It’s been a busy past few weeks in the studio and I’ve been diligently working on a coloring book filled with funky insects (and a few other smaller projects), but I also put together a Bunny Bundle for the RubyCharmColors Etsy shop to help my coloring friends usher in Spring and celebrate Easter. And truthfully, I could use a little Spring magic myself as there’s still snow on the ground here in northern Michigan. Will winter ever end? At least the robins are returning, so there is hope.
The Bunny Bundle on Etsy consists of two coloring pages with bunny designs: one in a circle with a few happy bumblebees, and one in a patch of fiddle-head ferns and flowers. There are also two different greeting cards that can be printed and colored—one with a “happy Easter” greeting and one with just the bunny in the circle design. I also included a full color copy of the bunny in ferns I colored just for kicks.
I had the help of colorist Betty Hung (who is one of my coloring team members) to test out the design for the bunny with bees in the circle. I am always amazed by the illusion of brushstrokes she manages to create using colored pencils, and by her stunning, playful use of color. This girl is on fire!
Betty also colored the bunny in the patch of fiddle-head ferns not too long ago (which is also included in the bundle). If you haven’t followed Betty on Instagram yet, be sure to check out her account as well as her website.
Yesterday, while working on my Etsy listing, I printed out a card and did a fairly quick coloring of it using first, a layer of Karen Spencer‘s beautiful handmade watercolors.
I’ve been storing my pans in Van Gogh “Starry Night” tins which I found on Amazon not too long ago. Nice tight-fitting lids that will help keep the paints semi-soft when not in use.
I started charting out all of Karen’s paints in my copy of the Creative Companion but need to add a few more and do a little reorganizing. Warning: these paints are addictive. You will eventually want them all! And Karen is so terrific to work with as an Etsy Seller.
Did you know she designed a beautiful ruby red mica and named it Ruby Charm? Be still my heart!
In addition to mica paints, Karen has flat watercolors, too, which give me a nice base layer to use under my colored pencils. This often gives my colorings more depth.
Unfortunately, the card stock I used to print this card was a little too toothy (not crazy about Staples 67 lb card stock for coloring). And since I was in a hurry, I was not totally satisfied with my results. My printer was misbehaving, too, and spat out inky black blotches on my page) but I managed to finish it all up with a mix of Caran d’Ache Luminance and Irojiten colored pencils, plus a few Sakura Souffle gel pens and UBRANDS metallic pens that I picked up at Target. Decent pens and economical (a pack of 30 for around $13) but they take forever to dry and are prone to smudging.
What I like best about my card is the mica paints I used for the orange flowers, the “dark blue DA” background, and the “Blanco” I used for the wings of the bees on this card. Hard to see the shimmers in photos, but in person? Wow! In anticipation of the insect book coming out, I would suggest grabbing a few of Karen’s micas—the Blanco and some of the lighter colors can be absolutely magical when it comes to painting and coloring insect wings!
If you purchase the Bunny Bundle, you can print and color a few cards and then make copies of them to send to friends and family for Easter, or just to say hi. Or, send out your original coloring! In this time of endless texts and email, it’s always nice to get something handmade through good old snail-mail. Sorta romantically thoughtful and personal, yes?
In addition to including my coloring of the bunny in the fiddle-head patch in the Bunny Bundle, I also used for a few products through my Threadless shop.
In addition to stickers, a zip pouch (2 sizes), a tote bag (3 sizes), and a cute drawstring bag, I also put the image on pillows. I am hoping to have coffee mugs and maybe even coasters available soon, too.
If you receive something from them that you aren’t happy with, just send it back and they will refund or replace your purchase, no questions asked!
I ordered a pillow and stickers and hope to have them in my hands soon. I’ll let you know how they turned out!
That’s all I’ve got for today! Thank you for supporting an independent artist, and I hope you all have time to do a little something fun and creative. Get some paint under your fingernails and spill a few pencil shavings on the floor.
Though the phrase has become cliche, it’s true. Team work does make the dream work. I am lucky to have such a smart, talented and kind coloring team who support what I do, and want to share a little of what these amazing ladies do behind the scenes for Ruby Charm Colors. First and foremost, they truly motivate and inspire me to keep moving forward. And that’s half the battle, yes?
There have been times I’ve been close to giving up. Afraid I couldn’t do it all myself. Worried that devoting all my time to the project and not a “real job” was not going to help keep my head above water. The list goes on and on. And I am still dog-paddling. But a few kind words and caring gestures from the team at just the right times (and the support of my wise-beyond-her-years daughter and my amazing sister) helps me see that yes, I am going to be okay. I can do this. My team’s genuine interest in my art, and willingness to not only color it but help promote it, is my life boat.
