Colour picking: Good or Evil?
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Thread: Colour picking: Good or Evil?

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    Colour picking: Good or Evil?

    Hi all,

    what are your opinions for using the colour picker for studies. I've been attempting some studies recently, but they've all used the colour picker. Do you think this is acceptable for a beginner artist?


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    I think the most important thing to note when attempting a "study" is to have a very clear and focused goal.

    What exactly are you trying to get out of the study? (Rendering Style, Composition, Values, Material Indication, Use of Color, etc...)
    Much of what I see beginner artist's referring to as "studies" are essentially just doing their best to copy what they see without really digging in and focusing on specific things like those I've mentioned.

    That being said, color is not something I would recommend focusing on as a beginner. Strong values are the basis of indicating form and creating strong compositions, so I would suggest you pay more attention to value than color.

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    Quote Originally Posted by L4xord View Post
    Colour picking: Good or Evil?
    Neither: it is pointless.

    You do a study to learn something. Not only are you copying a photo, which already is quite pointless because you have zero control of light, perspective and composition, but you aren't even learning to get color and value right by eye.

    Go set up a still life and draw that, instead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oceanic View Post
    I think the most important thing to note when attempting a "study" is to have a very clear and focused goal.

    That being said, color is not something I would recommend focusing on as a beginner. Strong values are the basis of indicating form and creating strong compositions, so I would suggest you pay more attention to value than color.
    Didn't think of that... so I have to have a goal... thanks!
    I am actually using value, is it recommended to use the picker tool for value?


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    I generally say evil, because it doesn't actually teach anything by using the eyedropper and taking colour from your reference. The only time I think it is acceptable is when doing professional concept art and it's a matter of saving time, although remember that even to do this successfully the person needs to know a fair bit about colour beforehand (same thing with something like tracing, pros will sometimes do it to save time, but to do it well you need to know how to draw manually).



    Anyways, I took a look at your sketchbook, and you are at a very early stage in art, so I would actually say to avoid colour altogether. I would also say that you aren't ready yet to paint, but telling beginners to not paint is very pointless because they do it anyways since it is more fun than drawing.

    Honestly, the most important thing for you is to focus as much as you can on drawing skills. Stop doing all those gesture drawings for now because you aren't at a level where you can get anything from them. The very first stage in drawing is learning to see accurately, and until you can do that you can't really progress to anywhere else or study other things, because you need to be able to see accurately to do those things. A breakdown of how I think one progresses with art in stages:
    1- Is not able to observe accurately; often draws symbolically (triangle nose, flat almond eyes etc), or draws what they think they see rather than what they actually see. Bad proportions.
    2- Learns to see 2d shapes; can accurately reproduce images in front of them by noting angle, size relationships, negative space, etc. Good proportions.
    3- Learns to see value; can copy 2d shapes of value accurately.
    4- Learns to think in 3d; can analyze forms from reference and understand structure.
    5- Internalizes 3d structure; can construct forms without reference and understands how to light it. No longer a slave to reference as is able to comprehend and manipulate as needed.


    Currently you are in the 1st stage I have laid out (or somewhere between stage 1 and 2). I suggest grabbing a photo or a still life, and, TAKING YOUR TIME, draw it as accurately as possible. It will probably take a few hours. Look at the 2d shapes of things and learn to copy them out. Note what angle things are at, and how long one area is compared to the one next to it. Start with just line now. Keep those studies up until you consistently produce a drawing that if you were to overlay it over the reference everything would align perfectly. Then do the same exercise but add in shading. Once can accurately copy a rendered image in pencil you can begin to worry about painting, and once you know how to paint in greyscale you can begin thinking about colour.

    That's not to say that you are forbidden from doing any painting or colour work in the mean time. Traditionally (as in, in big Academies of art) you would be forbidden from these things. But practically it's probably a good idea to play around with them since it will keep you interested in art and keep you having fun. Be aware that you won't really get much from painting right now until you do the aforementioned exercises though.

    Anyways, just my suggestions for now. It's the hard truth, but to get good drawing skills one has to spend a lot of time doing boring and repetitive exercises. The good news is that as you do them more you start to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of things, and there is a very good chance you will reach a point where it is fun instead of dull.

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    Wow! Very useful post!


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    Evil if used thoughtlessly, evil if one becomes dependent on it, good if used intelligently.

