Category Archives: colour

Colour update

I think I’m getting the hang of playing with colour.

I started by digging out the coloured pens that W- gave me a long time ago. They still worked, yay! I started mixing green (and sometimes red) into my index cards. Sometimes I remembered to draw with them from the beginning, and other times I drew over black ink.

2015-01-28 11_38_42-Flickr_ Your Photostream

While going through my drawer, I came across a ten-pack of Sharpie accent highlighters and started using them too. I highlighted the cards before scanning them, which gave me an opportunity to review the card and think about what was important. I liked the highlighters more than the pens because the colours were more vivid. It was fun putting together blog posts that had index cards with different colours on them.

2015-01-26 12_03_12-Flickr_ Your Photostream

Now I’ve been experimenting with digital colour. I like this even more than the highlighters, as I get to pick any colour I want and I can erase or layer things as needed. To colour these, I added a layer on top of my image and set the layer’s mode to Multiply. The last image in this set was done with a Sharpie marker, since there were a bunch of coloured markers at the lab.

2015-01-28 11_33_49-Flickr_ Your Photostream

It’s surprisingly relaxing to colour things on my computer. I think about what colours different concepts feel like, pick a colour from the Copic colour swatches built into Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, and paint it onto the scanned index card. While I’m doing that, follow-up questions sometimes occur to me.

I’ve also been thinking about how I can draw more of these index cards on my computer. I’m going through quite a lot of index cards and I’m just about due for a pen refill, so maybe there’s a way I can draw more on my computer while reducing the mental friction. Hmm.

2015-01-30 Imagining digital index cards -- index card #drawing

There are trade-offs, of course. It’s not as easy to see other cards or organize them into piles, and my computer isn’t as handy or as portable as a deck of index cards. But still, it’s fun.

2015-01-31 Digital index card trade-offs -- index card #drawing

2015-01-31 Digital index card trade-offs – index card #drawing

Some other ideas:

2015-01-17 Playing with the index card format -- index card #drawing

2015-01-17 Playing with the index card format – index card #drawing

Drawing on my computer gives me more flexibility, since I can move things around or use whatever colours I want. The main thing I need to do, I think, is to calibrate the aspect ratio and the grid size so that the digital sketches feel like my paper ones, since an index card seems to be a good size for thoughts. I think that drawing digitally also nudges me towards more colourful sketches. Here’s an example “index card” that I drew on my computer:

2015-01-30 Sunlight in a cafe -- index card #cafe #light

Hmm. Actually, digital index cards are working out wonderfully. I’ve been tweaking my workflow and I’m quite happy with the reduced friction.

2015-02-04 Digital index cards are working well -- index card #drawing #digital

2015-02-04 Digital index cards are working well – index card #drawing #digital

I’m still not as comfortable with vibrant colours as I used to be, but I’ll get there. And yeah, it feels a little indulgent to spend the extra couple of minutes colouring each card (not that the thoughts on those cards are particularly insightful or worthy of attention), but it’s fun and it helps me learn.

Whee!

Building a habit of drawing with colours

If I don’t think about colour, I tend to not use it. I draw with whatever’s handy: blue pens, black pens, anything I’m carrying around. So one day I talked myself into being okay with this. (Click on images for larger versions.)

2013-11-21 I've decided to stop caring about pen colour

Figure 1: I’ve decided to stop caring about pen colour

I think this is just me compromising with myself, though. I think there’s more that I can do, more that I can learn.

On the computer, different colours are just a click away, so I use them. Here’s something I coloured in while waiting for the speaker to get through a very long line of people who wanted to talk to him. It’s nowhere near as colourful as the graphic recordings on OgilvyNotes.com or @agentfin’s sketchnotes, but I like it.

20130611 How to Live an Amazing Life - C.C. Chapman - Third Tuesday Toronto

Figure 2: How to Live an Amazing Life (C.C. Chapman, Third Tuesday Toronto)

Actually, colour is a lot of fun. It goes a long way towards making the sketches more approachable, less intimidating, easier to visually distinguish. That’s handy when I’m looking at my Flickr photostream or through my print-outs. Besides, the coloured sketches feel more polished. They make me feel better. (Then I worry that they become intimidating… So maybe the mix is all right – coloured sketches and plain ones, all jumbled up.)

How can I colour more? How can I make it part of my workflow? How can I practise and get good enough at it that it becomes a habit?

2014-01-02 What would it take to make colour part of my workflow

Figure 3: What would it take to make colour part of my workflow?

