Mandala Design Step 2: Color Test

When creating a physical- rather than digital- piece of artwork, I like to give myself a quick test run of color palettes before actually completing the work. Nothing feels quite as frustrating as working hard on a piece with a particular palette in mind, only to find that it doesn’t come near to the “vision” upon completion. It happens to all of us, though I do know some people who are utter palette wizards. I am not one of them. In the digital world, this really isn’t much of a problem as there are tons of tools for color correction and “just do it over” is pretty easily achieved. Having to toss and re-do entire physical images, on the other hand, can feel like an infuriating loss of time, money and resources.
To save myself the hassle, I try to plan ahead. Doing the test run in Photoshop is easy and allows me to view a wide range of choices without having to physically create them. The only pitfall is the large amount of color choices- it’s important to be sure you’re only using colors available in your chosen medium if you decide to try this.
Starting off is very easy- simply scan your artwork (or take a high quality photo if you have no scanner) and open the jpeg in Photoshop. Duplicate the locked “background” layer, then delete the original. Set the duplicate background to “multiply”, create a new blank layer and move it under the line art. Now you can paint on the blank layer. I did this with last week’s mandala design.

 

finished_mandala
I chose to do five different test runs of colors- warm, cool, a gradient and two free designs. For the warm set, I restricted myself to only three colors- red, orange and yellow- with no variation of shade. Colors like pink, peach or brown could also be added to a warm palette, but I wanted the “heat” and the challenge of keeping things simple.

 

mandala_color_test_warm
I used more variation in shade for the cool colors. Dark blue naturally recedes and allows brighter, more saturated colors to really stand out.

 

mandala_color_test_cool
For the gradient, I decided to work from warm to cool colors, inside to out. Aside from the innermost sunburst and the outer circle/diamond pattern, there is a mix of warm and cool colors on each “level”. Using the rainbow (ROYGBIV) spectrum I worked from red to orange, orange to yellow, yellow to green, green to blue, blue to violet and then back to red.

 

mandala_color_test_gradient
The final two tests were a mix of all my available colors. The first was an entirely random choice of combinations I thought would work well.

 

mandala_color_test
The second involved more planning, borrowing bits and pieces from the tests I’d already created.

 

mandala_color_test_2
From these tests (or perhaps even another one), I’ll chose my palette and begin work on the physical piece with a greater confidence than I would otherwise. If anyone has an opinion on which palette to go with, I’m all ears… or, uh, eyes rather. Happy painting!

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