Recording your colors

Roughly 3 weeks ago, I finished my Jellyfish from Lost Ocean and started on another project. Since I had amassed more than 400 pencils in pursuit of my coloring hobby, it was about time I started recording all the colors I had. I talked about it in a previous post as something that would help any colorist.

There are many reasons you might want to have an organized list of all your colors.

Know your pencils

For one thing, it helps you get to know them. If you're like me, you have hundreds of pencils, pens, markers, and paints across different brands. Even if two pencils in different brands have the same name, it doesn't mean they will look the same. Recording your pencils gives you a feel for them, so you know exactly what shades you have in your toolkit.

How do they look on paper?

Most pencils will have the color on the outside either at the tip or the whole body. But often what it looks like on the pencils will not match how it goes down on the paper. Having them all in a journal means you know how each pencil will look on paper, even if the paper in your coloring books isn't exactly the same.

Reference chart

Another reason is to have a reference chart of all your colors. This way you can instantly find the shade you're looking for. You can also pick out color combinations that will look good together or colors which will make your picture pop. Picking out the exact shade for the leaf or skin or hair etc will be much easier if you have all your colors in one place.

Buying replacements

Sooner or later you will find yourself buying pencils or pens in open stock (basically single pieces instead of sets). You can take your reference journal with you so you don't end up buying duplicate colors or so you know exactly what shades you are looking for. You can even test your colors right there to see if it's what you want.

Mix it up a little!

I have a tendency to not mix different brands or media in my pictures. Having a swatch book helps me to mix things up a little. Sometimes that exact shade you're looking for may not be in the set you've used so far but in another brand. With my swatch book open next to me, I'm able to mix and match across brands to create beautiful pictures.

How to Make Your Own Color Journal

If you don't have wet media like paints or alcohol markers, you can use any old notebook. But if you do have wet media, then you should consider buying a dedicated journal. I bought a mixed media visual journal from Strathmore. I have watercolor and ink pencils, so I needed a thick paper that could take wet media. I also liked the spiral binding so I could lay it flat on my desk. Plus it's not very expensive.

Peta Hewitt has a nice video tutorial on how to record your colors for reference. So you can follow along with your own journal. How you divide the pages to fill all your colors is up to you. You can divide them by color groups or according to the total number of pencils/pens you have.

For example, I divided my Polychromos and Albrecht Durer according to color groups. For my Derwent Inktense and Prismacolors, I ignored any groups to fit everything in 2 and 4 pages. In fact, now I wish I'd done the same for my FC pencils but oh well.

There aren't any rules to making a reference chart, it's basically up to you. Some people even draw little boxes and create different swatches for how the same color looks in light, medium, dark and blended variants. Or you might want to have dry and wet swatches for watercolor pencils and so on.