Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Finding Color Inspiration

When I first started making cards, my color schemes included the tried and true holiday norms; bright red and kelly green for Christmas, black and pumpkin orange for Halloween; pink, red, and white for Valentine's, and pastels for baby cards. I was stuck in a rut, using the same, boring color combinations over and over. This was partly because I only had a few colors of paper and ink to choose from, but also because I needed new inspiration. Here are some my favorite sources for color inspiration.
Places to Find Color Inspiration
Seasoned crafters, please bear with me. I'm going to cover the most basic options first, and then I'll move on to the less obvious sources.
The Color Wheel or a Good Book on Color Theory        

The color wheel is a basic requirement for anyone taking a 2-D design course in high school or college. It explains the fundamentals of color theory, what colors compliment each other, which ones contrast, the difference between primary and tertiary colors, etc. It's great info for the aspiring artist to know. One problem I experienced with using the color wheel was finding actual paper colors that matched the hues and tones shown on the store-bought color wheel.

Stampin' Up! Color Coach
The Stampin' Up! Color Coach      

I use this as a handy reference guide all the time. It looks like a deck of cards. There's one page for each of the Stampin' Up! colors. The pages are double-sided. On one side is a solid color, such as "Old Olive." The opposite side suggests 3 different color combinations that use "Old Olive." This works great for 2-color or 3-color combos. If you want your project to have more than 3 colors, start with one of their suggested schemes, and add in one more color. The book is bound with a single post, which can be unscrewed. This means you can add more pages as their colors change, but you can also spread the colors out on a table and try out new combinations yourself. There are some blank spots at the back of the book for you to record your own favorite combos. They suggest using markers to color in the circles or just glue on small paper swatches. The reason this guide is so useful to me, is because the colors are exact matches to all the Stampin' Up! paper, ink, and markers that I already own. If you buy most of your supplies from Hobby Lobby or other art supply stores, the colors won't be an exact match to the Color Coach.

Stampin' Up! Idea Catalog
Stampin' Up! Idea Catalogs        

As I mentioned above, idea catalogs can be a great source for color combinations. In addition to leafing through them, page by page, and seeing the combinations other people used, you should also turn to the back where they have specialty paper packs listed. Designer Series Paper packs and Simply Scrappin' sets are designed using colors that go well together. They have the colors listed in the description so you know what colors coordinate with each other. This is where I usually go when I want more than 2 or 3 colors in my scheme.

Scrapbooking Paper        

Speaking of Designer Paper packs, scrapbooking sets, and paper stacks, any piece of patterned scrapbooking paper can provide new color inspiration. Look at this beautiful pattern from [ ]. Here's the full color pallette. Here are some color combinations based on this pallette.

Paint Swatches        

Go visit a store that carries free paint swatches. The nice thing about paint swatches is the wide array of color options. Take some time to look through the various shades, tones, and hues of all the colors. Collect enough of these and you can make your own color coach. Most swatches have feature one color in various hues from light to dark. Those work well if you are looking for monochromatic color ideas. (To put it into practice, choose a paper color similar to a color in the middle of the paint swatch, then choose paper that is several shades lighter and darker on the same spectrum). Some of the paint swatches show color schemes: one base color with a few accent colors that coordinate with it. These are great creating color combos too.

Backpack from Pottery Barn Kids
Product and Packaging        

If you've ever watched the movie or read the book, "The Devil Wears Prada," then you know how much money, thought, and time go into choosing new "IN" colors every year. Fashion designers and product development teams from around the world spend millions of dollars every year carefully selecting color combinations that people will buy. Don't reinvent the wheel. Next time you are out shopping, put your camera phone to good use and take snapshots of the color combinations that appeal to you. Look online and read the color trend forecasts. Here's a link to get you started:


Shirt pattern from JC Penneys
Speaking of Fabric...        

Go look in your closet now and find anything patterned or multicolored. Use these clothes to make pallettes by picking out 3 to 6 main colors that are represented in the pattern. Don't stop there. Look around your house for other patterned fabric, such as your curtains, pillows, blankets, bedspread, sheets, towels, purse, or even your kid's backpack.

Bedding from Pottery Barn Kids
Catalogs and Magazines        

Don't throw out that Pottery Barn or L.L. Bean catalog just yet... Look at it again through the eyes of an artist. Cut out (or scan in) any color combinations that appeal to you and add them to your idea book.

Irises, by Claude Monet
Fine Art        

The Masters aren't called the masters for nothing. Among other things, they are experts at combining colors in a way that is visually stimulating. Go to your local library and check out some art history books for an endless array of pallettes. You could also visit an online site that sells artwork or posters and save thumbnails to your own computer for later reference.

Now that you know where to find color inspiration, let me talk about the next challenge: organizing it. Sometimes I spend more time searching through catalogs than I do actually making cards. I'm a busy mom, and I have limited "me" time to begin with. I had to come up with some organizing tricks in order to make the most of the time I have.

Organizing Your Ideas
One of the best ways to organize your ideas is to make a "go-to" book of your own. Here are some of the books I've made.
Sample Cards Book:
  • Whenever you make a new card, make a duplicate and keep the extra as a sample.
  • Write down your card "recipe" on a post-it note and stick it inside your sample. That way you'll have all the colors and measurements handy when you want to make more of them.
  • File all your samples in a card organizer box, or
  • Put the samples into a photo album/scrapbook
  • If you are considering selling your cards at local shops, your Sample Book will become an essential marketing tool. If you sell crafts at a tradeshow, your sample book will really showcase your artistry.
Digital Samples Book:
  • Scan the card and keep a digital copy on your computer.
  • Organize the pictures into folders by holiday, occasion, color and/or stamp set. The nice part about having a digital version is that you can "file" the same card under more than one category simply by copying and pasting it in more than one folder.
  • When you need inspiration, select the appropriate folder and choose "Slideshow."
  • If you prefer holding a physical copy, scan the cards and print them out with a color printer.
Idea Journal:
  • Treat yourself to a nice hardcover, spiral bound sketch book with blank pages. Whenever you find great color combos, glue or tape them onto the pages of your book. The best part about the large blank pages is that you can journal next to the images.
  • If you like to do a lot of journaling, try using a composition notebook. Half of the page is blank for drawing or gluing pictures, and the other half is lined so you can write down your thoughts and impressions underneath.
  • Make your own journal with a 3-ring binder. Use plain computer paper and a 3-hole punch to make the pages. Add a few clear pocket page protecters. These work well for keeping magazine pages.
Digital Idea Journal:
  • Whenever I find something that inspires me online, I save the link in my favorites folders.
  • You can right-click on most photos and save them to your computer
  • Websites such as flickr have thousands and thousands photos and images.
    Bulletin Boards, Pin Boards, Card Holders
    • Splurge on a cork board, linen pin board or bulletin board for your creative space. They are both functional and beautiful.
    • Try using a wire photo holder or wire Christmas card holder to display clippings and photos in a stylish way
    Pottery Barn Small Linen Pin Board
    Digital Bulletin Board:
    A friend of mine recently introduced me to Pinterest. Imagine having a room in your house with walls covered in bulletin boards. Each bulletin board has a specific topic or theme, such as "Art that inspires me," "Home Decor," or "Books worth reading." Then you pin up whatever interests you onto the boards. Now, imagine you can visit other people's rooms and explore their boards. That's essentially what Pinterest is all about, but in a virtual setting.
    Your Turn!
    Do you have sources of color inspiration that I didn't mention? Any great ideas for organizing the stuff that inspires you? Please feel free to share them by adding a comment below... As always, happy crafting!