3 Bad Habits You Must Break if You Want to Create Realism and the Techniques I Used to Break Mine

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

All of us develop bad coloring habits.

It’s natural.

Over time we find short cuts, or we just get a bit lazy. We don't realize that we keep doing something the wrong way over and over and before we know it we've developed another bad habit.

I want to share three of my bad habits and what I do in my practice routine to transform these bad habits back to good habits.

1. Over blending your markers.

Blending over and over to get a nice smooth blend will over saturate your paper and has the potential to desaturate your color which leads to a loss of contrast. I, like most people fell in love with the Copic marker because it blends so beautifully. Especially when you watch some of the card makers online coloring with them. They make a perfect blend the first time, oh I mean, every time. Of course when I tried to make the same blend it never worked like I saw on the video. So I would just keep adding more ink, more ink, and more ink trying to get the blend I was after. But instead I would create a huge mess. It is so easy to over blending while on the quest for that perfect even color blend.

Here is how I corrected this crazy bad habit. I started practicing my flick strokes with the marker. I bet that sounds silly, but really that is what changed the whole blending thing for me. I had to practice making good flick strokes over and over (good=even and distributing the right amount of ink). It took a lot of flicking but I did get past the thought of adding more and more ink to blend because proper and confident flick strokes is what makes the blend work.

2. Outlining your image.

I know, in pre-school your teacher taught you to stay in the lines by outlining an area before you color it in. Yes it does make it easy to stay in the lines, but when coloring those outlines of color will also result in a halo effect around sections of your image that doesn't look realistic. This is especially true when you use marker ink because you when you create an outline it will dry before you get to coloring it in. So when you start to color it in and you are adding more ink onto of that outline it starts to look like a dark halo around the edges.

Here is the technique I started practicing to eliminate that bad habit. I learned to build different types of “fences” for the images I color. What do I mean by a fence? I mean I take a section at a time and I would lightly fence off the area with a color that will ease the transition of the edge of the section. When I build a fence with a Copic marker, I work in small sections so that I can get my fence to blend into the section I’m coloring. Sometimes I use a pencil to help clean up that fence, but I make sure that I am using a nice light touch. To get that light touch takes a ton of practice. I would practice on circles, boxes, practically any shape I could get my hands on just to figure out how to keep from getting that halo affect.

3. Using only pretty colors.

We tend to fall into a trap if we want to color something pretty it means we need to pick out only pretty colors. Reality is there are no pretty colors in shadows so you can't create something pretty without muddy colors to create the realistic form. If you don’t go dark enough with your colors then you will find out that there is not enough contrast either. You need to grab (or create) that dark dirty looking color to create the depth you need for realism in your coloring.

To break the habit of only using my pretty colors I focused on the “pushing and pulling” technique. Knowing how dark I need to get into the shadows or darker areas in the image and what areas need to be brighter help me decide on better colors from the beginning. I also learned a lot of about creating darker colors by blending some of the darker muddier colors together to come to the right value needed. This technique is one that requires a lot of practice because each shape will need different amounts of darkness or lightness to bring realism to the shape.

I didn’t stumble into knowing what techniques to practice, I learned them from the teachings in the online classes at Vanilla Arts. Working through a variety of these classes I started to recognize when and why I wasn’t getting the desired results. The when is when I would tune out and just start coloring, the why was because I would fall back on my own bad habits instead of playing closer attention to what I was being taught in the lesson.

The classes at Vanilla Arts always includes an artistic lesson that magically transforms your casual coloring into a beautiful works of art you will be proud to hang on your fridge (or wall) for everyone to see.

Do you have any of these (or other) bad coloring habits? Please tell me about it in the comments below. Did you find any other techniques that have helped you break your bad habit? I would love it if you would share that with me too!

You can see Frankie's work and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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