First of all, a foreword that none of this is the "right way" to do anything - it's just things I've noticed, and noted down for myself, and work with. If you're finding you have some issues, like some stuff is just looking chaotic to you or your colors just don't seem to be working out, here's a pretty good primer of why or how that might be.

So, studying color theory helps a lot! ...But you also don't have to stick to any one specific way of coloring it. For example, I don't stick to just one method of coloring, though there are a few I tend to try and keep to moderation; I'll mark them as such below, but I go over a few kinds of shading color methods here.

This is by no means the end be all, nor is it extenstive; it's just my observations, from reading a lot of things, observing things that seemed good to me, and studying color theory in a lot of books and online.

If you're here for the shading types, please refer To my Shading Styles!

Color Theory: Why it can help

So hey, studying color theory helps a lot! ...But you also don't have to stick to any one specific way of coloring it. For example, I don't stick to just one method of coloring, though there are a few I tend to try and keep to moderation.

This is by no means the end be all, nor is it extenstive; it's just my observations, from reading a lot of things, observing things that seemed good to me, and studying color theory in a lot of books and online.

I ask you to keep in mind that nobody - nobody - can stop you from doing any of the things you want to, like using this color with that color, absolutely. Go for it if you like it and htink it looks good, but there's also something to be said for hleping keep things look a little more like they " belong," so to speak.

And to keep in mind that if someone says they "hate this character's colors," or say they don't enjoy your character, or aren't interested in, or didn't enjoy, or say they won't enjoy, drawing them (even though they're not a mecha or kind of character they have on their "Do Not Do This" list), maybe there's a reason for that, related to colors.

This isn't always the case - or often, really - but it can also explain why you might feel like you're "bad with colors" or don't feel like your characters really feel very tied in, even though they feel like the theme you want outside of that!

Basically, this stuff can help a lot with understanding characters, moods, and atmosphere and all of that jazz.

And please remember that I, despite writing up this, love a lot of Digimon, and they do a lot of this stuff I talk about not being so good, but I go more over that later on.

"Color Unfication"

You might've noticed that I partake in this kind of weird thing where I make sure every color, if applicable, shares an place with another thing. So if one thing has, say, two kinds of whites, I make them both the same white; or the same black, or so-forth. This also applies to making eye colors different on things.

This is called "color unfication" - it makes each color seem like it "belongs" more, because it has a twin, and can make more unique colors "pop" more. If you have four colors that appear in unique spots, none of them feel too unique and it feels haphazard.

However, don't let that dissuade you from doing that if you want to - this is just how I do it, because it feels better for me personally. If you're finding your art feels a bit chaotic to you and you want to tone it down a little bit, and have these "unique" colors pop, trying color unification as it's called may help.

...So, here's a primer on how that works.

Here's a picture with a lot of colors thrown haphazardly all over, right? it feels kind of chaotic because, yeah, some things have a twin some places, but there's a whole lot of hues and colors similiar being used, and it makes it feel kind of chaotic.
This isn't the best example of what I mean by "lots of colors," since some hues are still teh same (like there's a bunch of purples and whatnot, but most people don't even do that).

Looking at it, it feels pretty chaotic and kind of dissoant, like nothing really "belongs" and like nothing really feels "tied" in.

And... Here's the exact same picture, with same hues and whatnot, but with different values and stuff tying it in.

All of the pinks, blues, and yellows have been all changed to be consistent with each other, and even the browns and reds have been changed to be more conssitent with each other, as has the blacks; everything has a twin. It feels a lot more unfied, despite the colors overall being the same, as far as hues (except for the orange, mostly, but it was an necessary sacrifrice to make). As a result, the red on the shirt pops more now, as well.

Here's another example of color unfication and why variety can help a lot.

Here, literally evertything used is a shade of blue, but a lot of them are sort of close together,s o it feels kind of plain and not really all that interesting to look at.

There's not really that much to say, but with a few (and I do mean very few) changes....

