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Color Fundamentals

Lesson 20 of 22

Demo: Establish the Shadow Tone

Mary Jane Begin

Color Fundamentals

Mary Jane Begin

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Lesson Info

20. Demo: Establish the Shadow Tone

Lesson Info

Demo: Establish the Shadow Tone

The next thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna establish my pepper color. And once again, I'm just gonna coat this whole thing with this red. It's not opaque, it's transparent. You can see the green through this red. I'm laying it down in pretty broad strokes, I'm trying to follow the form. I'm using a little more water than I used with the textural velvet. I'll go right over that. I can always pull that light out again. I can add a lot of water to it to make the color move a little more fluidly, and that will make a smoother mark. But it'll also make a slightly darker mark, so I would probably have to lay this red over this pepper a couple of times to get the darker value of that shadow. But I just wanna get these down here so we can then see something with opacity and vibrancy. Okay. And the background, once again, I might tweak it a little bit, I'll leave it warm, I think, to relate to this, but I don't want it to compete too much with the pepper. So I'll keep an eye on that. Okay. And th...

is is called speed painting. I'm painting really fast. (gasps) But that's okay. I think sometimes there's also a tendency, so I'm gonna make longer strokes, longer smooth strokes, make sure this is not getting too much of a textural shape for the pepper. Sometimes this is like when my students do this in class, they have an assignment where they have to do an in-class model, and they're working on a lime green ground, this exact color, and they freak out at the color, they're like, "It's so vibrant! "It's scary! "Why are you making us work this way?", and then when the colors start to react after they've done the neutral, you know, the first sort of layer of color, they start to understand why it's really critically important to work with a vibrant undertone to really understand something about a color. So this is, again, this is the shadow of this red pepper, this is not the vibrant lit part or any of the upper areas, this is probably mostly kind of the underside, what I'm seeing the underside of the pepper, would be closer to this neutral color. And you can see, once again, red and green, neutralized. Okay? Now I'm leaving that little green nub 'cause it's just the right color. It's perfect. Okay now. I'm gonna add a little more red, in the shadow area here, just to make sure it's dark enough and dense enough, and I could do it again once it dries. Okay. Now, I'll wait 'til it dries and I'll scrub out the highlights again, I'll find them again. So the last thing I'm gonna do, I'm gonna use a really big brush to give this information back there, and what I think I'll do, I'm gonna make that brown, I know there's a fair amount of yellow in it, and there's also a little bit of the cad red, not too much though, we don't want to fight with that pepper, we want some of that green to come through, so I'm just gonna lay down this kind of orangy tone. Keep it thin, keep it transparent, keep it related to what I'm seeing but also, for the picture itself, I want there to bear a relationship between all the other colors, so I'm keeping this, there's absolutely no opacity, it's super light, super thin, it is not competing saturation-wise with the pepper. Even though the pepper's really neutral, it's still more saturated than this color in the background. This color in the background's fairly neutral. Okay, so let me get this done quickly. A little more red. But you can see, we've gotten a ton of color out of very few colors, and that's, I really want people to see that, like look at all the color that I have found with basically a yellow, two reds, and a blue. And that's, I think, kind of exciting when that happens. Let's get this down. And you can see too, the size of my brush really has a relationship to how much landscape, how much coverage I need to make. Now, what I would do if we had, you know, if I was sitting in my studio, I'd probably wet this whole area with just water, and then I would hit the color in it, 'cause the water would help move it around. You get a little more streak when you haven't wet the paper first. Even if there's color on there, you can still wet it, it doesn't matter. It shouldn't move unless you have a very heavy touch and you're ruttening the color right off the surface. That should only happen when you're trying to scrub it. Okay, so here is my background. Now, this piece right now looks super neutral. It's related. It's harmonizing. Things relate to each other, but there's a neutrality factor, because we haven't put any of the opaque color that's gonna pop right off the surface.

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.