Amazing things can happen when people believe in you.
I met my team members last year through Instagram originally, and we struck up conversations through comments and private messages. They had purchased my art through Etsy and colored it, and each time they shared what they had done over social media, I was in awe. They were not only coloring my art, but having fun with it. And even more exciting? They were taking my designs to the next level, each in their own creative way.
Once the team was together (virtually, since we are spread across the globe) we came up with a loose and fairly organic plan to help promote my work. Loose because I have always felt that too many rules stifle creativity, and organic in that the actions the team takes should always be fluid and grow and change as needed. And some great ideas have come out of this arrangement as well as some wonderful videos, promotional materials, and even tutorials. I keep the team supplied with line art to color (and other goodies when I can), and they rally around my latest ideas and work and help cast it out to a wider audience.
The team started a Colorist of the Month celebration through our Facebook community, and ran contests and color-alongs (which would be really difficult to keep up on my own). And when it was time for me to start working on my first self-published books through Amazon, they were there to help me sort through the good and bad ideas and deal with snafus. I spent hours upon hours staring at my computer screen working on the layout and making sure all of my designs fit, and felt lucky to have such smart, talented people just an email or text away. Friends to give me a pep talk when I was close to tossing my laptop out the window. Friends I could confess my frustrations about print quality and paper quality to. Friends to just say “hey, we got this.”
And over the past year, we have become friends. We jump online now and then to share stories and have a few laughs about our lives, and yes, plenty of talk about art supplies and coloring, too. I feel lucky.
So thank you, Paula, Lora, Betty, Steph and Lucia for being my dream team. You are all so very special to me in your own unique ways, and you are all appreciated.
Cheers to art supplies, coloring, creativity, and a very happy 2019 and beyond!
You may have seen the time-lapse videos of my purple cat (aka Autumn Cat) in progress on Instagram and Facebook, but the videos move so fast I thought I would break them down a bit and offer another tutorial that incorporates the wax-resist technique I talked about in Volume 1 of the Ruby Charm Colors Adult Coloring Art Journal.
A line drawing with some open spaces for you to add your own patterns (can be the main subject or the background—I used page 99 from the RCC Art Journal, v.1)
Gel or metallic pens for embellishments if so desired
A decent desk lamp
Since I hadn’t yet charted my Neocolor II pastels in my book (which I took apart and spiral-bound, but that’s for another post), I used up two pages to swatch out all 84 colors. The top tray contains my favorite go-to colors and the bottom tray contains the colors I don’t use as often:
Color Charts from the Ruby Charm Colors Art Journal
I can’t say enough great things about the Caran d’Ache Neocolor II pastels, by the way. They are creamy, vibrant, and a little goes a long way. If you want to try them, I’d suggest grabbing a few single pastels from Blick to take them for a test drive before investing in a whole set. Also, make sure you get the Neocolor II Aquarelle (watersoluble) pastels if you want to use them like watercolors! I ordered a set from Amazon and received the Neocolor I Wax pastels (which are like crayons and quite wonderful, too, but not what I wanted for my work). Whoops. The set of Neocolor II pastels I have now were a gift from a fellow creative friend and I am still (still!) so thankful of her generosity and kindness.
Once I had my pastel colors charted, I had to figure out what kind of patterns I wanted to draw on the cat’s face to create the wax-resist. I started with flower shapes under the eyes, a few circles, some spiky shapes between the ears, etc. using a white Caran d’Ache Pablo pencil.
I mentioned this in a few other posts (Wax-resist Mouse and also Resist: Using Colored Pencils to Repel Watercolor) but the best colored pencils I have tried for wax-resist are the Pablos, Prismacolors and Holbeins. I have also used the Blender Bright stick and that works really well, too, though it needs sharpening more often. You’ll also need to have really good lighting so you can see what you are doing and differentiate between the shine of your waxy pencil over the matte surface of your paper especially if you are working with white. In the first video below, you can see how I needed to move my lamp around a bit—it is challenging, but be patient because once all your lines are down, the magic begins.
I scribbled a little Aubergine Neocolor II pastel onto the tray of my Winsor & Newton watercolor case, added a little water to mix up the paint, then quickly painted over the white lines I drew on the cat’s face. It takes a second for the wax to resist the water, but when it does, your designs will appear! Next, I added a little red Yasutomo Niji pearlescent watercolor to the Aubergine for the top of the cat’s head.
Important!Don’t make the mistake of coloring with pastels (or watercolor pencils like Inktense) directly over the wax-resist patterns you just carefully drew because it could destroy your design. Instead, mix your watercolors separately and apply them to the paper (and over your wax-resist designs) while they are wet. Also, I used a Caran d’Ache medium tipped water brush though you can use any brush you feel comfortable working with.
