COLOUR | Analogous Colour Scheme (applied)
  • tool: markers + coloured pencils
  • difficulty: advanced

Hello and welcome to my first tutorial on the Letraset blog! I believe I am the first person to start tutorials for anime and manga interested people (more artists will follow soon), and everyone else, who wants to learn more about colour and how to use markers.

Now you may wonder what the title means and what you might expect from my tutorials. ‘Applying Colour’? Yes, I mean getting your hands ‘dirty’ with markers; but ‘Analogous Colour Scheme’? That sounds like colour theory… It is! I know that colour theory can be quite dry and maybe even hard to wrap your head around, so I’ll try to keep the ‘boring stuff’ to a minimum and apply it on an actual example. I plan on having this tutorial as a hybrid of colour theory, a walkthrough and how to use markers.

It is always good to know your colour theory, if you want a decent looking outcome of an image. Why is it important? Well, you can set the tone entirely with colour… and you want to get that right, right?

Step 1

Alright, I already have the sketch done and my next step would be to ink the outlines. Before I jump in and do that, I thought about what kind of mood and atmosphere this image should carry. Sometimes thinking of little background story of the character can help with that. I named this character ‘Qamar’ and he belongs to the caste of priests in his hometown. He is a rather quiet and calm person. I want to express just that; a calm and soothing image with toned down colours.

Rather than using black to ink the outlines, I opt for coloured outlines in sepia and grey for an even softer overall look.

Make sure to always use fine-liners or ink, which are marker proof! Anything, that is not marker-proof will get smudged all over your drawing, because the marker (alcohol based ink) can pick up the colour easily.

Nothing is more heartbreaking than messing up the outlines and ruining the whole picture with it.

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.
Step 2

A good colour scheme for something calm and soothing I am after is the analogous colour scheme. Great! But what is that exactly?

I am pretty sure you have seen a colour wheel somewhere already and it is the tool for artists to help with colour relationships. In case you are unsure what colours will look good together, take the colour wheel and use it as a reference. The modern colour wheel consists of 12 colours, which can be split equally into warm and cool colours.

The analogous colour scheme can be created by using colours, which are adjacent to each other. This colour scheme is pleasing to the eye and looks harmonious. One rule of thumb: DON’T combine warm and cool colours!

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.
A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.
Step 3

Now I have set the tone for this picture in my mind and want to choose yellowish, orangey and brownish colours. It looks all good in my head, but sometimes not so much on paper. That is why I always swatch the main colours I want to use beforehand, and I always make a colour sketch first. I just trace or copy the outlines on a separate piece of paper and block in the colours. Sometimes the colours don’t quite fit or do clash, so this is your chance of changing them. Markers can’t be undone nor any mistake! So plan your piece beforehand.

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

My main colours on the colour wheel were yellow, yellow-orange and orange, yet I want a toned down version of these, since these colours are too bright and lively for the calm atmosphere I want to create in the picture. In order to do that, there are three definitions of a colour concept, which can help with this: tintsshades and tones. In this part I will be focusing on tints.

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

Tints can be created when white is added to the selected colour. A good example for this colour concept would be pink, since this colour is not represented on the colour wheel. Pink is created when red is mixed with white, hence pink is a tint of red. As you can see, this concept gives you a far greater variety of colours than just the colours directly on the colour wheel.

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.
Step 4

The outlines are now inked (in orange, sepia, wine-red and grey) with marker proof fine-liners on a new piece of paper and I can start with the colouring.

Since markers are translucent I usually work from light to dark with them. I apply this order not just on one colour and its shading, but on all colours in the image. Light coloured markers can pick up darker colours and I want to avoid that. Most of the time I start with the skin colour, since it often is the overall lightest colour, but this time it is not. Qamar has a darker tan, so this time around I will begin to colour his whitish and light beige hair.

I used a reddish tinged beige in the areas where darker shadows will be and a medium beige for the part of his shaved hair as base colours. The other parts are coloured in a light beige. Markers with a normal thin nib are perfectly fine for laying down the base colour, but for the next steps a flexible brush nib is preferred.

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.
Step 5

This step is all about the mid-tones of the hair and shaping it. Hair isn’t a flat or an undefined surface. It has volume and texture, and that should be kept in mind when it is being coloured.

