Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tiny Color Studies

One of my favorite parts of the illustration process is the color study.

I used to forego painted color studies, instead relying solely on a digitally rendered study. However, I've found tiny painted studies to be helpful tools before I begin working on a final painting.

While some artists do larger, more detailed studies. I prefer to work tiny to problem solve at this stage. For me, it's the color and painted version of a thumbnail. Not only does it save paper, but these tiny studies are quick. They allow me to do several potential versions in a short amount of time. (For each study shared below, I've included the full-sized measurements.)

My studies are often messy, but I do attempt to be somewhat organized and lay out a test strip of the colors that I'm considering for the piece on the same paper that I will be using for the final. I work with a variety of different papers and each reacts to the paint in different ways.


I usually lay out a basic thumbnail of the larger painting and block in the major colors. On the same strip of paper, I also test different combinations of paint to figure out what works best for the particular piece in question.


When I'm being really organized and taking my time, I label each layer and how it was made.

(paper is roughly 6x5.325", each thumbnail is about 2x1.5")

These studies, though tiny, can still be extremely detailed.


Color studies are invaluable. They can be used to test every part of your painting but on a quick, small, and easy scale.

They can serve as tests for background effects,


for testing details, like patterns and plaids,


or they help answer larger questions, like overall palette.

(paper is 5x4", each thumbnail is roughly 2x1.25")

If your process involves paint, I would urge you to try out some quick tiny studies. I hope you find them useful!

~~ Lisa ~~

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Lisa Anchin is a Brooklyn based children's illustrator doodling her way across the five boroughs. You can see more of her work at, on instagram @lisa.anchin, and on twitter @lisaanchin 

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