By: Elyse                Categories: General

The following is an excerpt from Rowland B. Wilson’s Trade Secrets: Notes on Cartooning and Animation. Trade Secrets offers a never-before-published peek into the personal journals of Rowland B. Wilson (1930-2005), a legend in the world of cartooning, advertising, illustration and animation. Trade Secrets is a compendium of tips, tricks, philosophies and techniques garnered over a lifetime of professional animation and artistry.

Here Wilson provides some tips for color use in your illustrations.

“The Soup”

Some artists make a neutral watercolor wash of complements such as orange and blue and use it to unify colors. (“Stock” is more like it!) Instead of pre-mixing it, overlay it as in the method of a sky overlay of blue over orange. Color hatching sometimes works in shadow if tones are close for special effect. Color hatching for optical mix in a lit textured area is excellent!

Choice of Colors for a Mix

-Should be equal in intensity, or:

-Should be equal in value.

-Color choices should be made from the Color Triangle: hue, tint, tone or shade.

-For shadows consider three colors in shadow: a local hue, an incident light hue and a darkness hue. (For example: Darkness hue can be a color one or two steps down the color wheel so a yellow shadow would be orange with cool incident light such as lemon, resulting in a sienna hue. Blue shadow would be purple and a cool incident light mixed to a “navy” blue. A red shadow could include purple and magenta, equaling a plum color.)

-Merged shadows can vary in color and temperature in recognition of obscured local colors.

The techniques of broken color and mottling can aid this effect.

Some Color Mixtures for Painting the Sky

The following are used for the overlay method. The first mixture is painted on and allowed to dry. A second color wash is added using the strong blue.

-Wash of Yellow Ochre and Rose Madder, Cobalt Blue painted over it.

-Cadmium Yellow and Vermilion mix/Cobalt Blue.

-Aureolin and Viridian mixture/Cobalt Violet.

-Black and Burnt Sienna mixture/Ultramarine Blue.

-Light Red and Emerald Green/Cobalt Blue.

-Raw Sienna and Rose with overlay of Manganese Blue.

Useful Colors

Burnt Sienna or Venetian Red functions as a brownish red in shadowed areas.

Burnt Sienna plus White gives a good smoky brownish red.

Raw Sienna functions as gold in shadow.

A flat warm tone can be made from Vermilion and Lamp Black or Indian red.

Shadowed yellow can be mixed from Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna or from warm Sepia.

Some greens mixed from color:

Cadmium Yellow Deep, Phthalocyanine Blue, Winsor Violet (for leaf green).

Cerulean Blue and Cadmium Lemon.

Ultramarine Blue plus Cadmium Lemon or Cadmium Yellow Medium.

Phthalocyanine Blue plus Cadmium Lemon or Cadmium Yellow Medium (plus limited amount of Alizarin Crimson).

Any yellow other than Lemon goes olive in the mix.

In superimposing color, yellow over blue is brighter than blue over yellow.

Colored Neutrals—As both mixed primaries and mixed secondaries produce gray, any color mixed with black can produce a neutral.

The color of light takes precedence over all other color!

Excerpt from Rowland B. Wilson’s Trade Secrets: Notes on Cartooning and Animation by Rowland Wilson © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Trade Secrets can be purchased,, and wherever fine books can be found.

No Comments

No Comments

Tell us what you think!