By Jasmine Maddren
Colour style, what’s that?
Colour style is a necessary component of art which helps to identify you as an artist in a world filled with individuality. This identity is also referred to as your art style, and just like your art style, your colour style develops over time. Whenever you create something with colour you’re using the inbuilt skills—which have been developing since you could first see colours in your infancy—to communicate something to yourself.
Have you ever looked at a piece of art and thought it looked inexcusably hideous? The colours, the subject, the composition… the whole thing!
I know I have, and it wasn’t due to a lack of artistic skill either. I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands of pieces of art created by artists who have been honing their skills, some for decades. There was just something (or a lot of somethings) that I didn’t vibe with.
That’s the greatest thing about art. Art is completely subjective. I can look at something and hate it with such force, and someone could look at the same thing and have the opposite reaction.
What does this have to do with colour style?
Often the first thing we see when we look at anything, especially from a distance, is colour. Colour makes us do that double-take and try to get a closer look. Only then do we actually see what we’re looking at.
And no, I’m not excluding the striking contrasts of monochromatic art.
Colour is the reason marketing works so well. When you see colours paired together, it makes your brain dig up its associations: McDonalds characteristically embodies yellow and red.
You might have a favourite sports team that uses colour to represent their identity.
Think about any of your favourite brands, what do you remember most?
These are all examples of colour style, more for marketing purposes rather than artistic expression, but it’s still relevant.
5 Tips to Find Your Colour Style
Step 1: Familiarise yourself with each component of colour.
Saturation: intensity of a hue
Value: the lightness or darkness of a hue
Shade: a hue produced by adding black
Tint: a hue produced by adding white
Tone: a hue produced by adding grey
Depending on the needs of your art style, your colour style might utilise all of these, or only a few.
If you have a hyper-realistic style then it’s probably better to go in with zero limitations. But if you’re like me and your style is quite minimal, then you might want to restrain yourself for the sake of consistency and simplicity.
Step 2: Study art
No, I don’t mean go take an art class and study the fundamental rules of art for four years.
What you should do once you’ve familiarised yourself with the basic concepts of colour theory is to then go out and find colour.
It’s the same thing as what I talked about in my previous post about finding your art style; the more you look, the more you find something you like, the more you put the puzzle pieces together about what you want your art to look like.
But where should you start?
Instagram is my favourite place to discover art. It’s a bit like TikTok where the algorithm takes note of what you’re most interacting with, and then shows you more of that.
Pinterest is another great place. Once you find something you like, you can pin it then scroll down and find things related to whatever you just pinned. It can be very inspiring, almost overwhelmingly so!
Try and keep things organised, create folders on Instagram to save whatever made you stop and think oh, my brain liked that. Do the same on Pinterest.
If you enjoy going out and seeing stuff in person, then make a packed lunch, take your camera or your phone and snap photos of everything that inspires you. Even if it’s the colour of a leaf, or the way things look when completely illuminated by the sun. There are no rules!
Step 3: Collect colour palettes
Sometimes I decide what to draw based on the colours I’ve chosen. I’ll often look at a colour palette and see the finished illustration before I’ve even created it. Colour is that powerful.
This is super helpful to do for both digital and traditional artists as this step is about discovering what inspires you.
While Pinterest is a great place to find and save colour palettes, there’s so many other ways to discover them: websites, apps, magazines, paint stores, clothing catalogs, etc…
Whatever you find that you really like, save it to your digital collection, or cut it out of a magazine and make a scrapbook. Just begin your collection, and remember to add to it regularly.
Step 4: Experiment with colour
This step is probably the most basic one of all. In saying that it’s simple to practise, but difficult to master.
This is where it’s extremely helpful to learn basic colour theory which lets you skip closer to the finish-line and experiment with colours that you already know compliment each other.
Whether you’re a digital or traditional artist, playing around with apps such as Procreate or Cooler can be super helpful. I’ve played around with many different drawing apps, but Procreate will forever be my go-to. Photoshop’s my friend, but Procreate is family.
One of Procreate’s most useful features is the colour tool:
At the bottom of the colour selection tool you can see it has five different categories.
The one that’s selected above is the Harmony tool which lets you play around with colours and their complementary hues.
Near the top of the colour tool you can even tap Complementary and select from five different types of complementary settings. It’s pretty epic.
Procreate is also my favourite app to organise colour palettes that I want to use, just because it’s convenient to be able to scroll through them while I’m working on a project without having to switch between apps.
Step 5: Consistency
The truth about mastering anything in life is to just keep doing it. Consistency in experimentation as well as consistency in style.
Your colour style is going to grow and evolve. The last thing you want to do is put it in a box without room to do just that. Let it expand while also harnessing the things you really love about it.
Let your colour style change with your art style. There’s no rule dictating that you must continue creating art that displeases you, regardless of how much time you’ve spent developing a certain aesthetic or style.
Picking up a pencil, a paintbrush, a marker, or whatever you use to create should fill you with the anticipation of what you’re going to create.
Art should be a passion, because passion fuels the fire that gives it life. Without a sense of identity and individuality, your art is missing the very essence that will make it memorable.
I hope you found these 5 tips on how to find your colour style helpful! Thanks for reading.
A quick note: My opinions are my own, I haven’t received any compensation from the linked sources in this article. These are just apps and websites that I love to use, and they’re the ones I have found to be the most useful for my art and colour style!
3 thoughts on “5 Tips to Find Your Colour Style”
Great hints and tips. I’ve only just started drawing digitally with an Apple Pencil and enjoying finding out how things work. I injured my hand years ago, so only really giving art another go recently. I always used to drawn in black and white, inking with a Calligraphy style pen / nib. I still love drawing in B&W, but I’m intrigued with all the color options you can have digitally as well. So might start experimenting with it a bit now. 🙂
Hi Paul, thank you for your comment! It’s good you’re getting back into drawing. The Apple Pencil has been my favourite digital drawing tool as it feels the most natural after a tradition pencil. Good luck on your drawing in any case! I hope you find some of these tips helpful.
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Thank you very much. Yes, been enjoying using the Apple Pencil, its light and so easy to use as a drawing tool. 🙂