And … depending on the paper you are working on, be conscious of how much water your paper can take before it warps or possibly even tears. The paper my cat is printed on can take small amounts of water but it is fairly tough and I have never has issues with tearing. It will buckle a bit, but I’ve found it does smooth back out once it’s fully dry and I start coloring on it with pencils.
My travel-size Winsor & Newton watercolor sets on the left and the Yasutomo Niji pearlescent watercolors on the right. The Niji’s are quite inexpensive and they add such a beautiful sheen on their own or mixed with other paints.
In the video, you may have noticed I painted the cat’s nose a seemingly weird and bright green (Winsor & Newton Sap Green) but I knew that once I added a little purple to it, I would get the hue I was aiming for—a sort of brownish purple with hints of green I could later emphasize with my pencils. Using a flat brown just wouldn’t have given the nose the same depth and interest. I dabbed the same green over the eyes and added brown on the inside of the ears ( Winsor & Newton Burnt Umber). While my paint was drying, I used Prismacolor Light Aqua, Polychromos Cobalt Turquoise, and Holbein Naples Yellow to shade the eyes, and then a Luminance Buff Titanium pencil to give the eyes some lift. Faber-Castell Pitt pens (S and XS) were used to blacken the eyes and make them pop.
After that, I used a big mix of colored pencils to start refining the cat’s face. Luminance, Holbein, Polychromos and Prismacolors for the larger areas, then my Irojiten pencils for the smaller areas and for redefining some of the lines. I flit through a lot of different colors and pencil brands but try to stay in the same range (more or less).
The nice thing about coloring over lines that are more grey than black (in printed books or pages) means you can add new color over your lines a little more effectively. Why do this? It can make your colorings look more dynamic and artful and less like pages from a coloring book.
It is okay to color over and outside the lines and put your own stamp of creativity on a coloring page! Don’t be afraid to experiment!
I used a few blue and purple Irojitens around the cat’s face and ears. I keep them pretty sharp, and each time I draw a section of line, I have a habit of rotating my pencil so I am always working with the sharpest edge.
I kept bouncing around with my pencils, pulling more colors into the mix and enhancing the wax-resist shapes I had created earlier by coloring around the white lines and not over them. I added a touch of green to the leaves, for example, and a bit of red to the flowers, etc., and just kept working my layers around and up to my white lines. Little touches of color that add interest and variation but don’t overwhelm the overall purpleiciousness of the cat. I used Luminance white and Buff Titanium to smooth out the lighter parts of the cat’s face, and also the Blender Bright to do a little blending and final burnishing in places.
More blending and burnishing in the video below in addition to finishing the left ear with Irojitens (Mulberry, Iris and Plum) and Polychromos Bistre so it would match the other ear. A little more work on the eyes with a Pitt pen, plus I added a few dots of embellishment with a Sakura Souffle gel pen (turquoise) and a Gelly Roll white.
After the face was done, I started working on the body of the cat. Instead of white, I used a Grey-Lavendar Prismacolor to draw my wax-resist shapes (mostly flowers so the body would compliment the face). It was so much easier to see what I was doing while drawing my patterns, but the pencil left a lot of crumbs on my paper. It helps to have a dry brush handy for whisking them away.
Instead of just scribbling a little of the Aubergine Neocolor II pastel on the palette, I used my x-acto blade to scrape pigment off the pastel itself into the lid of my Yasutomo Niji pearlescent paints (because I planned to do a little more mixing with them).
I wanted the body of the cat to be a little darker than the face because 1) it would bring the face forward and give it more emphasis, and 2) it would give me enough contrast against the Grey-Lavendar Prismacolor designs I drew. I mixed a bit more of the Aubergine pigment with water, then added in a few dabs of the coppery-red Niji paint to give the Aubergine some depth and luster. (Unfortunately my camera doesn’t pick up metallics very well, but it looks so rich in person.) I put down a quick layer then went back over the flowers with a touch of the gold and coppery-red Niji paints to enhance them a little.
Now for the funky stripes … lots of Holbein Ice Green and Sky Blue circles and then Neocolor II pastel (Night) over the top.
I didn’t take a time-lapse of the final steps—more pencil work to enhance my colors and adding more gel pen embellishments—but here is the end result is all its purpleicious glory.
If you give this wax-resist technique a try, I would love to see and hear how it works for you.
Comment below, and /or if you post your work on Instagram, please tag me so I see it!
