Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Using color as a tool

You can never have too many "tools in the shed" as a professional Illustrator, and when we get lost in our sheds looking for something fresh (my shed can get pretty messy from time to time), its easy to forget one of the most useful tools we have is color itself. While experimenting, try shying away from your usual pallet and limiting yourself to one powerful color, and see where it takes you. You may hit a few road blocks at first, but when you break through you will have something to grow with.

I plan on pushing this a lot more in my personal work, but I'm also lucky enough to have clients who really want to push the envelope with their content. The talented staff at Field & Stream is one of them, and has always taken illustration and infographics to the next level while pushing the execution of content to the highest standards. I had the chance of working on the Opening Season of Hunting Feature for the 2010 August issue, where color wasn't just used as a tool, but as an entire theme.

Here's a look. One thing I enjoy with this package, is flipping through the magazine you immediately become drawn in by the intense greens, which are used in a way that is not overwhelming. This is important on your end in illustrations, to keep in mind you're not "overwhelming" you reader with the color, but rather using it in a tight, smart way – and in some cases, sparingly as these illustrations show:

Here's a a few more from the feature:

For comparison sake, here's a look at last year's package utilizing yellow as it's dominant color. It was a challenge to keep contrast in the black and white wooded areas to give the diagrams some weight, while balancing the intense yellows. I'm also posting one of my roughs, which is an important part of the process:

When I render environments, I like to keep a realistic quality to the work, that I feel sometimes gets lost in infographics. Illustrating a buck hunt in the woods is a perfect example. I want to keep that "chaiotic" feeling readers get while stalking a trophy in a mess of trees and brush (as we all know in both hunting and fishing, the "trophy" is always hiding in a place you need to get banged up to get to). I try to capture that feeling in my roughs and carry it through to the final illustration. The final render:

Here's a few more from the feature, keeping the same feeling throughout:

... And there you have it. Color so bright it'll burn you retinas. Ok, not really, but definitely a tool you'll want to keep sharp in the shed, no matter how big or small your shed may be.

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