business card set that takes on an air of sophistication just through the use of two colors -- gold and black. While one side gets heavy because of the black, the other side stays light -- and the real magic here is in Janet's judicious use of screens or "tints" of the gold and gold/black mixes. Nice work. When designing low budget projects, remember tints and screens as well as the paper selection can add a lot of color and costs you nothing! Sent in by Janet Allinger, janetallinger.com

two color business card by janet Allinger

Mixing shades for mood

This wonderful wine bottle label, also by Janet, pulls its palette directly from the pages of history to paint a literal image along with a romantic mood. I was once told to always consider mixing just a touch of opaque white with any other primary colors in use in order to achieve the antique, or deco look in colorization. Of course this powerful advice came from David Lance Goines, accomplished and celebrated California illustrator and printer. He demonstrated this process after having just finished his "Cafe Chez Panisse" poster. (I had visited David at his St. Hieronymus Press in Berkeley, CA... and he gave me two of these posters -- ink still slightly wet!) I remembered this lesson the moment I saw Janet's wine label because they use very similar palettes. Janet generated her colors by computer -- but the results is very much the same, muted "heather" tones rather than the more saturated primary colors -- and in some cases, a slight addition of black to gray-down the color. Splendid work, Janet! (See much more at janetallinger.com)

by Janet Allinger

Painting with harmonious color

Putting it all together brings us to this delightful children's book illustration by Becky Bohanon. She illustrates the subtleties of using both tints and shades of primary colors to bring together the elements of the vision. While matching up areas with tints or shades, notice how beautifully a neutral color like "flesh" ties it all together. It's not difficult -- just be mindful that where one color is used, you can promote harmony in the piece by using it again in another place -- then again as a lighter tint, or a darker shade. See lots more at ablstudios.com

full color by Becky Bohanon

Pick a Palette ... show some color

Earth Tones Now all you have to do is decide on a look and feel. Look around -- there are infinite possibilities.

April ColorsApril colors: how about his pastel line-up to the left? Add black and white and your palette of colors will bring flowers to mind... so sweet you can almost smell them!

Kente: At right we have the ubiquitous earth tones. These could almost classify for a south-western look, complete with russets and warm colors. These are known as "Kente" colors -- we've written about them before, and they are one of our favorite color palettes. Try building with the greens and browns from this family, and use the oranges as accent. You can even tint back and get a respectable flesh tone!

Regal colors purple, lylac and blueRegal Colors:
Any time you mix burgundy, purples and steely blues, you've got a regal color combination going. Add a teal green and it's a home run. These will lend an air of elegance to your next invitation or cosmetics bottle.

Grab any of those color chips shown in this section and the zoom in with your favorite software like Painter, Photoshop, Elements or Illustrator. You'll see we've built those tint ranges from simple colors, pixel by pixel. And you can do this too on your next project. The Kente swatch gives a full color look with just two or three colors, and they'll always be crisp. But always remember that your color palette must reflect the spirit, tone, mood and intention of the graphics they colorize. Always select an appropriate palette for the subject matter. Ask some serious questions about the personality and character of what you are illustrating... is it warm? Is it cool? Does it apply to a season? A geographic location? When you arrive at the correct answers to those questions, your colors will fall right into place!

If you want to see something really cool, check out the Genopal Color Specifier -- and their free, online color selector that lets you look at creative palettes on-the-fly!

And please, don't forget to send us a sample of your next creative piece -- along with its color palette! If you like, we'll show it off to all our DTG readers!

Thanks for reading!

Fred Showker

Editor / Publisher: DTG Magazine
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