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General Background Advice by purplekecleon General Background Advice by purplekecleon
I know a lot of people struggle with them. I am tired of "tutorials" that give an outline on how to make a cookie-cutter version of what someone else does: those are not useful except to replicate an effect someone else already uses! Those will not help a whole lot, and I've made ones like that in the past. This is more like a TLDR version of something that will be in my color book when it's ready, using a speedpaint from the Pal/Palette story as an example.

This simply offers things to think about with some examples of each of the things: more detail can be covered on each of these aspects, undoubtedly, but this is just a general advice thing. I will make a more detailed one when it comes to my book, with several examples on composing backgrounds and how to approach that. I favor teaching how to critically think about your work rather than giving a tip on exactly how to work like someone!

Feel free to ask questions + address things I wasn't able to cover in depth here: I'll try to give a response over time, and it will give me things to think about for the better version

Here on tumblr for easy sharing: [link]
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:icondeathchef:
DeathChef Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2015  Student Digital Artist
I like your lack of care for language use
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:iconsorain26:
Sorain26 Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013  Student General Artist
Nice advice, thanks.
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:iconlukemif:
LukeMif Featured By Owner May 14, 2013  Student General Artist
Just a quick question, what brush do you use?
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:iconkemonoapocalypse:
KemonoApocalypse Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Man this is helpful, I have serious palette keeping issues.
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:iconankh-ascendant:
Ankh-Ascendant Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I was linked this in a critique and I find it very woeful, although also intimidating. Man I'm bad at this stuff ^^;
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:iconmeownyo:
meownyo Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012   Digital Artist
Probably one of the best things since slice bread, thanks for creating this!
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:iconiamanelebiscarra:
iAmAneleBiscarra Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
the art community should be thankful for this! kudos!
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:iconsteamed-bun:
Steamed-Bun Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2012
oh my kaerg this is probably one of the most useful tutorials I've found TAT!!! Thank you so much for this, I've always had such a struggle with backgrounds, and its been holding me back in my art. I will definitely be studying this tutorial and applying it to my work! thank you so much for posting this!
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:iconelindor:
elindor Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I think it's so interesting to see the way in which you paint. It's lovely and smeary and textured and I really adore it. It's something that I wish I could do and I'd love to practice it a lot more.
I've never really painted in grey and then gone over it in colour. And seeing that you put different tones over before you start colouring more is cool!
I also need to do backgrounds more. I feel like I've become such a lazy artist for the past couple of years (barely doing more than sketches and lazily cel shading and argh argh i hate it) so maybe this will light a bit of a fire under me to actually start making some art instead of just scribbles.

And the fact that there's different values in tone and saturation etc in the different areas of the painting has just clicked for me and I'm going to attempt it! I never really thought about it before (because i am lazy and don't do backgrounds >M< )



I also love the brush you're using, it's like you're dragging a palette knife over your colours. Is that just in sai or do you know if there is a photoshop equivalent?
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:icongoldgust:
goldgust Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2013  Hobbyist
i dont know about her but from experience in any program where you can edit brushes there will be a setting for how round your brush is. less round= flat brush
it always surprises me that more people don't use flat brushes, they are really good.
word
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:iconelindor:
elindor Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
ah thanks for that : )
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:iconhaemoptysis:
Haemoptysis Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012
this is incredibly helpful, thanks so much for this
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:iconashuras2000:
Ashuras2000 Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
thank you so much! i can't wait to try!
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:iconazulishboom:
AzulishBoom Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012
! When exactly do you think your color theory book would come up? (or art book) Would absolutely love to buy it. :o

Also I like how you give people an example range of colors. In the online version it helps a lot because it allows people to test the color ranges themselves in SAI/PS to see the increments in the color box.

Perhaps when you actually publish the color book you can provide online versions of the 'swatches' so people can see the actual increments in SAI/PS? or something? Just a stray thought. Enjoyed the tutorial :)
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:iconhailo95100:
Hailo95100 Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012
I might attempt to try this the next time I go to draw!
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:iconvampresswolf:
VampressWolf Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012
Oh my this is truly amazing! It seems so complicated but yet you're just adding a few colors each time. You're very skilled ^w^ It would take me forever to accomplish a final product this way and your so good at it. :)
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:iconutrilus:
Utrilus Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
this made me abit more aware of art.
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:iconporkchopsammie:
porkchopsammie Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012  Student General Artist
The way you deal with theory is very approachable. Thanks for giving us an insight into how you work :)
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:iconlxrazorxl:
lxRaZoRxl Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012
many thanks
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:iconbandanachick:
BandanaChick Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012  Student Digital Artist
I believe I have a question... Is it just your style to work light/dark? I noticed that you like to do lots of watercolor, where that technique is useful. I've been more of an acrylic/digital artist, so I've been instructed to work dark/light. There are, of course, MANY ways to draw, but do you think there are any definite advantages with light/dark over dark/light?

Sorry if it's a bit of a big question! ^^;

Keep up the great work!
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:iconemberguard:
Emberguard Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012   General Artist
"an acrylic/digital artist, so I've been instructed to work dark/light"
A lot of professional painters I have seen on tv have said they go from light to dark. Actually, now that I think about it, every professional artist I know about have either said they go from light to dark or have a base colour they build up from.

I've tried it both ways (light/dark and dark/light), and on traditional pieces, it is a lot easier to go from light to dark. Paper has a certain density to it, which is it's strength. that strength determines how much pressure it can take before you either get a hole, or white patches that are impossible to get rid of from rubbing the paper appear all over your work. By applying light layers you can get a much darker tone with the same piece of paper before it can't have anymore applied.

However, there are two other factors which are the main reasons to do it that way.

