How to Choose Colors – Part II

In our previous post on how to choose colors for our adult coloring, we introduced the Color Wheel and the concept of color harmony – that with colors you can create a mood, attract attention, or make a statement. I have been finding that the colors I use when coloring can even reflect my mood, and may even help me change my mindset.

Today we will look at a couple of ways to give more meaning to the colors we choose.

Warm and Cool

One way we can look at colors is as “warm” versus “cool.”

Adult Coloring Colors

Warm colors are the yellow to red-purple half of the Color Wheel, plus most browns and tans. Warm colors can make you think of fire, sun, energy, heat, and activity. Choose colors that are warm for areas or elements that you want to be eye-catching.

The other half of the Color Wheel contains the cool colors: yellow-green to purple, plus most grays. Cool colors usually express things such as the ocean, calm, winter, and nature. When you choose colors that are cool you can make an area or element in your colored-in illustration appear to recede into the background.

Tints, Tones, and Shades

Take a look around right now. You will see that there are very few things, particularly in nature, that are made up of only the 12 colors in the Color Wheel. One thing you will notice is that there are lighter or darker versions of the colors such as pink from red, or navy blue from blue.

Playing with colors to make them lighter or darker is called tinting, toning, and shading by adding white, gray (which is a mixture of black and white), and black. Tints are also known as pastels.

Tints, tones and shades fill in the Color Wheel:

Adult Coloring Tints Shades

If you have a larger set of coloring pencils or pens, you will have at least a few tints, tones, and shades built in. For example, some sets of Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Colored Pencils have a few pencils that are tints, tones, and shades of orange (Goldenrod):

Tints Tones Shades

Don’t have a massive set of pens or pencils that includes all the variations you want to use? You can get the same effect by layering white, gray or black on top the base color.

Here is an example of how I did this with a Prismacolor Premier Pencil in Orange:Choose Colors Tint Tone Shade


You can also create the impression of tints by using a lighter stroke with colored pencils. Again, here is my example of tinting with the same orange pencil:DSC_2953

TIP: You may be surprised how many colors you can get from a single pencil simply by changing the pressure or number of layers! For example, a red pencil also produces a variety of pink shades.

When to use Tints, Tones, and Shades

Include tints, shades, and tones in your coloring to add depth and life to your illustrations.

Using a tint to color an item in your illustration makes it appear to stick out from all that surrounds it.. Coloring part of an element with a tint can make it look like the light is hitting it more directly than elsewhere. Using mostly tints to color an illustration can create a soft, youthful and relaxing mood.

Coloring something with a tone is a great way to get it to look like it is receding from everything around it, whether it is a single element or part of an element in an illustration. “Toning down” a color may make it seem more realistic, if you are trying for that effect.

Shades are great for adding shadows.   They can also make an element in an illustration seem powerful and mysterious.

In the next post in our series, we will look at tips for choosing colors, harmonious combinations, and blending basics.

In the meantime, remember to keep your coloring a playful activity and don’t let your quest for techniques overwhelm you – color yourself happy!

Interested in learning more about colors and how they relate to our thoughts and moods? Try one of these resources:


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