I changed two blues' values to be darker, and changed one of these blues' values to be more purple-orineted, making it stand out more. I also changed two of the blues to be more seafoam-like, and now it stands out a little more and feels less plain.

What happens if I add in one color that's not some sort of blue/green at all?

This happens! the Oranges, despite being twins (eyes + belt buckle), "pop" out at you a lot, and it draws your eye to it but not in an obstructive way.

Chances are, no matter where you are in your life, you've tried to do something like high-saturation colors on other saturated colors (neon on neons, and such). Nobody can stop you from doing this, but it doesn't look great (generally) and it often causes eyestrain.

I'm talking about things like this:

Just a little variance in values (not hues!) can change a lot:

and changing one or two of hte colors to largely neutral colors (blacks, whites, browns) can help a lot, as can varying the values of the colors:

With another example;

This one is much worse because I'm just using the colors as an example, so the clothes are largely left blank (black).

In one of my favorite how to draw books I re-read oftentimes (I bought it when I was a kid), Dragonart by Jessica P. "Neondragon" Peffer, the author mentions that "just because your dragon's red, you don't have to use the reddest red avaiable," and that's stuck with me for a long time, and I think that's how best to describe this problem here.

Just because you want something to be yellow, or green, you don't have to use the brightest color there; vaying it can save a lot of eyestrain and trouble figuring out other colors that look good with it. Mind, it's fine to use neon or super bright colors -

just use them in moderation iwthin designs and in the least, put a "buffer" (neutral color or such) in-between them(pictured below).

It's really best if you change one of the values, though:

Basically, just don't pick from an swatch of MSpaint colors (the very old one before the new one replaced it; you know the one I'm talking about), these are allhigh-saturation and the colors people tend to pick from most for designs.

In the interest of comparsion's sake, also, here's hte same picture from the start but desaturated:

It still kinda looks a bit "bad" in that vein, but less so because at least it's not fighting for dominance over your eye-space as much.


Here's our subject I'm going to be using for everything in shading! Say hello to Vark!

So, shading is a can of worms in itself.

Chances are, no matter your skill level or if you started a while ago and then stopped, or whatever; chances are incredibly high that you've heard, "Don't shade with white or black", but like no one ever explains that.

It's not that it looks "bad" to a lot of people - God, no, a lot of people who are super good at art and whatnot still do that kind of thing- it's just that it tends to make things look "boring," and not very exciting to look at visually; shading alone can add a lot there.

So here I'm going to go over some ways of shading that I often swap around, and i'll probably expand upon, and add more, later!

Here's it with black-white shading; it's pretty "plain". It's very effective at showign that it's shaded and whatnot, but it just looks... not very peppy? You cna leave it here if you want to, there's nothing wrong if you shade like this with these colors, at all. It just doesn't feel very interesting to a lot of people.

Here's one that's slightly more interesting, becauseo f how the colors were varied; see below.

I usually move the color bar up for highlights/lighter shading, and down for darker shading, but sometimes I do the reverse to make it more interesting.

And here's an pretty wild one: What I call the "zigzag" method, an method I picked up from Deviantart of all places, but one that serves pretty well in "making it look exciting".

And here's the one I do most often; you can also do this with cel-shading (but it looks pretty damn weird), and I tend to do it with blending brushes:

You just use the other colors from the same picture to shade it. For exmaple, I used the yellow already present in the design (from flat colors) to shade quite a few things, and did the same with a lot of colors around here; none of the colors are "new" outside of the flats.

You can even do fun stuff with gradients; just take an shading layer (I used the same one from my B/W shading example here) and slapped on an gradient of red to blue diagonally:

Or you can even just do orange to yellow:

Gradients alone can add a lot of fun pizzazz to cel-shading, as long as you lock that layer and slap the gradient over the shading alone. I super suggest trying it out for some exciting-ness.

For interest, here's the flat picture with just an gradient slapped over it:

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