Master the essentials: color

Color: we love it and hate it. It can help you achieve wonderful things. But you can also ruin your whole piece. That's probably the reason many live renderers mainly use mostly black, gray and one supporting color. Then at least it looks OK. It's safe. But "safe" has never been a way to learn. To learn, you must occasionally hit your nose. Knowing what your options are helps a bunch.

explosive colors

If you visit my website then you realize right away: this lady sure loves her color! Actually, that's one of the things that I don't owe to my architectural training.

Architects just LOVE grey. But that doesn't mean that we weren't taught some essentials on using color at Architecture school in Eindhoven University.

In those days, we often went outside to draw. Mostly buildings. After we had put a scene in the correct perpective, we had to add color. Complementary colors, such as blue and orange, always give a good result. The result is powerful and yet balanced.

But why would you want to use more color in a live drawing, apart from that it looks good, that is? What would you like to achieve? Three reasons: color as an organizational, expressive and storytelling device.

Color as an organizer

You know the drill. You're doing your work, live, and after a while you look at your piece. It's become a mess. What part belongs with what isn't really clear. Help!

What now? Exactly: grab your colors and start pulling fragments together. A colored background is a powerful tool. It doesn't even have to be a perfect rectangle, you can leave bits out.

Too intense? Use a colored frame. Or change your shading color. Especially if you have a monochrome palette you'll still have a harmonious drawing, but it is  clear what belongs where.

An uncolored example shows what can be the power of color. Just look below:

It's hard to deny that color here does a lot for the balance and composition of the image. Incidentally, you can also apply these organizing effects in black and white. Then we're talking about shading.

See the following example, made with only a black fine liner (image right). Here too, you see that frames and background are not strict elements. You can play around with them, like the speech bubble of the woman below.

Color as expression

You can play with color by adjusting your palette to the style of your client or to the subject. A dark color has a different effect than a light color. A cool color gives a different feel than a warm color. Because I often work with companies and organizations that are concerned with sustainability, the color green is a recurring favorite in my palette. But that doesn't mean I can't use a complementary accent color!

Color as a storyteller

If you allow color into your life, the possibilities are endless. Something more laborious to do and not always possible when doing live work, is the use of color as a storytelling element. But you can always recur to it in your studio work. How about drawings in which color itself is a character, and supports the story line? To illustrate these two points, two examples of my comic work.

color as a character

Color as the red - I mean green! - thread of the story

Practice, practice, practice....

The use of color can be exciting, but also delivers highly on results. Even though I love to use color, that doesn't mean I don't hit my nose now and then. Often, I just want too much and instead of making a choice and sticking with it. Here, too, less is more is your adagium.

How do you find out what works and what does not? By analyzing work by ohers that you like and of course practicing yourself.

.... at the draw-till-you-drop Bootcamp!

Practicing is a big chunk of what we'll be doing at the Bootcamp. In a nutshell: 5 half days long of drawing till you drop, producing a LOT, but supported by essential (technical) drawing knowledge and many exercises. With up to 10 participants on 2 trainers the instruction is personal and intensive. Hélène Aarts, Assistant Professor hand drawing at TU Eindhoven, takes the theoretical part of the Bootcamp into her skilled hands. I, Anabella Meijer, live recorder and cartoonist, will make sure the link with graphic recording & facilitating is felt throughout. 


The Draw-till-you-drop Bootcamp is, in short, a unique opportunity to take your drawing skills to the next level. Because you want to concentrate on what you do best, and drawing should support that, not cost you more energy. 


Want to learn more? Check the event. Perhaps we'll welcome you November 4th and 5th in Amsterdam!