• Corin Astles

Corin's Guide to Illustration: Colour

Welcome to the third creative activity for Bradninch Together. In these updates, I will be taking you through a principle of illustration and art. This week I will be talking about the use of colour theory when creating characters.

Colour is a vital part of character design, as we have different subconscious reactions when we see colours that allow us to convey aspects of that character’s design. These meanings often come from where we see these colours in nature. Here I have made a colour wheel to show how we see different colours.

The most obvious colour is RED, which is a vibrant, primary colour that sticks out in people’s minds. As the colour of fire, berries and blood, it is seen as representing danger and anger, but also passion and strong emotions. BLUE is the colour of the vast expanse of the sky and the sea, and as such, it is often seen as a calm and contemplative colour, usually representing intellect and the mind. GREEN is very commonly found in nature, is seen in all manner of plantlife, which often makes it seem like a friendly, inviting colour that puts people at ease.

Although less common, YELLOW is found in flowers, and the rays of the sun, which lead people to associate it, and the similar colour of ORANGE with warmth and the summer. PURPLE is the least common of the secondary colours, but as the halfway point between red and blue, it is often seen as the combination of emotion and intellect, representing creativity, or at times, madness.


Using these principles of colour theory, I’ve illustrated some characters to demonstrate their application in character design:

The first character I’ve made here is a futuristic scientist or engineer type of character. I gave them a blue colour scheme to convey that they were an intelligent character that relies on their brains a lot, with the lack of contrast representing that they’re quite a logical person. I used pale colours to make them seem sterile and distant while adding a hint of yellow in the helmet to help draw the eyes up towards the face.

The next character I drew was a sort of dryad or nature spirit. Because of this, I gave them a colour scheme which was a mix of greens and browns to help sell that earthy feel, and also the give them image some visual interest to help contrast between the different parts of their design. The green helps make them feel comforting and friendly, while the brown makes them seem grounded and approachable, although the use of pale light in the eyes still gives them a mystical or otherworldly feel.

This last character is done as a bird or fire-spirit, somewhat phoenix-inspired. I used a lot of reds and yellows to make them seem firey and hot, the combination of the two making them seem both friendly but also still dangerous. I used the different shades of red to help draw the eyes to the important areas (the wings and the face) while hiding the less important parts in shadow, and I also put the yellow at the ends of the design to add some contrast.


Try using these ideas in your own designs to see what colours you can use to make interesting and cool characters!