Color Fundamentals


Lesson Info

Demo: Establish Dimensional Form of Object

This is from Ti-zi-ana, who is tuning in from France, and she says, "How do you actually choose your paper "for a particular project, would the kind of paper "change the effect that you want to achieve?" Yes, absolutely, excellent question. Sometimes I use watercolor paper, which is what we'll use next. If I feel like I want a really textural start... Because the color reacts to the watercolor... The watercolors to the watercolor paper creates more grain texture and variation, sometimes very surprising variation. Like things that are unexpected. But with this Canson paper, it's super smooth, it's one consistent tone, if I want something that's not gonna have too much textural reaction I might choose the paper. And sometimes, honestly speaking, it's just whim. I don't know, it just feels good to use this paper versus that. But typically my two go-tos are water smooth hot-press, and I'll give you the exact type of watercolor paper, 'cause I'll show you in a minute. The hot-press is Arc...

hes watercolor paper. And it's the smooth, the hot-press is smooth, and it's 140-pound, which is a really nice weight, because you could still run it through a printer. And I like to do that. 'Cause I print my sketches right on my surface. So I tend to use the 143-pound is really heavy, it's great, you don't even need to stretch, 'cause it's so heavy, but it does not go through a printer, and I found out the hard way. Jammed. Jammed the Kinko's printer with that. So I don't recommend it. Okay, so I'm pushing the highlights in the front, I made an executive decision. That's what you do when you're making art. I think our pepper's pretty good, I think it's in the zone, it feels dimensional. I'm just gonna do a little tweaking thing down here. And make sure that the shape and the form make sense to me. That the shadows look good. I'm just going to lean back a little bit. Pull this way... Yeah, it feels pretty good to me. Yeah... And I might cast... Well, there's no highlight on that side. The one thing you want to make sure when you're creating a light system is, and this is a very common problem, is people will put highlights all over the picture on the dark underside, round-side. 'Cause it's so exciting to put a highlight on something. You know, that pop is really fun. But it denied volume and form. So you really wanna pay attention to the hierarchy of your light and your highlights, if you're talking about focal point, or where attention is landing. And for this one I sorta kept the highest light as this one here, I might pump it a little bit more. Make sure that it's super contrasty for what's around it. Make it a little smoother. This is the noodly detail stuff. I mean I can sit and draw on this thing for several hours. But we don't really have that time (sarcastically). So I'm just gonna stop right there, take a look, make sure it's all smooth and looks good. Yeah, I think it's pretty decent, it works for me. M.J. I'm not sure if this is what you were just referring to, but I have a question that'd come in from Re-an, in Peirson, who said, "What about reflection of the bottom "that usually picks up the color-bounce?" Yes, that's a really good question. This on doesn't really have that. But when that happens... And actually I'm gonna darken this shadow, 'cause it's something that's bugging me here. That's called rim-lighting, or it can be called ambient light, or secondary light source. And the secondary light source is where it's either a reflection of the light from some other surface, something that's casting a color note, or a light note. Or it can be literally a secondary light that's just softer. When that happens my recommendation is to make sure that your highest light has more contrast than that secondary light. Also, a different color. If your highest light is super cool that secondary light should be lower in contrast and warmer. 'Cause if it's cool and the full light's cool, they'll just fight each other and the whole thing flattens out. But yeah, I often use secondary lights to create dimensional form. I think I mentioned it in the keynote. I was doing that with Narwally. He had a cool blue underpinning light on his large white shimmery body, and the top was really really warm. So that is our value study of our pepper.

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.



  • 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 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.
  • Excellent instruction! Most helpful to me in terms of establishing the focal point of an image through use of value, color harmony. Also helpful to understand transparency and opacity and how that relates to highlights and shadows. MJ is fun and likable.