I wanted to share two videos today—both flip-throughs of my latest books on Amazon done by Steph Johnston (aka @red_tifa on Instagram) on her wonderful Red_Tifa YouTube channel. Steph goes through each page in both volumes which is especially helpful when it comes to seeing and understanding the structure and purpose of the books as well as all the different pieces of art you will have to play with.
There’s a new addition to the RubyCharmColors Etsy shop and I really enjoyed completing the line art for this one. I had roughly sketched the bear months ago, but then it sat neglected in a folder on my iPad. A few days ago, I pulled it up and was inspired to finish it off for inclusion in my new set of books which will be offered on Amazon soon.
The Bear with Fish will be included in Volume 1, but it is also available on Etsy right now as an instantly downloadable PDF for coloring. Two pages are included in the file–the black line illustration and also a grey-line version in case you enjoy working with lighter lines.
Here’s a sample of the color test I did of this design – it is still a work in progress and might be for some time since I’ve really got to get back to the books and finish them up for a September release.
I started with lots of light layers with the Luminance pencils, then worked in my Polychromos for variations in color and more blending. The Irojitens pencils were used to burnish and set my colors. When I have a chance, I plan to use Neocolor II pastels for the background.
The past month has been busy for the Ruby Charm Colors project. In addition to working on an upcoming book (which has somehow morphed into two 100+ page volumes) I’ve created a few new illustrations for my Etsy shop and have released several sets of cards for coloring.
The first illustration I completed was actually started a few months ago and was a special request by a fan, Lucia, who is now on my coloring team. Lucia’s Crestie gecko, Nacho, was the inspiration for this illustration and I finally got around to finishing up the background in July. The gecko itself was done quite some time ago, but as with several of my mini projects, sometimes they fall by the wayside until I have a reminder to git ‘er done, as they say. The line art, if you would like to color this finished design yourself, can be found here in the RubyCharmColors Etsy shop.
I started coloring this illustration using a mix of Caran d’Ache Neocolor II pastels and colored pencils. I had ordered about 8 individual (open-stock) pastels from Blick to try them out as I had seen a number of beautiful colorings on Instagram and Facebook using the Neocolors. I was attracted to their intense hues and how they appeared to blend really well. I used Turquoise, Chromium Oxide Green, Olive Brown, and Fast Orange for the background, sun and leaves for this piece. Though it was my first time using the pastels and I was still getting the hang of blending them with my Kurtake and Aquash Pentel water brushes, I was pretty happy with the outcome and decided to order a set of the Neocolors through Amazon so I would have more colors to work with in future projects.
Gecko line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
Once the pastels dried, I started going over different areas of the illustration with a mix of colored pencils – mostly Caran d’Ache Luminance and Pablo pencils, Polychromos, and Prismacolors. Once my overall colors were in place (lots and lots of layers as usual) I started burnishing the colors using my Irojiten pencils.
Close-up of Gecko line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
The final step for the gecko was to add small embellishments with Sakura Souffle gel pens. This piece has a long way to go before it’s complete, so it’s now living in one of my “unfinished projects” folders for safe-keeping. I am sure I’ll pull it back out again when I have some free time.
Gecko line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by Lora King
The next illustration I completed recently was the Toutterkoi. It started out as a butterfly but I added a toucan’s face to the tips of the wings on a lark. It was weird but I liked it enough and decided to work in some koi on the bottom wings and tail. I really enjoyed fitting creatures into the butterfly and had fun color-testing this piece with a mix of Polychromos, Prismacolors and Irojitens. I really appreciate the sharp tips I can get on the Irojiten pencils for small details.
Toutterkoi line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
Toutterkoi line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by Vanessa Black
Paula Leach used Schpirerr Farben pencils for her Toutterkoi. Using a blend of greys moves her fronds to the background while the brighter colors move the Tourrtekoi forward.
Toutterkoi line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by Paula Leach
Here is a close-up of Paula’s work including her signature sparkles as embellishments on the body and wings – lovely color choices.
Close-up of the Toutterkoi line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by Paula Leach
My next project consisted of modifying some of my line art to make greeting cards that can be printed at home, colored and given away. There are 6 designs in the first set: Little Bird; Horse with Flowers; Insects; Lion, Hare and Moon; Mice in Freesia; and Spring Hare.
Little Bird line art for coloring books, pages and greeting cards (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
After that, I modified a collection of my moth and butterfly illustrations and turned them into greeting cards, too. This set of 8 designs can be printed at home (card stock is best), trimmed to size and colored with your favorite media.
