Organization Tips: Reference for Rendering

Part of being organized means not picking up a ‘green’ Prismacolor only to realize it’s not the shade of green you want or running out of a much-loved Copic marker only to find out you don’t know the name or the assigned number of that marker to order it back (shakes head).

Ever since I got into art, I made it a habit of swatching all — and I mean all — of my colors.

When I got a brand-new pack of Crayola crayons (so we’re talking about elementary school days), the first thing I’d do is get printer paper and swatch every single color and write their names beside the color. Having a color swatch was so important to me that if I wanted a specific color, I wanted some reference. I’d know that to get this shade of pink, I should take the ‘Carnation Pink’ rather than the ‘Salmon Pink’ and so forth.

Being organized means creating a swatch sheet for your coloring utensils. Whether its markers or colored pencils. You need to know what the colors you own look like on paper.

You also should have a ‘skin tone chart’. This is something that I developed recently because, to be honest, I just went blindly into coloring skin tones. Well, to be very honest I had a sort of ‘skin tone chart’ but that chart never showed how the colored blended or how they looked on an actual figure.

You need to draw front views of faces and render those faces with different colors to create different complexions. This helps you to understand how the colors layer, blend, and look when finished.

For skin tones, I have three colors plus a blush. I have the base tone, the mid-shadow and the deep shadow and a blush that adds life to the skin. Sometimes I use what I call a ‘transition tone’ a fourth skin tone color that helps add more depth to a skin tone. This is particularly useful for me when dealing with super dark skin tones.

I also have a fabric swatch set that contains solid color swatches of different fabrics so that I can reference them for more textured rendering. I also have a mini binder with more patterned fabric for typical types of pattern rendering. This comes in especially useful for basic patterns and prints such as zebra prints, leopard prints, alligator or snake skin, graffiti reference, houndstooth patterns, plaid, and gingham.

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