Most of us spend a lot of time coloring within the lines…but have you ever thought about coloring outside of them, too?
Coloring outside the lines or doing backgrounds can be daunting, even for the most seasoned colorist out there. The background sets the mood of the entire coloring page. One mistake can ruin the entire drawing, so a lot of coloring enthusiasts approach backgrounds with a lot of caution and doubt.
When done right, however, backgrounds can elevate the most simple coloring page into a superb work of art. Background art lends character and depth to your work, and it can make lighting, perspective, and the entire tone of your coloring page look so much better.
If you need some help in upping your background art game, don’t stress. Here are some top tips on how to create a stunning backdrop for your coloring pages.
Do You Really Need To Color The Background?
Let’s get one thing straight before we begin: you can create backgrounds for coloring pages, but not all coloring pages need a background. For example, if you’ve got an intricate design like a mandala or doodle that takes up the whole page, you most likely will not need to color in a background.
But if you’re doing an illustration with, say, the beach or a deer in the forest, then a beautiful backdrop is a must if you want to emphasize and really bring the subjects of the coloring page forward.
Plan Your Palette
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to prepare for your background!
Coming up with a gorgeous background takes a lot of careful planning. If you like to pick colors with your eyes closed randomly, well, you might want to reconsider. As mentioned earlier, color combinations can significantly affect the entire illustration. They can dictate the whole mood of the drawing, so choose your color palette carefully before you start coloring.
Bright colors denote high and vibrant energy, so pick these if you want to create something uplifting. Just be careful not to choose something that’s too harsh as it might distract the viewer from the main subject of the coloring page. Remember, the goal of the background is to highlight the focal points of the illustration, not distract the viewer.
If you want to use bright colors, choose a combination that’s pleasing to the eye. You can use colors from the same family, or play around with some complementary picks. Choose something subdued like pastel shades for a softer effect and stay away from harsh neons.
If you want a dark, moody palette, go for something that would make the subject striking. For more tips on how to choose a visually pleasing color palette, check out our previous blog post here— it’s got a lot of awesome tutorials on color theory to help you pick the right color combination!
Choose A Good Medium
When it comes to backgrounds, choosing a great color palette is only the beginning. You also have to pick a coloring medium that’s perfect for your needs. Broad alcohol-based markers and watercolor brush pens are great for creating backdrops because they can cover a large area with minimal effort and finger fatigue.
Markers are great for seamless blending. They also dry easily, allowing you to add in many layers without damaging your paper.
Watercolor brush pens, on the other hand, are great for doing gradient washes and other dreamy effects.
You can still use colored pencils and gel pens of course. Just make sure to use a technique that will not hurt your wrists or fingers, like stippling, cross-hatching and vignetting. You can also use these mediums to add details and highlights to your coloring pages for more depth and texture.
Play Around With Shadows, Highlights, and Perspective
Coloring backgrounds is a great opportunity to play around with shadows, highlights, and perspective. These elements add depth to your coloring page, making the illustrations look more lifelike and three-dimensional.
To know where to place your shadows and highlights, you have to determine your light source. Is it coming from the setting sun or is it hitting your subjects front and center? Maybe you’re doing a nighttime scene and your subjects are being illuminated by the moon and starlight. Your imagination is the limit!
From there, play around with the shadows and highlights. Areas that get hit by the light source are, of course, brighter, while the opposite sides should be in shadow.
To create the impression of distance, subjects that are farther off should appear smaller. As for the sky, keep its color lighter near the horizon. The opposite is true if you’re coloring the sea. It should be lighter near the shore and darker farther out.
You Don’t Have To Do The Entire Background
Not feeling confident about doing that large expanse of negative space around the illustration? No worries! If you don’t want to color the entire background…you can go for a vignetted style instead.
To put it simply, vignetting is a style that you can achieve by softening or shading around the edges of the main subject. You can use this style to emphasize the subjects without having to color the entire negative space around it.
Or You Can Make Up Something That’s Entirely Your Own
Some coloring pages have lots of blank spaces— why not fill it up with details of your own? Sketch elements like trees, rocks, flowers or an entire scenery with pencil first and then ink it in with a smudge-free felt tip pen. Once all that’s done, you can go ahead and color away!
See, that wasn’t so bad, right? Coloring backgrounds can be fun and easy! With the right color palette, tools and techniques, you can create a stunning background that will enhance the entire coloring page.
Apply these background coloring tips on your next coloring session and let us know how it goes by adding a comment down below. Don’t forget to share this with your friends so you can have more fun coloring backgrounds together!