Qamar wears two different types of plaits, a tight and a loose one. With flicking strokes of the brush nib that follow the form of the hair I darken the colour with the same colour as the base one. For the reddish areas in the hair I use the same flicking motion with the brush nib, but a darker reddish beige on top instead (top right image). In order to bring the reddish and light beige together I use the same light beige and continue to shape the hair (bottom left image). Technically I have 2 layers of colour now (the base colour and the first ‘shaping layer’). I decided to go over the reddish beige once again with the light beige colour for more definition.

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

I can start to define strands of hair even more by using a light purple in shadowy parts (bottom right image). Purple isn’t a colour, which belongs to the colour scheme I selected and it is a rather cool one as well, but it will make the warm colours ‘pop’. A little bit of carefully placed contrasting colours can make a big difference.

Step 6

I apply the same light purple as before and a slightly darker purple sparsely where very little light reaches the hair (top images). All that is left to do on the long hair is to add a tiny bit of colour to the ‘roots’ of the hair with the same base colour as the shaved hair part (bottom left image).

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

Again, due to the nature of markers it is possible to layer the same colour on top of each other to darken it. This is also true for the short stubbles of hair. I used the base colour and applied the colour with short strokes of the brush nib (bottom left image). With a medium brown I repeated the process while concentrating the colour in the shadow areas (bottom right image). To finish off the hair I applied a darker purple for a stronger shadow close to the longer hair and string of the tassel.

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

Just like tints offer you a greater variety in colours, so do shades. A shade can be created when black is added to the selected colour. An example would be brown as shown below and again another colour, which is not present in the 12-colour colour wheel. Brown is a result of orange being mixed with black, so brown is a shade of orange.

Step 7

Colouring the skin is just as much fun as colouring the hair is, but the objective is a different one. It is all about creating a smooth surface without too many sharp lines, yet more gradients. In order to achieve this I have to work fast while the colour is still wet so that I get the smoothness of the gradients.

The image for this step might look a little weird at first with the 3 base colours, but the reason for it is the saturation of the paper. Depending in the type of paper you use, it can only take so many layers of colour before it is saturated and ‘rejects’ any more colour. What I have done here is to put down the next darker colour to the base one in shadow parts. The purple is there for a hint of that colour in the later skin colouring. Even though Qamar has darker skin, I start with a relatively bright colour for the skin, which I build up in the next steps.

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.
Step 8

While I am working on each layer, I have to be fast and work ‘wet-in-wet’ on each layer to achieve for the soft edges and gradients. It is important to only work on one area at a time for this, because marker colour dries rather quickly.

The brush nib is very handy when it comes to soft edges that ‘flow’ into the dried colour layer beneath; feathering strokes do the trick. I used the next darker colour and the base colour to start shaping the skin. I applied the darker marker first and blended it into the base with the very same base colour and I applied a second layer to the flat shadow parts around his collar bone (top left image). I repeated the same process for the next layer, just using a darker beige and blending it with the medium beige. By now the ‘darkness’ of the skin has caught up with with the areas in which I put the medium beige as a base colour (top right image).

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

To the parts, which lie in deeper shadow I added a medium ash colour and I did blend it with a darker beige (bottom left image).

Step 9

The overall tone of the skin is now set and I can start on applying the darker shadows while keeping the direction of the light source in mind. Again, I used the medium ash colour and the darker beige to blend the shadow better with the skin. Only on parts like underneath his chin I opted for a sharper shadow to give more definition (top left image). Just like before, I go from area to area to add the shadows to ensure that I can work wet-in-wet (top right and bottom right image).

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

I only added a tiny bit of a clay colour to very dark parts of the skin, which were blended with the medium ash marker (bottom left image).

Step 10

I have mentioned before, that I am working from light to dark colour and this is the reason for me to colour the lighter parts of the clothes’ embellishments and the jewellery first.

The jewellery Qamar is wearing is made of gold, though it is not overly reflective and a bit more on the matte side. Metals in general are a bit trickier to emulate because of their reflective nature. More than often it is perfectly fine to just give the impression of the metallic surface rather than creating a physically correct image of reflections. Key is to use colours, which are further apart in value than you would use for normal blending. Secondly, it is important to utilise sharp edges as well.

The base colour for his jewellery is a slightly reddish yellow. Once the the colour was dry I applied an orange-yellow on top and occasionally blending it into the base colour with very few feathering strokes (top left image). With a mustard colour I accentuated the sharp ‘lines’ of the orange-yellow a bit further (top right image). It is crucial to wait for the colour to dry between those steps, so that sharp edges are possible to create. Any wet colour will prevent this and result in soft edges.