So about the Caran d’Ache Neocolor II pastels …. I did order a set of 40 off of Amazon and I was so excited to get them in the mail. After opening the box and grabbing a few pastels to try out of a scrap of paper, though, my heart sank. They did not blend at all with my water brush. What the hell? And then it dawned on me … I had mistakenly ordered the Neocolor I pastels (which happen to be water-resistant) instead of the Neocolor II pastels which are meant to be blended with water! The Neocolor I pastels are beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but they were not what I needed. I repacked the box and sent them back.
If you order Neocolors through Amazon, be sure you are ordering the correct type of pastel you need (I or II)! The item description did not specify which set I was ordering, and since there was a picture of paintbrushes next to the pastels, I assumed I was getting the watercolors. Nope.
Just a few days later I opened my mailbox to discover a rather large and heavy package inside. I carefully slid it out (because I didn’t want the ginormous black spider who has taken up residence in said mailbox to hitch a ride on my package). It was a full set of gorgeous Neocolor II pastels gifted to me by a dear fellow artist! I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that someone would send me art supplies – such a thoughtful and generous gesture and I am still in awe. i got to work right away using the pastels (and some colored pencils) to color in one of the greeting cards I designed as a thank card.
Horse with flowers line art for coloring books, pages and greeting cards (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
Horse with flowers line art for coloring books, pages and greeting cards (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, finished card colored by the artist
So that’s what I’ve been up to the past few weeks. My gardens are going wild and I really need to do more weeding, my tomatoes are finally ripening, the cicadas are buzzing, and I have fresh flowers in the kitchen each day.
Now back to the business of making the book(s), and I’ll have a teaser about that in the coming days ….
Flowers from my gardens-gone-wild: Tree Lily, Phlox, Lavender, Day Lily, Crocosmia, and Jerusalem Artichokes
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how one piece of art can multiply and transform into many different versions as colorists (people who love to color in coloring books) approach the same line drawing with their own color preferences, creative vision, tools, technical skills, and experiences.
The tools or media a colorist chooses to work with plays an important role in the overall appearance of a coloring. Some colorists like to mix things up and use not only a blend of different colored pencils, but also other media like watercolor, markers, chalk, gel pens, pastels and even eye shadow. Others prefer to stick with their favorite pencil brand. Either way, gorgeous results are within everyone’s reach— it just takes is time, practice, and a willingness to learn and experiment. And sometimes a little luck!
Each version of the Mice in Freesia has its own unique feel, and different elements of the design are brought forward (or pushed back) through use of color, shading, pattern, and different applications of the media.
The next set of drawings are examples of colorists seeing past the lines of the original Insects illustration into completely new and original creative territory. Some may be worried by the idea of altering an artist’s work (and I have seen colorists on social media flip out on other colorists about how they don’t think it is okay at all) but I think it is fantastic!
I don’t mind being the catapult if someone has a vision they want to reach in their own coloring. If my work can inspire new ideas, then I feel I have accomplished something special. I include the simple black and white illustration above the work of Fumiko and Valencia (below) so you can see how they altered the original work to fit their individual visions.
Valencia Venter Van Zyl took her coloring of the same Insect design (but printed on white card stock) in a completely different direction by adding strawberries and roses. The way she approached the circles by adding borders and tiny flowers is reminiscent of an heirloom teacup saucer which gives the design a more antique feel. Here is Valencia’s coloring up close. And I am sorry I don’t which pencils or other media she used …
All of these colorists have beautiful, individual approaches that bring the original art to new levels. As an artist, I find this very exciting and feel that there is a collaboration between creatives not typically found in other art forms. When we see a painting in a gallery, or a sculpture on a table, or view photos or films, we participate to a degree, of course. But not to the extent people interact with the art in the adult coloring book world. Colorists take the line art—the basic framework—and transform it through their own creative lens. They truly involve themselves—physically and mentally—in the art.
Adult coloring as a hobby is sometimes ridiculed for being childish, but those who ridicule may not be looking close enough to see the beautiful art that’s being produced by colorists around the world. And they may not understand the truly therapeutic effect putting a pencil (or other media) to paper can have. For me, coloring or drawing puts me in a state of focus I don’t find elsewhere. Keen focus. And at the same time, a state of catharsis. My mind feels clear and sharp, and overall I feel relaxed and more centered. A sort of yin and yang effect.
Sometimes I think that we are too bombarded by distracting “little bits” that throw us off track. Every waking moment. Cell phones are continually dinging at us, we see a flash of the “news” on TV or one of our other devices that barely scratches the surface of a story before jumping to the next “bombshell”, we read newspaper and magazine articles that are so short it’s a wonder anyone gets paid to write them. I sometimes worry that our ability to focus and think deeply about much of anything will someday disappear. So yeah, I get the adult coloring craze that surfaced a few years back, and those who dismiss or ridicule it are missing out. I think a lot of people crave something real and tactile—something they can start, see their progress, make their own decisions, hold in their hands and say “I did that.”
