Cardmaking 201: Coloring, Basic Shading

(Subtitle: Sandy's Coloring Tips)
Many folks are intimidated by coloring stamped images — but it needn't be something that seems so hard! Remember that new skills always take practice . . . even the 'pros' had to learn their skills, and are always trying something new — and needing to practice those new techniques!

A few basic tips

  1. Use white cardstock. Colored cardstock can handicap a new color-er before coloring even begins. WalMart sells a decent cardstock (Georgia Pacific 110) at a low price, making it easier to be willing to toss failed experiments and try again. (Works great for card bases too!)
  2. Stamp in black ink. Coloring has the most "punch" when there's white and black along with it, so the color can really shine! Versafine Onyx Black is a great ink pad; it stamps very well, the color is a nice black (not a purple-y color), and works with many coloring mediums. (If you're diving into Copic Markers, Versafine will NOT work with Copics—go for Memento inks.)
  3. Practice!  Cut your cardstock in quarters, and stamp a couple of the image you'll be practicing with. Then if you goof up one, you don't need to get your stamp and ink back out over and over—just toss and start a new one! And if you leave white space around your image by cutting it larger than you need, you can test colors on the edges of the paper, without getting too close to the image itself.
  4. Finish your image. One of the things I see the most when people send in cards and ask for help with their coloring is that the image isn't completely filled in. Take your time and fill in each of the areas completely, and that alone 'tidies' an image that doesn't look finished.
  5. Shading adds punch. Dimension makes all the difference, so even if you just add a little bit, you can make a big improvement in your coloring.

One area that can quickly spark up coloring quality is learning to add depth with shading. Take a look around at objects in the room you're in, and note where the light is coming from. If the light comes from the left, the shadows fall to the bottom and right. So that's where you'll add shadows. Don't worry about shadows and highlights at the same time—if all you add is depth to the image itself, you'll be making leaps ahead!

If the light source is on the right, note that the shadows fall to the left and bottom of the object.
And from the top, shadows may only be falling on the bottom of the image. If all you want to add is simple shadows, generally just adding a bit of darker color to the bottom of the image is enough to create the illusion of depth - so that's a great place to start.

As for colors to shade with, color theory can boggle the mind. Instead, if your object is colored light blue, just shade with a darker blue. If it's pink, pick a dark pink or red. Keep it simple as you're learning!

Coloring mediums
Many different types of coloring mediums can achieve a nice shaded look, but it's a matter of knowing a few tricks to make that happen. **Note: Here's where I confess that the dog ate my homework. Or the computer. Or something. I had an entire video recorded, and was editing it in new software I just bought. Sadly, the software won't let me export the video. Uhm, not very useful software, huh. So instead of a great little video, you get this text description! Sorry! ** ETA: Scroll down, the videos are there now!
  1. Magic markers. These come in packs of all types, brands, and colors, and are the most challenging to shade with; depending on the brand of marker, type of paper, and coloring style, there are techniques that could do some shading, but often not in a very smooth fashion. It's best to have a selection of light colors to go with the typical darks. I recommend coloring the image solid in marker, then using colored pencils to shade on top of the marker—just pick a pencil that's a couple shades darker than the marker color. The shadows can be much darker around the edge of the image, and fade as it moves further from the edge. 
  2. Colored pencil. These come in a great variety of colors! Note that there are both watercolor and regular pencils - I use Prismacolor brand pencils, NOT watercolor ones. The "Magic Colored Pencil Technique" (MCPT) is a cool one that works with regular colored pencils: color your image lightly with pencil first, and be sure not to get the pencil on too 'thick'. If it gets shiny, that's too much pencil. Color some shadows if desired, or simply let your coloring get darker in the shaded areas using just one color. Then take a "stub" (purchased at a craft store, it's basically a tightly-wrapped roll of paper, about the size of a golf pencil) and dip it into a little baby oil, and apply it to the colored pencil by rubbing it in circles. The oil smooths out and blends the pencil! 
  3. Watercolors. This is a somewhat unforgiving medium for some of us (I don't do well with water!), but is so much fun to play with it's worth a try. You can use children's watercolors (cheap!), or twinkling H2Os, and achieve a shaded effect. Paint a little of the color in the darkest areas only on your image (ie just a line of color at the bottom); then with just water on your brush, drag that color into the other areas of the image, and the color will be lighter toward the top! A tip for twinking H2Os: Put a decent amount of water into the little paint pot and let it sit a while; as it softens, it will become creamy and shimmery!
  4. Copic Markers. These are for advanced color-ers (pricey too!)....I don't recommend purchasing them til you're certain you actually like coloring! With Copics, the simplest way to achieve shadows is by coloring the area first with a base color, then adding shadows in the darkest area. Then take the base color a 2nd time and color overtop both shades, working across the entire section of the image. The wetter the better to blend them; work the pen around in circles and drag the darker color into the lighter area.
Below is a photo of the sheet colored with the various mediums that were intended to be shown in the now-non-existent video...I am so sad not to be able to show it to you! The colors on this sheet aren't quite what it looks like in real life...the camera just can't seem to pick up some of the subtleties. Hopefully I can work out the kinks on that video and get it to upload to YouTube someday.

