Saturday, May 31, 2008

Toning the Palette

American illustrator Andrew Loomis in Creative Illustration (1947) recommends a method called “toning” the palette or spectrum. The way you do it is to choose a single color and mix it into all the other colors on the palette. The amount of this toning color can be a little or a lot depending on how subtle you want the effect to be.

In this set of samples, clockwise from upper left, he has toned the colors with red, blue, green and orange. The addition of a single color to the colors on the palette cuts back on the saturation of all the other colors, the toning color staying the same.

It would be a good exercise to try this method as a set of adjacent experiments, as Loomis has done. Side by side the color keys are obvious; alone it can be hard to see the effect. Note, too, that Loomis has chosen to feature his toning color prominently in the dress or the background. He doesn’t say this, but I would recommend that you tone the white with the theme color as well, because white sets the key for any color scheme.

More Loomis online, link.


Gannon said...

Thanks Mr. Gurney,

The Andrew Loomis books are my favorite. I haven't delved into "Creative Illustration" as much as his other books, because I need to get the fundamentals down better. I think I'm close though.

One question: I've seen the PDFs of the Loomis books online in several places. Are there any copyright issues with downloading these books? It's a travesty that they are out of print.


Anonymous said...

Hey James,

This is a great exercise, I'll definitely give this a try.

I just did a similar exercise, trying to match Bouguereau's skin mixtures. I realized that the fewer colors I used, the better the results.

I mixed red into all the other colors on my palette. This gave me the same effect of Toning the palette.

The Palette:
Cad. Red Light,
Cad. Yellow Medium,
and Ivory Black and White.

I mixed red and white. red and black. red and yellow. black, red, and yellow, and so on.

Worked great, Thanks for this wonderful post.


Raluca said...

a good advise for chromatic armony!I´ll try it!

Steven K said...

Creative Illustration is back in print from Titan Books. It is scheduled for release in September, and can be pre-ordered now at Highly-recommended - the best $13.57 you'll ever spend.

Hello, Jim!

Steven Kloepfer

James Gurney said...

Thanks, all, and Steve, that's great news about Creative Illustration. I hope it does well so that they bring the other books back into print. Long overdue!