Coloring can be “mindless” but it can also be mindful.
This next batch of colorings (above) have unique qualities, too. Lisa Duggan colored two different versions of the Lion Fish design. Her first version (a close-up here), was colored in September of 2017, and she used Prismacolor and Polychromos pencils. In her second version (completed more recently), Lisa used Derwent Inktense, a little layering on top of that with Polychromos, and then added embellishments with gel pens. Click here for a close-up of Lisa’s second coloring. Her color choices for the Lion Fish and the background uniquely alters the mood of each version.
Again, the media we work with can make a huge difference in the overall look and feel of a piece. And I probably say this more than I need to, but never be afraid to experiment! Even if a coloring turns into a disaster, there were probably some useful skills learned in the process.
Here’s another set of colorings that beautifully highlight the variety of work being done by colorists working with the RubyCharmColors illustrations. This is Gazelles.
Lisa’s warm hues, blending of the sky with a few hazy clouds hanging in the air, and her coloring technique effectively brings us to the African savanna (see close-up) while Fumiko’s blue gazelles and and striped planet looks like a mystical scene from Avatar (here’s her close-up). On Instagram Lisa commented that Fumiko’s coloring looks like night photography and I tend to agree. Both colorings are uniquely beautiful!
Now this is pretty cool … same colorist, different versions of the original line drawing: one was printed in black while the other was printed at about 50% grey-scale. Colorist Beth Hovey told the RubyCharmColors group on Facebook that she used the Sun & Moon illustration as an art lesson for her granddaughter!
After coloring the black line version, she printed out the grey line version to help her granddaughter understand how black lines and gray lines can have an affect how a coloring turns out. She used the same color palette for each version—and even though she said the purple pastel chalk on the black line coloring was applied a little heavier—we can still see the nuances between the two different versions.
Coloring the grey line version (which I include with all of the PDFs I offer on Etsy as a bonus) puts more emphasis on shapes and colors and less emphasis on the sometimes heavy black lines themselves. Working with grey line versions can also make it a little easier to veer from the original design and add more of your own details since the lines are much lighter and easier to color over. And you don’t have to have a grey-line PDF to do this. Depending on your printer’s settings, you can can either choose “Greyscale” or even print at a lower “economy” setting which spits less ink on the page (if you have an inkjet printer). Laser printer? Not sure … but you can always poke around your printer’s settings and try a few experiments.
The next three images are from colorists Sandy Kinzer, Lucia Brown and Paula Leach, each working their own magic on the same image. Here, it’s all about the color combos. The simple butterfly design was offered as a freebie through the RubyCharmColors group on Facebook (you need to join and participate to get the freebies) as a teaser and as a practice run for the more complicated “Butterfly with Spheres” design that was released shortly after as a downloadable, printable PDF.
Sandy’s butterfly feels like spring with a lovely mix of pastels and a few bright colors we associate with the season of growth and awakenings. Lucia’s butterfly uses a pallet that is a little more limited, and her use of pinks and turquoise create playful, modern looking contrasts.
The close up of Paula’s butterfly in more muted tones above shows the metallic, glittery pens she used to embellish some of her detail work. Below is her coloring of the full version of “Butterfly with Spheres.” Her color pallet is intentionally limited and gives the piece a soft, romantic unified look.
Having a little time to think about colors before approaching a final piece can be helpful. And being able to experiment with different media on a more simple piece before committing to the final can take away some of the pressure, too. Not everyone is concerned about the final outcome (and that is perfectly fine), but there are a lot of colorists who are, and who want to keep learning and pushing themselves creatively.
Now how about these rabbits? Again, color changes everything! These three colorings below are of the Spring Rabbit illustration.
Horse with Flowers is a more recent drawing, and I have three colorings I’d like to share though I know there are more floating around out there. Betty Hung, a colorist and blogger (check out her beautiful and helpful blog about coloring here) used Chameleon pens and Colortone pencils in her beautifully balanced piece. Her blending of the background is soft and exquisite (zoom in here).
There are so many other colorings I’d love to include in this post, and so many wonderful colorists that I’d love to tip my hat to, but I’ve run out of time. I would love to do this again in a few more months, though, so keep those colorings coming, please use the #RubyCharmColors hashtag on Instagram, and please tag RubyCharmColors on Facebook.
I’d really love to see your work!
A big THANK YOU to all the colorists willing to share their work and joy of coloring with us all! Show them some love and give them a follow on Instagram!