1. If you make a mistake and erase it, a certain amount of the colour remains behind which will change the desired effect and very likely take away from the picture once you go over it again. By applying light layers and going darker gradually you'll see any mistakes (hopefully) before going too dark. Also, if you have lead pencil for example, everytime you apply more pencil it gets darker, logical right? So if you start with dark you can't just make it lighter by applying a lighter pencil, and an eraser only weakens and risks crinkling/ripping your work. The same goes with coloured pencil, although if you press hard with a white pencil it will give the slightest change in colour. But not by much.

2. it allows you to see where to put the shadows more accurately if you have the figure painted out first with a slight amount of shade, rather then just placing heavy shadow everywhere. It also gives you more control as to how that shadow comes out, shadows are almost never only the darkest shade.


However that all being said, with digital drawing I do like to go for a middle tone, then go dark, then light. It's just something I like doing that way.
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:iconmachinemademelody:
MachinemadeMelody Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Ok, I know you meant this to be for PK, but I think I can answer this.
Well, with traditional pencilwork, it's easier to go from lights to dark. That way, you can layer the colors a bit better than with dark to light. Once you've applied the darkness to paper, it's very hard to get it to the light. You can always go darker, but never lighter.
...Or at least that's what my art teacher tells us ^^;
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:iconbandanachick:
BandanaChick Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012  Student Digital Artist
A very interesting answer! I hadn't thought of it that way. Thanks for giving me your viewpoint, it seems like PK is rather busy to answer questions, anyway. XD.
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:iconwunderwolfer:
wunderwolfer Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012
This is a great tutorial thank you. Just one unrelated question, which tablet/pen do you use?
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:iconvaporotem:
vaporotem Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012  Professional General Artist
pk i want to be a cool kid like you ;3;
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:iconkanonxlamour:
kanonXlamour Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is great! Thank you for sharing :heart:
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:icontreize96:
Treize96 Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012  Student Digital Artist
OH MY GLOB! THS IS AMAZINGLY AWESOME!
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:icongyzra:
Gyzra Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012  Professional General Artist
Great tutorial and I love that you have done something that applies to all images, rather than 'this is how I made my backgroud' etc. Thanks. =]
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:iconkalistina:
kalistina Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Thanks a lot. Will definitely try these techniques.
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:iconuruboros:
Uruboros Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012  Professional Writer
I'm sure I could really use some of this advice once I have some time to work on art more again. Thanks!
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:iconsouthrobin:
Southrobin Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012
Thats a really really cool way to do backgrounds! Thank you for sharing <33
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:icondidihyper:
didihyper Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
this is very helpful!!! i'll keep it in mind if i ever get back into art
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:icondynoyoshi:
DynoYoshi Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
There are so many things I wish I could just know about color, like when and where to use which colors or values of colors. Shading appears to be a subject I need to improve upon as well. (This coming from a person who prefers 3D medias to drawing & painting.)

I greatly appreciate your tutorials and that you don't just give us an answer, rather you give us a way to understand & use the concepts on our own!
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:iconkatanaswordfish:
katanaswordfish Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012   General Artist
These lessons and pieces of advice are very well explained and helpful. Thanks for sharing your insights! :]
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:iconoranges-and-pears:
Oranges-and-Pears Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow, thanks, this is great! :D
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:iconacturiesa:
Acturiesa Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Student General Artist
Very useful! Thank you for going further than just telling us how you did this one. I sort of knew most of this stuff but man is it nice to have a clear reminder!
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:iconputridcheese:
putridCheese Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I kinda figured this is how BGs worked, but I was lacking the idea of emphasis of FG by contrast. Helpful stuff!
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:iconnitefallen:
nitefallen Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012
This is really helpful! Thank you very much! :D
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:iconchibi-c:
Chibi-C Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Student Filmographer
looks nice thanks :3
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:iconbexara:
Bexara Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Professional General Artist
haha oh this is great! This reminds me of how hard it is to explain to "non-artists" how you make the colours look cool. Great Advice!!
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:iconartofthegame:
ArtOfTheGame Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012
I think I have a question.

I haven't taken the time to fully understand layer modes and their function. Based on what you showed here, you used a layer mode to give one of your iterations a specific tone in color while still using a varied color pallet. I suppose I should just go read some manuals or something, but do you have any basic explanations of different layer modes and what you use them for?
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:iconpurplekecleon:
purplekecleon Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Do not just read a manual!! I figured out EVERYTHING based on experimentation with them. I highly urge you to do the same. It's one thing to read about the mechanics behind it, but it's another entirely to use them yourself and mess around with different combinations of hues, saturation, etc. to see what nets interesting results to YOU. If you read someone's manual/guide, you will naturally want to follow just what they've established. If you experiment, you're much more likely to do more varied things with it. Try out some scribbles with color below/above that layer, set to different layer modes, and see what happens!
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:iconartofthegame:
ArtOfTheGame Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
Thanks! I'll have to play around a little. Sorry for the late response!
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:iconpoplarleaves:
poplarleaves Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Thank you so much for this! It's a lot more helpful than "cookie-cutter" tutorials.
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:iconteavian:
Teavian Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012   Digital Artist
Oh, thank you very much! I'm still working hard on backgrounds and making sure the lighting works and everything. Thanks again for that critique through email too! I ended up scrapping that picture, but there's a lot more stuff I'm working on that looks a lot better so far!
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:iconyume-ookami:
yume-ookami Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
I'm very curious about what brush settings you use, I love how painterly the whole piece is.
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:iconumikit:
UmiKit Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I always found color to be slightly difficult to apply to grey scale pictures...
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:iconsunsetthedragon:
SunsetTheDragon Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Create a layer for coloring above the grayscale image and set it to overlay.
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