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    Quote Originally Posted by L4xord View Post
    I am actually using value, is it recommended to use the picker tool for value?
    Not if you're actually trying to learn anything about seeing and translating values, no.

    If you really want to learn about value, you'll get a lot further by drawing with plain old pencil or charcoal on paper for a while. When you can master value in traditional media, it'll be a piece of cake to work with value in digital media. (And if for some reason you decide to use the color picker at that point, at least you'll know what you're doing with it - otherwise you're using it blindly.)

    Another thing about using the color picker for anything... If you're picking colors off of a jpeg of a photo or something similar, what you're picking from are not smooth or solid colors. Areas that seem to be a single color are more likely to be a mishmash of different colored pixels, so when you pick a color, odds are you are NOT getting the color you think you picked! And unless you really know what you're doing, you might not be able to tell that it's the wrong color.

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    I agree with dose that used intelligently it is a good tool, for example for demonstrating to a class in a general way how the various components in the subject may relate to the Munsell value scale (= 0.1 x the L of Lab in the picker). Of course you emphasize that the numbers you get are only precise for the particular photo, and you could even show how the relationships shift at a different exposure. It is also often very revealing to show how different some colours in the picture look in isolation.

    After making these points initially I'd of course work by eye rather than constant colour picking, and like others I'd advise the OP to do plenty of studies using a greyscale palette before moving on to full colour (both in traditional media and in digital).

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    Just dont use it.. period. Force yourself to recognize the colors by eye, that will make your life easier down the road.

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    Well if you want to do a study with accurate color, what is the point of using a color picker? If the study is for the purposes of learning, what could the color picker help you to learn?

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    It's neither good nor evil, it's just limited. You're not going to be able to use it when you work from a live model, so unless you want to live out the rest of your artist life stuck to your computer and digital photos, you'll have to know how to work without it. And since you get better at what you practice, if you want to be able to eyeball colour you'll have to practice that sooner or later.

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    Wow..!! This information is really very helpful..!! Rally nice and informative thread..!

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    I sometimes use the color picker just to double check myself or try to figure out how the lighting in a painting works. Like, are my eyes telling me the truth that this is shadow actually blue, or is it a neutral color that just looks that way? But I never sample a color to use in the painting itself. Also, sometimes you want to paint with the percieved color, rather than what it actually is in a photograph.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tobbA View Post
    I sometimes use the color picker just to double check myself or try to figure out how the lighting in a painting works. Like, are my eyes telling me the truth that this is shadow actually blue, or is it a neutral color that just looks that way? But I never sample a color to use in the painting itself
    Yes, this is an intelligent and helpful way to use color picking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DreamArt View Post
    Well if you want to do a study with accurate color, what is the point of using a color picker? If the study is for the purposes of learning, what could the color picker help you to learn?
    To get better at eyeballing colour, by testing if your visual judgements are right, and which ones you tend to get wrong. To show a class that some of the colours on the model need to be richer, and others greyer, and many others much darker, than most beginners would think to mix as "flesh colour". To show that a dull green mixture on the palette will suddenly look bright yellow when you paint it on the shadow side of a lemon......

    Lots of uses if you approach the question inventively, and don't see using the colour picker only as an alternative to recognizing colours by eye.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tobbA View Post
    I sometimes use the color picker just to double check myself or try to figure out how the lighting in a painting works. Like, are my eyes telling me the truth that this is shadow actually blue, or is it a neutral color that just looks that way? But I never sample a color to use in the painting itself. Also, sometimes you want to paint with the percieved color, rather than what it actually is in a photograph.
    I was hoping somebody else would say this, and I wasn't alone in using colour picking to check my work. I honestly find it extremely useful as a learning tool, provided a) it's used sparingly, b) it's only used after attempting to eyeball it, and c) the results are always questioned. If you're way off the mark, you can ask why. What was it about this colour that led to the wrong conclusion on what I was seeing? Was it a preconceived notion of the local colour, was it an optical illusion created by the hues around it? Doing this has taught me a lot, especially in screencap studies, where movie lighting can create some really interesting illusions. (I know I've done a couple of Blade Runner studies where what I was sure pink turned out to be a desaturated purple or even a very desaturated blue. Learned a lot about how greys read next to strong colours.)

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    What is painting but a facilitator of choice.
    Why do you want to become an artist?
    So that you can play 'spot the difference' better?

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