I’ve probably colored this horse illustration (which I designed as a coloring page) at least three times now, though I’ve finished none. Yet. I get sidetracked with new projects and once set aside, a colored illustration might not see the light of day for months. But I do like to experiment with different color schemes and I use the partially colored pieces in various marketing efforts, so the work is never wasted. This one might end up on a tote bag or some other product if it turns out the way I am hoping.
I printed this horse on charcoal tinted card stock (not quite as dark) so I could play with some warm colors. I am still patiently waiting for warmer weather, green grass and yard work in a t-shirt. April has been especially cold so far and I am feeling it.
My first step for this piece was to use my Holbein Naples Yellow pencil to lightly fill in the body areas of the horse. Just one layer to help define the spaces around the flowers, leaves and mane before using a little Holbein Salmon Pink to build up my base (video below). After that, I grabbed a Caran d’Ache Luminance Yellow Ochre to add a little more pigment to these areas.
Once I had the body a little more defined, I started adding more Luminance Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna and Orange to the horse’s face using small, light circular motions and feathered strokes. In some ways, taking pics of this process with my iPhone can be helpful because the lens catches all of the pencils marks so you can see how “rough” the coloring looks at this point.
I didn’t do it in this video (because I was afraid I end up with a chaotic recording) but I move my page around. A lot. When I rotate my page, it helps me color at slightly different and over-lapping angles and this, ultimately, helps to not only blend but also fill in some of the black spots that appear under the pencil layers. Not sure how you work, but I find taping my art to a board is too constrictive.
You can see, in the photo below, the difference between my first layer of Holbein and the face where I am starting to build my layers. I used Luminance Alizarin Crimson along the inside edge of the swirl on the cheek and worked some of it up into the areas under the mane, then started blending with more Orange as well as Yellow Ochre and Raw Sienna. Luminance Buff Titanium was used at the tips of the ears, along the lightest edge of the cheek swirl, around the eye, and also in the lighter areas of the nose. I like the Luminance Titanium Buff over the White pencil since it seems to naturally blend better, but when I really want a white to stand out, it’s hard to beat Luminance White.
One note about the paper. It is Recollections brand from Michael’s and I pick up packages of 50 sheets when they go on sale. They offer both solid color packs as well as mixed collections. The charcoal grey I am using is from the Architecture collection. It handles most of my pencils fairly well, though I have noticed differences in tooth between different Recollections color collections. Mostly consistent, but not always–just an FYI.
The good news is that this paper is acid and lignin free meaning there are no chemicals that will eventually cause the paper (and consequently your artwork) to deteriorate. If you are coloring just for fun, using paper that is acidic or contains lignen is probably not a big deal … but if you want your work to last over the years, always look for “archival” quality paper or stock (meaning it is acid and lignen free).
After I warmed up the horse’s face with about six or seven light layers of yellows, orange and red Luminance, I worked with Polychromos Dark Chrome Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Orange Glaze and Middle Cadmium Red is small light circles “pushing” the Luminance pigments deeper into the paper. Oh, and a Derwent Studio Burnt Carmine pencil for the darkest edges. It is a brownish-purple-red tone that really helps to add depth in the more shadowed areas.
Funny how we all seem to have a collection of serious go-to pencils … I love all my pencils but my “can’t live without” and “worn to a nub quickest” pencils are as follows:
Polychromos Chrome Oxide Green, Olive Green Yellowish, Cobalt Turquoise, Dark Red, Bistre (I get these through Blick, open stock as well)
There are probably a few more I am forgetting, but these pencils get used a lot due to their colors, but more because of their ability to blend and define the way I need them to.
One interesting thing I have noticed about colored pencils is that after a period of “rest” (and I know this sounds crazy), it is easier to add new layers. My theory is that after a few hours or so, the waxes and oils from the pencils on the paper somehow relax (or more fully attach to the paper) and it becomes a little easier to apply new colors. I tried to find out if there is something to this, but didn’t spend much time searching on Google. Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon?
I then started working on the leaves and mane (below) using mostly greens: Luminance Olive Yellow, Olive Brown 50%, Olive Brown, Moss and Dark Sap Green. I also used a little Spring Green at the tips. Again, very light layers and not a lot of concern about “perfection” yet. My layers are starting to blend a little (see photo below), but you can still see a lot of strokes and where I started using the Luminance Prussian blue in the darkest areas. I used Prussian blue instead of black (or Dark Sap Green) because it adds a more rich and varied tone to the piece overall. It also contrasts nicely with the warm hues. Using the Irojiten Indigo pencil in the deepest areas adds a little more definition, and I plan to go back to those areas before the piece is finished.I used my black Verithin pencil to start adding some definition to the eyes, swirl, nose and mouth features. I’ll likely go back to those lines at a later time, too.
