Saturday, March 4, 2017

Color Like a Boss When You Don't Have All the Tools Needed for Masterpiece Making, Or How To Color While Traveling

As I mentioned in my last blog post, for me to be a successful traveler, I need to color. But, coloring while traveling or while staying away from my home base looks VERY different than coloring when I am in my studio with all of my awesome supplies and tools. Whether I'm traveling via car or plane, cargo space is at a premium, so I cannot pack my  Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils 150 set, my 96 set of Tombow Dual Brush Pens or even my smallest set of Staedler Fineliners, much less all my blenders and sharpeners.  What I do travel with is Koh-i-Noor Woodless Colored Pencils, and I do this for a few reasons: 1. increases in pressure or altitude don't have any effect on them (There are quite a few markers and pens on the market that don't like extreme changes in altitude or temperature, and wax core pencils also don't respond well to extreme heat or cold.), 2. their carrying case is very sturdy and compact, guaranteeing they take up little space and they won't get damaged if scrunched, 3. they are a hard pencil, so they don't need to be sharpened as often. The drawback of these beauties is that the set is only 24 colors (But, thank goodness there's a grey!), which means I have a very limited color palette to choose from when coloring on the go. Rather than be frustrated by this (Because let's face it, I want every coloring page to look cool regardless of where I colored it, and yes, I'm aware that that desire stinks rather strongly of perfectionism - I'm working on that, and that's all I have to say on that right now.), I've learned to lean on the following four techniques because they allow me to make the most out of my coloring-while-traveling experiences.


Because I don't like to travel with color blenders (They are entirely made of wax and melt easily.), I like to utilize the fact that every page of a coloring book is loaded with a very vibrant white. I do this by paying attention to how much pressure I put onto my pencil, graduating color out or in and ignoring whether or not I am absolutely covering the white space totally with color . It allows for the effect of light and shadow to be a part of my coloring page without the use of all of the many shades of a particular color and the blender to pull those colors together.

I had very few colors to work with on this Mandala from
Mystical Mandalas, but by graduating pressure in and out
along the lines of the image, I achieved an effect of movement
I rather like:)
To achieve an effect like this, you must color in a circular fashion instead of the up and down style that folks typically attack a coloring page with. Additionally, having your pencil more or less on the dull side makes achieving the soft edges without noticeable streak marks much easier. Using this technique on a coloring page with teeny tiny spaces is a bit more frustrating (Unless you have achieved the supreme mental state of being able to comfortably color outside of the lines, which if you have, AWESOME! I bow down to your wisdom and centered-ness, truly!), so I like to find images with shapes and spaces that lend themselves to this style when I travel.


This simple trick is exactly what the name suggests it is: layering one color on top of another. How do you choose which colors to layer? That's entirely up to the effect you wish to create. If you're looking to create depth, begin with the lighter of your colors, and then slowly add darker colors to muddy the image. If you're looking to create an appearance of light, softly color with your darkest color, and then go over that with a brighter color using more pressure from your hand. The trick is to experiment because color layering is essentially color mixing without the ability to truly incorporate the colors fully. You never know what you're going to create until you just give it a try.

This vibrant coloring was done by my partner, Steve. He has zero fear in coloring,
so color layering is one of his favorite techniques regardless of how many
coloring tools he has at his disposal. Here he splashed color upon color to
achieve a spacey effect in one of his favorite coloring books,
Creative Haven Skyscapes.

With coloring layering, it is really helpful to have both a white and a black colored pencil on hand to adjust the value of the color mixture that you make. I honestly rarely use my white colored pencils UNLESS I am color layering. Weird, I know, but white is my least favorite color of them all.


At first glance, color building looks like color layering, but there is a subtle difference. When color building, instead of putting different colors on top of each other, you begin with a single color and then slowly build other colors AROUND the original color.

My son, Sam, frequently color builds as he is a quick
colorist and prefers to "get it done" as it were, rather than
to go over a coloring with a blender. I really love what he did
with this cactus image from the coloring book The Cactus Coloring Book,
and so did others - he won a coloring contest with this coloring:)
If you want the appearance of brightness on your page, begin with your lightest, brightest color, and surround it slowly with darker, contrasting shades. Reversing that order will also get you an interesting look as well as the appearance of colors morphing as they travel along an object. Just like with color layering, color building takes a willingness to experiment and be okay with unexpected results. Taking these kinds of risks can be challenging for folks who are perfectionists (And, I'm the leader of that fabulous pack, let me tell you!), but coloring while traveling is a risk in and of itself (Will you have adequate light? Will there be a flat, hard surface? Will people leave you alone long enough to enjoy yourself? These are all unknowns you just have to face when coloring while traveling.), so adding just a little more intensity to that creative jump isn't really all that much of a big deal really.


Not having all the shades of every color can be really frustrating and tempt an avid colorist to over-pack, especially if you enjoy coloring in realistically drawn coloring books. But, you do NOT need all your greys, browns, blues and greens, seriously! You may have to enlarge the picture below to see the detail, but the trick I use to color realistic images while traveling is to utilize some pencil drawing techniques.

I typically am not a huge fan of coloring realistic image or human
beings, but I adore my Sherlock Holmes: The Hounds of the Baskervilles
coloring book! It's a totally awesome nerd experience to color
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work:)

To create shadow or texture, I draw hatch lines (look closely at Watson's hat, tie and jacket in the top panel) or cross hatches (the sky in the bottom panel) either lightly in black or more intensely with a darker shade or pressure of the color I put down originally in the space. And, using gentle and chaotic swirls in large featureless shapes is a fun way to create a more interesting look when you have few colors to choose from (zoom in on the shrubbery in the bottom panel). Both of these methods could also look super cool if used in the pattern-based coloring books that are popular right now.

I think in a former life I must have been a turtle because I really and truly wish that I could bring my entire house with me every time life provides me with the opportunity to travel. Leaving behind all of my art supplies and my cats is really emotionally difficult for me to do. But, my cats are even worse travelers than I am, and I have a whole room in my house devoted to creativity, so logistically speaking, I can't always get what I want, and some things are going to have to be left behind at home. But, I am an Aries, as stubborn as they come and used to getting her way (or at least a portion of it), which is probably why I stumbled upon these little tricks to help me make the most of my coloring time no matter where I was. My hope is that these little pro-tips will be useful to other colorists as well both in their figurative and literal journeys:)

The coloring books that travel with me are always
changing from journey to journey, but this set of
Koh-i-Noor Woodless Colored Pencils and my
T'Gaal Pencil Sharpener have traveled far and wide.

No comments:

Post a Comment