Making Color Comps in Photoshop

A color comp is a small painting that allows you to try out color palettes and color choices in a small format before you use more paint and time on a larger painting. Making a color comp is a great idea because you can find problems with your color choices or try out other color options easily and cost effectively.  It has also helped me find problems with my drawing that I didn't see before.

Last July and August, I was painting each color comp with paint.  I found that I spent a lot of time painting each one even though they were just 3x5 or 4x6 inches.  While doing this prep work is helpful, I still made mistakes.  While painting the large paintings, I was having problems with a couple of paintings. Not wanting to continue to spend time on a solution that I didn't know if it would work or not,  I found myself, pulling out my Ipad, taking a picture of the painting and making changes in procreate to figure out what I needed to do to fix the painting. It was really effective.  I could throw another layer over the painting, turn layers off and try it again, and of course use undo and redo to see how my changes affected the painting.

I have heard rumors of an artist that uses color comps on their computer to determine their color choices before painting their piece in watercolor.  I don't know this artist personally and so I have never asked him to show me how to do it. 

I have also found that I have better control of my color choices when I limit my palette to 3 paint tubes and mix everything I need from those paints. I don't know how to recreate that in photoshop. In photoshop I have access to all the colors of the rainbow with all their tints and shades and mixes in between.  All those choices derail me from keeping my palette powerful.

What I need is to be able to "mix" 3 colors in photoshop. I remember seeing someone "mix" colors in photoshop but I cannot recreate what I saw them do. Whenever I have tried this, I end up with dull colors that are uninspiring. 

So, my brain has been noodling over how I can combine the limiting power of keeping to 3 tubes of paint (since that is what I will be painting with) and the efficient method of working digitally. 

I started by mixing the 3 colors I am using for my alien monsters: Cobalt Teal, Cad Red Medium, and Hansa Yellow. I also added white and black.  I started mixing these colors with each other to get the oranges, purples, greens, browns, unique blacks and light pastels.  As I mixed another color, I painted it onto a piece of water color paper in a small square.

Then I scanned this color palette into my computer.  As I finished the line drawing for a painting, I would make sure the lines completed shapes.  With this color palette open and my line drawing open, I would use the eyedropper tool (I) to choose a color from the palette. Then going back to my drawing, I would use the bucket tool (G) to dump that color into the shape.  If the shape wasn't completed, then it would bleed over into another shape. With Control Z, I would undo the action, take out the brush tool (B) and complete the shape and dump the color back into the now completed shape.  

The first few color comps don't have a lot of variation in them.  I realized that short of painting every since color that I could mix from these 3 tubes, I would have a very limited looking exhibit or this efficient method of doing color comps would become time consuming. 

I started to make changes to the color within photoshop.  I would use a shade (add black) or a tint (add white) of the color I picked with my color picker. And then I started changing the temperature of the color.  I would choose a color just slightly more red or more yellow or more green/blue than the color I had picked.

 At this point, I don't know if I can recreate those exact colors using the 3 paint colors I have picked out. But, looking at the resulting color comps, they all look like they belong in the same color palette and they look cohesive. And I know that if I stick to the 3 colors plus black and white, any color I mix will look cohesive!

I'll let you know once I pull out the paints and start painting these paintings. 

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