I couldn’t resist adding a little Prismacolor Light Aqua into the small circles on the mane because I love the way it looks with green–a nice little accent of color. The next step was to start filling in the flowers. I knew I wanted to work in some purples and almost went with a purple and blue combination, but decided to stay true to the warmer hues (aside from the turquoise accents). I tested a few colors on the back of my paper and fell in love with how Prismacolor Black Cherry, Tuscan Red, Crimson Lake and Pumpkin Orange worked together.
I put down a light layer of Black Cherry (which has a purple tone) and then graduated layers of the other three colors to the tips of the petals. Still not blended yet and that’s especially apparent in the harsh light of the iPhone. To really bring out the purple and give the innermost parts of the petals more depth, I used Irojiten Mulberry and Iris Violet pencils to start pushing my colors together. At this point, I try not to apply too much pressure with the Irojiten pencils. They are pretty hard, and if I use too much pressure, burnishing occurs. This is fine in the final steps of my coloring process, but since I may come back to the flowers with more layers, I am not yet ready to burnish (which can really lock in a layer and make it almost impossible to color over unless you use a fixative which I don’t do).
Now that I’ve got the basic colors of the flowers colored, I go back to the yellows in the body. Basically, I just refine the yellows with more layers and add a little more orange so these areas don’t end up looking too flat.
I also used my black Verithin to add filament lines, and Luminance Olive Brown to add a quick layer around the center circle of the flowers. Prismacolor Pumpkin was used for the centers. It may not see like it makes much of a difference, but a little squiggle of Irojiten Crimson along a few edges of the Pumpkin add a little depth and interest. And to balance out my accent color, I used the Prismacolor Light Aqua again for the flower anthers. Here is a close up:
The video clip below shows how I use the black Irojiten pencil to define the leaves a bit (the Verithin black works too). I never realized, until I started recording myself coloring, how I continually spin my pencil as I color. For certain areas, it’s important to have a sharp point, so I think I do this subconsciously in order to avoid dulling my pencil tips. In addition to defining the leaves, I used Sepia and a little Prussian Blu (both Luminance) to create more shadow around the belly and legs. And a little black Irojiten to further blend.
When people talk about the Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils being creamy, I don’t see it. These oil pencils are highly pigmented and fabulous, but I feel they are more gritty than creamy. And this is good and serves a purpose as they can help blend by breaking up the waxes from other pencils and move them around on an almost microscopic level. I’ve noticed I really love the way they behave on certain papers while on others, they tend to be a little more temperamental. Especially when combined with more waxy pencils. And it’s hard to predict so experimenting is key. When I am working on a new paper (or on the same paper but from a different batch), I always test out how different pencil brands will (or will not) play together first. Most mistakes can be fixed, but I have made of mess of things enough to be a little more careful. Ever have an area you are coloring turn to a glob of colors that refuse to blend and just clump up? No fun.
After I defined the leaves a bit, I grabbed my Rotring Isograph technical pen and realized it was almost empty. I wanted to use it around parts of the flowers, but had to do a refill first. Always a messy job:
Post pen-filling: I am not too happy with the results –my lines look too harsh (especially in photographs) but I can probably fix that and do a little more blending with the Mulberry Irojiten pencil. No worries–I’ll go back to it later.
Instead, I grabbed a white Soufflé gel pen (Sakura) to add dots to the anthers and a few on the horse’s face, and blue and copper metallic gel pens to add dots around the centers of the flowers. And a few Sakura Soufflé turquoise dots to the mane…
The art doesn’t look as harsh in person. Anyone who has tried photographing colored pencil on a dark background (especially when there are metallics involved) knows what I am talking about. I don’t have the right lighting in my studio and I get a lot of glare. I keep a few small gooseneck lamps on my desk and am constantly moving them around to get the best light when I am coloring, but have to turn them off when I take pictures. Someday I’ll get that all figured out.
I can’t imagine coloring on anything other than this old artist board (below) I bought back in college. I keep a small brass sharpener in a dish handy, as well as a brush to flick off any junk that lands on my paper and keep the wax bloom at bay.
Once I have a bunch of pencils I’ve pulled out of my cases to work with on a given piece, I store them in a tin drawer so I can keep track of them when I come back to the drawing. I used to write my colors down, but I don’t anymore.
Here is where I am leaving off on this piece for now. I have plenty more to do and will post a follow-up when I have a chance. For now, off to book work and and other tasks that need my attention…
Please feel free to leave questions or comments –I am always curious to learn how others tackle their art and channel their creativity, and no question is too silly. I may not have the answers, but I’ll give it an honest try.