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Basic Rule of Colour Theory

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Note: There are exceptions and additions to this rule. But overall as a 'rule of thumb' it holds true. This tutorial is aimed towards people who are new to colour theory as a first step.

When colouring, if you are making shadows and highlights a darker or lighter tone of the same base colour this is not how light works. Before you colour, set up a light source. It doesn't have to be inside or outside the picture, as long as it's there and you know:

1. Where it is coming from (will determine where shadows fall consistently)
2. What it is. A light bulb? A magic spell? The sun? The moon? (This will determine the colours to use)

The shadows will be tinted towards the colour that is opposite to the light source.

Similar tutorials/ palettes:

Practicing some colour shadings by NoNoKoHime DeviantNep Skin Palette Reference Sheet by amoebae Coloured Shading Tutorial - How to pick a palette by caughtinthehurricane
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Comments24
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Chidorihy's avatar
What program  does that colour wheel thing come from?
Spudfuzz's avatar
That one is from Paint Tool Sai!  :la:
Chidorihy's avatar
Dashy8-9thewolf's avatar
thanks that really helps!!;O;
MiDotchii's avatar
very helpful thanks~!! :D
Thank You !!!
You got a big heart :))
Jakeukalane's avatar
I won't never understand this things :(
Ohhhhhhhh! excelent rule, I used a white-black approach with bad results. Yellow-violet have more sense. Thanks!!!
Spudfuzz's avatar
Glad it can help. Yellow-violet is just a general lighting though, if you assume the sun is the light source of the picture. It will change if it's the moon or say a green coloured spell emitting light. If I can suugest, Loren Adams is a fine artist who uses very bright and bold colours. Observing his pictures closely might help as well.

images.fineartamerica.com/imag…
images.fineartamerica.com/imag…
www.lorenadams.com/first_light…
iAmAneleBiscarra's avatar
very helpful, thanks! :D
shapkaa's avatar
Very helpful resource c:
ItakuShine's avatar
Nice tutorial! I usually shade with high saturation dark red, purple or blue depending on the effect I'd like. orange and yellow are better off as highlight colors but I've never been able to make green work well. At least when it comes to characters. 

Often times people have trouble shading skin because they dont change the hue and it has a sort of sickly look if you know what i mean.
Fashi11emma's avatar
I always do this to get the right colours, but even then, the colour doesn't fit as light or shadow :~
Spudfuzz's avatar
I think it takes a lot of playing around. Even if you get the hue right, the slightest bit off can make everything look whack. Try using less saturated colours for shadows?
Fashi11emma's avatar
okay thank you ^^
mgscreative's avatar
This is great! And thanks for mentioning my tutorial:) 
Spudfuzz's avatar
Thank you, and you're welcome. ^^;
DecepticonFlamewar's avatar
This is so helpful. :D
Spudfuzz's avatar
I'm glad it is. ^^;
YaoiMeowmaster's avatar
Nice tutorial! I usually shade with high saturation dark red, purple or blue depending on the effect I'd like. orange and yellow are better off as highlight colors but I've never been able to make green work well. At least when it comes to characters.

Often times people have trouble shading skin because they dont change the hue and it has a sort of sickly look if you know what i mean.
Spudfuzz's avatar
I just updated it for a better example with green in it lol. In typical light it always looks nice with blue shadows I find. :s
cheylouwho's avatar
Really helpful! I noticed something though,  for the picture with the checkmark and the x, I don't see the difference between the two. Could you explain this for me please? 
Spudfuzz's avatar
They both have the same base colours, but the one on the right (cross) uses the black/ white style of shadows and highlights. The checkmark uses coloured shadows and light. Here's a better side by side example: 
cheylouwho's avatar
Oh I can see that now :D Thanks 
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