After drawing that, I started experimenting with switching pen colours. Red and black are classic combinations. This one was fun to do, and it didn’t take that much more thought compared to a plain black one. No post-processing, too.

2014-01-02 Google Helpouts - Imagining an ideal session

Figure 4: Google Helpouts: Imagining an ideal session

Drawing on the computer still produces more confident lines and colours, though. Maybe it’s the pen width, and the ease of switching between background highlights and pen colours?

2013-11-29 Helpers Helpout 02 - Communicating with Clients Before and After Helpouts

Figure 5: Helpers Helpout #2: Communicating with customers before and after Helpouts

So… Hmm. How can I make drawing with colour more habitual?

  • When I draw on paper, I will keep red and black pens handy. I think that will prompt me to use red for highlights, and red is more vivid than blue. If I’m working at a table, it’s easy to slow down and switch. I can use that as thinking time.
  • When I draw on paper, I’ll try staying with the density of figure 4 versus figure 1 – write fewer words and leave more space. I might also try out 0.5mm or 0.6mm pens (currently on 0.4mm) to see if that gives me a different feel.
  • When I process scanned sketches, I will colour at least one of them each day before moving them into my Flickr sync folder. That usually gets me to colour the rest.
  • At least once a week (probably every Thursday), I’ll draw on my computer instead of on paper. I’ve been minimizing the number of events and presentations I do and focusing instead on my own content, so I’ve been drawing on paper more than on my computer. Setting aside some time to work on my computer will encourage me to keep tweaking the workflow, and I like the feel of my computer-drawn images more.

Did you teach yourself to use colour? How was that process for you?

Update 2014-01-03: Here’s a related post about different colouring styles I’ve used

Sketchnote Lesson: Adding color

This entry is part 2 of 11 in the series Sketchnote Lessons

Color is a great way to add visual interest and guide people’s eyes to what you want them to focus on. Here’s Kevin Dulle’s sketchnote lesson on adding emphasis with shadows and color:

using-color

Reposted with permission – check out his blog for more tips!

If you’re starting out with sketchnotes, you don’t have to use color right away. Go ahead and draw with whatever you feel comfortable with, whether that’s a black technical pen, a 4-color ballpen, or a digital stylus.

You can always add color afterwards. On paper, you can use crayons, colored pencils, highlighters, markers, and so on. Make sure you test it in an inconspicuous area (maybe on a separate piece of paper) because your coloring method may interact badly with your drawing.

You can also add color on the computer. I prefer this way because then I can easily change my mind about what colors to use. Erasing is easier. Learn how to use the software tools that are out there. Here is a quick video I put together on how to use the free GIMP tool to add color by either replacing the ink that’s there (as if you changed pens) or adding color on top (as if you used a highlighter).

Okay, so that takes care of the mechanics. What about the styles?

Develop your personal style by looking for inspiration and experimenting with ideas. In addition to checking out people’s sketchnotes, look elsewhere for interesting color combinations: nature, art, product designs, and so on. Try different techniques and colors.

Here’s a sampler of different coloring styles I’ve played with in my sketchnotes:

image Highlighter
I like this because it’s super-easy to add quickly if you’re drawing digitally – just add a new layer below your text.
Visual Book Review: The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything… Fast
image Color as accent for images
You can add this while drawing by switching between pens (on paper) or between colors (if digital), or you can use the Color layer trick in the video to add it afterwards.
How to use Evernote to improve your visual thinking
image Colors with meanings
Here I used red to indicate the path of my mistakes and blue to indicate what I could improve.
An embarrassing failure is the result of a series of unfortunate decisions, and that’s a good thing.
image Emphasis
Red is a great color for drawing attention. Coloring your headlines helps set them apart.
Visual Book Review: Running Lean – Ash Maurya
image Extra information
You can also use gray or lighter colours to include extra information that people don’t need to focus on.
Visual Book Review: The Start-Up of You – Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha
image Depth
You can use a lighter colour for shading or depth.
Visual Book Review: The Sketchnote Handbook
image Branding
Pick up colors from company logos or event materials to make your sketchnotes look more like part of the event.
Sketchnotes: #INNOTalkTO Innovatively Speaking
image Lots of colors
This is fun to do when you have more time. In this case, I colored in my sketchnote while waiting in line for an “autograph.”
Sketchnotes: How to Live an Amazing Life – C.C.Chapman

Sketchnote Army has a wide variety of sketchnoting styles. Flip through it, see what you like, and try playing around with those ideas. Have fun!

Like this? Check out the other sketchnote lessons and learn more. Feel free to suggest topics, ask questions, or share your own tips!