Once I work out software glitches, I'd like to make tutorials on a lot of coloring techniques and styles...but I'm too sleepy and frustrated to work on more right now. Agh! Let me know what kind of things you would want to see, and I'll do what I can!

ETA: Semisuccess! I had to re-record....but they're here for you!

Kate  – (February 16, 2010 at 4:59 AM)  

This is a great subject. Coloring is something I am not at all comfortable with yet.

Seongsook Duncan  – (February 16, 2010 at 7:21 AM)  

This is a great coloring tips. Sandy, thanks for your efforts. I like to do coloring however, it takes too much time when I want to make multiple cards. Want to know less time consuming way.

Kajikit  – (February 16, 2010 at 7:34 AM)  

Thanks Sandy! I suck at colouring...

Dixie Cochran  – (February 16, 2010 at 9:29 AM)  

Well done, Sandy! I learned a lot! Thanks you!

CARO  – (February 16, 2010 at 1:23 PM)  

Thanks, Sandy! I love to color and just got a stash of Copic markers that I am loving and plan to use on Mother's Day Cards. This tutorial was very helpful.

Kathy  – (February 16, 2010 at 1:56 PM)  

I loved the post I learned alot. Thank you Sandy.
I do have a question for everyone. I really do like to color. I use MCPT now. But I am wanted to start using markers so I bought the CTMH markers because I did not want to spend that much money on the Copic markers. Well I have been very disappointed in coloring with marker. I guess my question is can it just be my coloring or could it be the CTMH markers. Has any one had this issue with other markers and has the copic marker helped? Are they really that much better??
Kathy R

Cindy's Card Co  – (February 16, 2010 at 3:38 PM)  

May I suggest that if you have a store where you get your supplies that offers classes on what Sandy just went over and you really want to do coloring, take the class. I took a copic marker class offered by a store by me and it really does help. It gives you a chance to practice with a pro.

Cathy  – (February 16, 2010 at 5:39 PM)  

Great tutorial! I am a fan of colored pencils with baby oil. I also work better with watercoloring than using a blender pen, but I'm still learning. Thanks again!

Nancy Keller  – (February 17, 2010 at 6:34 AM)  

Wow I love these tutorials and tips! I have so many fun new things to try now! Thank you Sandy, Queen of Coloring! :)

Wendy  – (February 17, 2010 at 8:26 AM)  

Excellent tutorial! I've been avoiding Copics like the plague but I may just have to go to the dark side and start another addiction! You enabler, you!

Playing with Paper  – (February 17, 2010 at 11:28 AM)  

Oh Sandi these tutorials are just what I have been looking for. I have been practicing my coloring skills and even though they look O.K. but missing something you have really helped. I cannot wait to play. Thank you!

Erica  – (February 17, 2010 at 8:11 PM)  

I use watercolor pencils but I do not use water to blend. I use a blending pen. Mine is from CTMH but I have seen them at craft stores. I can't do the copics. Too pricey.

AK Donna M  – (February 17, 2010 at 10:19 PM)  

I find coloring to be great mental therapy! I use chalks--I think they are also called pastels. I 'set' them with hairspray. I hope the chalks hold up. Anyone else use chalks?

I'm interested in the magic colored pencil technique & will try it out. Thanks Sandy for sharing these techniques!

TAS  – (March 26, 2010 at 11:52 PM)  

I am new to cardmaking and coloring rubber stamps has really caught my attention. Your video tutorials were a tremendous help in understanding some of the different techniques. I am waiting for the Copics I ordered to arrive in the mail, but since they are so pricey, I like the idea of developing other less costly techniques. Thank you for the videos tutorials and I hope you do produce more. Any techniques in coloring would be welcomed; perhaps some florals and anything about coloring skin tones.

Gloria Westerman  – (March 28, 2010 at 10:03 PM)  

Your tutorial on coloring was awesome......I have all markers and pens but not the H2o.....after seeing this I think I really would like to have me it would seem they color and shade pretty good plus the glimmer I really love....thank you for sharing this with us....

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