Mixing Colors in Adobe Illustrator

Posted on October 20, 2009 | Category :Tutorials & Tips | 6 Comments

I’ve seen a lot of beginner work lately that could use a brush up on its color theory, so I thought I’d write a tutorial that deals with colors. For this tutorial, I wanted to focus on the overuse of black in mixing colors. For cartoons, you usually want bright vibrant colors and nothing muddies up colors quicker than adding black. When I used to paint, I would usually try to avoid using black. I’d typically make my darker colors or shadows by mixing two complimentary colors together (green and red, yellow and purple or orange and blue). This philosophy has carried over to my vector work as well.

I’m starting with a yellow caterpillar I did in Illustrator.

Next, I’m going to add a gradient to the yellow body. It’s going to be a three stage gradient. The colors I’m using are white, yellow-orange and orange. If you want more info on how to use the gradient tool, I’ve got tutorials here and here.

Notice, I’m making the darker color by adding more magenta instead of black. I made the same gradient using just black and yellow. It turns to a pea soup color pretty quick.

I made the color on the belly by using yellow and red. Again, no black.

For the drop shadow, I used mostly blue with a little black instead a flat gray.

Here’s the final image. Look, I’m not saying to stop using black. I still use it in my colors. I’m just trying to suggest that you can get a lot more vibrant colors by using other colors instead.

This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com. Content copyright 2009 Cory Thoman.

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Comments 6

  1. 09/10/28

    Nice to see a tutorial on this topic. Bad color can ruin a piece no matter how slick the linework.

  2. 10/02/10

    Not only is this good for your site but you have a wonderful reputation and I agree this is the way to go. :)

  3. 10/10/05

    Very simple but informative tutorial. Thanks for this post.

  4. 12/02/15

    Thanks for this, never thought about avoiding black when I can but now I will. :)

  5. 12/11/05

    How have I never seen this website before? I’ve now spent the last 3 hours looking at these wonderful tutorials and learned so much! Thank you!

  6. 13/08/31

    though you successfully used some of my hardest color, I always had a big problem with those color specially Yellow. Dont know why, I never had good output with this color. But amazingly you created a good charecter by this color. I think my color combination was not right, but you did that correctly. So, congratz.

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