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  • Writer's pictureLucy Fleming

Colour Planning

Designing the colour palette for an illustration is something I can be very indecisive with.

I always have a visual in mind when I create a sample illustration. But sometimes the image in my mind looks very different when I put the colours onto the page. So creating quick colour tests allows me to see in a matter of moments whether my palette will be successful, rather than reaching the end of hours of painting only to find myself disappointed by the colours. It also allows me to stop, step back and ask questions, for example, is my character blending into the background? Can I see clearly what is happening here?

For this illustration I was unsure whether to set the scene in the blackest of nights or in a bright lilac night. I chose a light colour for a night sky in the end. I found the colours to be more peaceful somehow, and it was the first time I'd done a starry sky that wasn't as dark, so It was a new challenge.

I'm not an expert in colour choices, It's one of the things which stumps me from time to time, and often takes more work than I'd care to admit. But that trial and error and stumbling is all a part of creativity. And as much as we'd like it to be, often times creating our artwork is more of a windy road than a clear straight line from A to B.

Blobbing our colour palette on a separate canvas is a great place to start to build a palette objectively (taking the composition out of the equation) and really looking at the colours together and whether they go well together, contrast or feel harmonised. It's the best place to start for many.

But, sometimes it can be hard to translate that to our image and we have to assess how much we want of one colour to dominate a piece.

Creating colour thumbnails can be a good stepping stone to help us see our colours in action on a specific piece of artwork.

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Jun 28

Wow Lucy!!!! the difference in the two skies has shown me that a sky doesn’t need to be dark/black. A newby myself, I have now just learnt a valuable lesson. Typically, I would have gone the dark, but this just seems to thump onto (for choice of a better word) or envelope the image. Totally agree the light has a warming calm effect, thanks for sharing Lucy 🪷

Wendy Bloom


Kate Frances
Kate Frances
Mar 24

This is such a great tip. I'm fairly new to creating illustrations and it takes me sooooo long to choose colours. Colour thumbnails has saved me so much time!


Mar 02, 2023

Hi Lucy,

I'm a big fan of your illustrations and I can't wait to get your books for my daughter.

I've also just bought your pastel craft box set and about to get your domestika course too. I love creating whimsical artwork and yours resonate with me so heartily.

It's nice that you share your colour process here. It is reassuring. I have been inconsistent with my drawing journey so I feel like a perpetual newbie, spiking up my learning when I have a free week here and there without my family around.

I just wanted to give you a thumbs up for sharing your process, comforting and relatable for a newbie.

Have a wonderful weekend.


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