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

A light naples yellow is the base for the cord and tassel on Qamar’s headscarf. Two more layers of a medium greyish beige and lastly a reddish grey were enough for subtler gradients (bottom images).

Step 11

The bigger part in this section of the tutorial are taken up by the clothes. I have got five types of different textiles in this picture, but I want to focus on only three instead. When it comes to clothes, it isn’t wrong to think about their texture, patters and ‘heaviness’. This is exceptionally true when it comes to folds and shading them. The thickness of the textile dictates the amount and looks of the folds.

Qamar’s clothes are mostly smooth and have a sheen. In order to achieve that look I picked a base colour, which is considerably lighter than the colours for the shading. Starting with the toga I used the base colour to set the shadow areas with the brush nib (top left image). Two darker shades, a medium greyish beige and medium purple, tie the toga better into the picture with the prominent colour of the robe (top right image).

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

The robe itself is bordering a reddish purple and to avoid a colour that falls outside the analogous colour scheme by far, I opted for shading it with brown tones, which itself helps to create the sheen of the cloth. I used one medium brown and two darker browns for this step (bottom images).

Step 12

Since I created the colour sketch of this image I wanted to have a striped pattern on the headscarf. There is an easy trick to create this pattern without resorting to outlines. I marked the stripes (that are following the curves and general shape of the headscarf) with a coloured pencil (top left image). The next technique used can be called colour overlay and is a great tool for getting more colours out of your owned of markers by layering two different colours on each other, hence mixing them. First I added a lighter orange in stripes (top left image) and applied an orangey beige on top of the dried colour for desaturating the bright orange slightly (top right image).

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

The colour overlay technique works well with a lot of colours, but lighter ones tend to not show up underneath very well. For that reason I added the yellow stripes with a cadmium yellow after the orangey beige (bottom left image). To enhance only the yellow I used coloured pencils to define the stripes better (bottom right image).

Step 13

With all the ‘major’ colouring done, only a few smaller sections are left, such as the lighter head scarf underneath the orange one, or the larger tassel on the head etc. Even though the tassel’s colour wasn’t included in my overall colour scheme, I wanted to pick an accentuating colour. The reddish tone is close to the taupe of his robe, so it doesn’t ruin the general orangey-brownish-ness of the picture. I shaded the burgundy colour with a darker wine red and a dark brown for deeper shadows (top images).

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

The next step was to finish the face and I started by applying a light warm grey to the white areas, the mouth/teeth and the eyes (remember that the eyeball has a curved surface and shadows will appear, so don’t forget to add them). With the next darker light warm grey I added a subtle shadow (bottom left image). For the iris I used a buttercup yellow as the base colour and a cadmium yellow for its details (bottom right image). I coloured the left eye generally darker (with an additional layer of each colour), because it lies more in the shadow of the headscarf.

Step 14

At first I left the background blank, since I wasn’t sure what would be the best one suitable. After thinking about it during the colouring I decided to go with the idea of the inside view of an architectural structure along with a glimpse of the outside. I sketched the background on a separate piece of paper and copied it onto the original with a thin mechanical pencil. Then I inked the lines with a very fine fineliner in sepia. I only left the sand dunes in pencil, because I wanted to give the impression of depth in the window view without resorting to ‘harsh’ outlines (top images).

I created the gradient of the sky by layering three light peachy colours on top of each other and using feathering strokes for a better blending. I used a very light yellowish skin colour for the base of the dunes and added more volume with a light beige (top right image).

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

The base colour for the palace walls is a slightly brownish skin colour (bottom left image). To create more texture and shadows on the walls I added a medium beige in most places (bottom right image), while an ash colour desaturated parts in deeper shadows. With that the marker colouring was done and I could move onto the final touches.

Step 15

Adding some last touches on details really can bring an image together and I always like to spend some time on final effects. Once more I used coloured pencils for the patterns on the clothes, for the highlights on the glasses (right image) and for enhancements on the background (cracks and texture). With an opaque white and a thin brush I applied highlights on the eyes and the metal, and I added a some single white hairs to his plait.

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

Et violá, the picture of Qamar was finished. The only thing that was left for me to do, was to scan the image and this is what it looks like:

A tutorial on applying the analogous colour scheme.

I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial series on the Analogous Colour Scheme and thank you very much for reading. I will be back with more tutorial material on markers next time!

© Aileen Strauch, first published on the Letraset art blog in 2013