Skip to main content

Color Fundamentals

Lesson 19 of 22

Demo: Color Blocking for Composition

Mary Jane Begin

Color Fundamentals

Mary Jane Begin

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

19. Demo: Color Blocking for Composition

Lesson Info

Demo: Color Blocking for Composition

The next thing we need to do is our darkest dark, and that's that purple surface. Our fabric. Now, I want to make sure the paper's dry, and it feels dry to me. If the paper is wet, and I lay a purple tone on top of it, it's going to really neutralize. It's gonna act a little weirdly. If it's dry, that green will sit there. It won't move, and that'll make a more interesting color. I don't want to over neutralize this purple. This is gonna be basically more like the shadow tone, before I put some of the highlights on it. But I don't want to get ahead of myself. So now let's lay a purple down. We know what we're making it out of. Let me get another piece of security blanket here. We're making it out of cobalt blue, and we're making it out of permanent rose. Now, what I'm gonna do is just mix it up in kind of a nice big pile over here. I could use the cup, but it doesn't matter. I just want enough quantity to coat that shape. And I want it to be a dense enough color for it to really be dee...

p, 'cause it's gonna be dark. If it's not dark enough, I can let it dry, and I can do another layer. You can always layer another color. So it doesn't have to be done in one shot. I'm going to mix up a purple that I think is yummy. Make sure I have enough color there, if not, I can always go back and make more. So you're gonna see a color reaction here that's kind of interesting, and you're gonna be like, "Oh, MJ, you just made brown. "You don't know what you're doing." Trust me, it'll all work. So I'll show you, I'm using a kind of larger, round-tip brush, so that I can hit a lot of the surface area. Make sure that all my color is blended well. Now I want to keep this color, it doesn't have to be a super smooth surface, because that surface isn't. Just like with the charcoal drawing, the surface is textural. So I'm not gonna worry if there's texture in my mark-making or in the surface of this tone. I'm gonna leave that, the brush tell me what it needs to be, it's fine. When it comes to the pepper, once again, I'm really gonna want that pepper to be smooth. So I will not do, this is called dry brush. I mean this is called wet over dry. I haven't wet that surface, I'm just doing wet paint right on top of a dry tone of paper. It's creating a kind of textural mark. But I'm cool with it because it's really what I want. I'm controlling that. And you can see, I mean, what's your observation, what do you think when you look at that color? Does it look vibrant to you? Or not vibrant? Well, when you lay it down thick, the opaque, then it's very vibrant. Mm-hmm, that's right. It's transparent, so what's happening to the color, the two colors, what are they doing? They are canceling each other out. Exactly, yeah. The purple and the green... (Student laughing) You are an awesome student. Yeah, you're absolutely right. They're canceling each other out because the purple and the green are opposites on the color wheel, 'cause they're all secondary colors, which are all opposites of each other. Because of that, when they're transparent, you can see one color through the other, they're instantly neutralizing. You might be like, "Well why would you want neutral purple? "Look at that beautiful purple over there." It's hardly neutral. When you're trying to establish, I'm trying to establish where the shadows might be, I'm gonna start with a transparent tone. I can always add opacity after, to give us the vibrant aspect of the color. But for right now, I'm just going to lay down a shape of color that's about, what would the shadow be, it's fairly neutral, and then we'll hit what looks like kind of a vibrant beautiful purple textural reflection. There's a lot of light on that surface. There's not a lot of shadow. The only real shadow is right underneath the pepper. But let's do that first, I'm actually gonna drag this up a little higher, for compositional sake, okay.

Class Description

This class will give you an overview of color principles and demonstrate how to apply them. Instructor Mary Jane Begin is an award-winning illustrator and author of children’s picture books, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate and professor in the Illustration Department. 

In this class she covers: 
  • The elements of color, including value, temperature, saturation, hierarchy, complements, light, harmony, and contrast 
  • The use of color complements in image making 
  • The relationship of color to the medium and expression 

Through a series of demonstrations, you’ll learn how to work with color and ultimately make better color decisions. This class covers color theory foundations that applies to all image making, in design, art, illustration, photography, and beyond.


Anna Kotzè

I really liked the informal demonstrations and I also liked the way she set out her pallet with warm and cold colors. This was not only an informative class but inspiring. The casual and relaxed working style, encourage playfulness. Thank you for an awesome class.


I’ve had foundations in many of the color instruction that was presented here so the information was a very good revisit. I also think it was explained better in this presentation than in the other training I’ve had. I enjoyed listening to the lecture, thankfully they weren’t drawn out until you want to stop listening. The demonstration was best after we moved off the charcoal drawing (although that was interesting to watch) because using the paints really brought home to me the application some of the lessons learned. I wish that part would have been more robust so that all of the elements in the lecture could have been directly called out in the demonstration. The instructor was most effective when not trying to multitask too much. Overall, I recommend this course.

Robin B.

I had previously learned basic color theory, but this instructor took my knowledge beyond with layered instruction about value-contrast-complements-hierarchy, etc., and she does it in such a fun way with her own examples of work and great stories! I like her poise and confidence and think this series is a terrific value.