Coloring Practice: The Value of the "Do Over" Project

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

One of the best practice routines I have ever done is the "do over". Have you ever looked back at something you colored years ago and thought you could color it better today? I love going back and looking at my old drawings to find something I want to do again only better. There is a great sense of accomplishment when I can do a project better than the first time I did it. I want to share with you the process I go through to analyze my old work and give myself goals to achieve during the "do over".

To create my goal list for the "do-over", I ask myself the following questions while looking at the original project:

  • what issues do I see that I think I can improve upon

  • what colors would be better

  • what tools will I use - pencils, markers, paper, etc

See my project here to the left, I drew this last year from a reference photo. At the time I was happy with the drawing because her head didn't look wonky like a few I had drawn before. I wouldn't put it up there with the best things I had ever done but at the time I was satisfied with it. When I looked at the drawing this year, I immediately see so many things I wanted to improve. Such as:

  • - she looks too stiff

  • - it doesn't have enough pencil layers

  • - the colors are very bland

  • - the eyes are not level

I decided on a strategy to fix these issues. First, I will tilt her head for a more casual look, apply more layers of color pencils throughout the project, use more colorful pencils, and measure my structure lines to ensure my proportions are right.

With my strategy planned out, I decided to take the time to decide the colors I would use. I have found recently that taking time to swatch colors before starting does several things for me. First it causes me to slow down and think this through. In the past I would think I would use a pink and a peach, but I wouldn't take time to find which color pink to use that would go well with the peach I wanted to use. By testing out the pinks I have to go with the peach color I find the color I know I will be happy with beforehand instead of using a pink in the project I don't like and wind up using several pinks before finding the right one making the project look off or having to do extra work to cover the wrong color. Swatching also helps me to have all the colors I need for the project pulled out ahead of time. I feel like this planning process cuts the coloring time in half as I don't waste time trying to decide what color to use.

I have been experimenting with skin colors lately and this re-do project was a perfect opportunity for me to swatch more vibrant colors. Lastly, I wanted to create dark hair like my first version but give it more life. That is how I ultimately decided to create a dark purple hair.

When I started this project, I took my time building the structure lines to make sure I would be happy with its proportions. I measured each section several times. Since I have tilted her head, I needed to make sure it would not be wonky. It is challenging when the reference is not the same angle because I am guessing how her facial features (i.e., nose, mouth, eyes, etc.) would look at the new angle. During this sketching process I am erasing a lot to make sure the lines are down in the right spot. Once I have her looking as accurate as possible, I am ready to grab my pencils and go to town coloring away.

Typically, I work from dark to light - in my sketching process I start my shading by setting in the values first. Since one of my goals was to ensure the face didn’t look bland, I took time to really map out where the darkest areas are and where the highlights would hit. I knew I wanted dark purple hair but to make dark hair look semi-realistic I knew I could not use all purple colors. I surprised myself when I tested out some turquoise in the highlights and I was thrilled with result. Again, one of the reasons why I love color pencil is being able to layer different colors together to create a fun and interesting color. Her hair is purple, but it seems to have life in it - not that dull black hair I colored on the original drawing. I also added interesting colors in her skin. I chose some saturated pinks and yellow greens that seem to blend well together.

The great thing about doing a "re-do" project this way is that when I set my goals up front it is easy to know when I am done with the project. Now if I was grading myself on this project, I still would not give myself an "A”, but I am happy with the improvements overall. Now that old embarrassing project is no longer an eye sore to me instead it became the starting point of my getting better. I want to challenge you to do the same. Before throwing out a project you think is horrible put it away for a while. In a couple of months, come back to it and make a list of improvement goals. Plan out how you will achieve those goals. Then have fun coloring because in the end I am sure you will come up with something you are super proud of.

So, what old project will you "do over" today?

What's happening in the Corner . . .

Do you like to color images with people in them? Do you freeze when you get to the point you have to color skin? Don't know if you should approach coloring legs or arms different than a face, what colors to use, or even how to shade skin?

If so, come spend a month with us in the Corner while we will focus our coloring on skin. With practice, you can overcome the fear of coloring skin.

If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Practice Technique Pack for Skin here.

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