Digital Workshop- (Week 3) Working with Colour

From week 1, our digital workshops have been spent building up process books. These books give us somewhere to record the new skills we are learning in module 002. (Skills in screen-printing, bookbinding and in digital design software.) I have a feeling these 3 areas will soon come together…

In this weeks’ workshop, we focused on colour. I’ve learnt a bit about colour swatches in Adobe InDesign. Colour swatches are similar to the painter’s palette I am used to, only digital. I have found this process satisfying and much easier than I thought it would be! Computers have improved a lot since I left school 10 years ago.

Our lecturer Adam mentioned colour relativity. At college last year, I completed a project based on the work of Josef Albers, famous colour theorist and fine artist. He spent his life exploring the relationship between colours. I took a trip to the library and came across The ELements of Color by Johannes Itten. It is a handy paperback book that explains colour relativity in simple terms:

From The ELements of Color. The grey square at the centre appears different depending on which colour it is placed against.
The same colour is placed on a series of coloured squares. The result is the illusion of a variety of depths.
(In InDesign) The colour theme tool allows me to create colour swatches from the colours within any image.
I was then able to add these colours to the process book, taking them from my swatches. I created different themes such as ‘calm’, ‘neutral’ and ‘vibrant’. I placed them within rectangles that I drew using the rectangle tool.

For the next task, Adam asked us to experiment with a scanned image. We coloured in timetables of our week and scanned them onto the computer:

The scanner washed out the fluorescent colour from my highlight pen. Therefore, I needed to take a photo of the timetable instead.

I inserted the photo into the document by pressing Command+D (Ctrl+D on Windows) and selecting the file.

The first task was to replicate the timetable on InDesign, using the colours from the scan. I clicked ‘Table’ > ‘Create Table’.

I chose 24 rows for the 24 hours of the day, and 7 columns for the days of the week. After clicking ‘OK’, I needed to click and drag the table onto the page.

I used the colour theme tool to grab the colours from my scanned image. I added this to my swatches and named the group of colours ‘My Data’. This would allow me to find them easily.

The colour theme tool picks out a limited selection of the colours within your image. Since my image has many colours, I needed to add a few of them individually to my group of swatches.

I needed to use the eyedropper tool to select the colours from my scanned image.

I added this colour to the swatches by selecting ‘New Swatch’.

Adding colours to the table is simple! I highlighted the area I wanted to colour in by clicking and dragging. (The black area is highlighted) I then clicked on the blue colour within my data swatches:
For the areas of half hours, I needed to split the cells horizontally. To do this, I highlighted the cells I wanted to split. I clicked ‘Table’ > ‘Split Cell Horizontally’.

I wanted to add a key to my timetable. I typed the words in a list above the table. The list was too long for the box. This meant that a small red square appeared to tell me there is not enough space for the words. I clicked this red square and selected another area to place the words. I placed them in a box next to the first box.

I wanted to change the font to the style I was using for the process book, ‘body copy’. To do this I needed to select the text. I clicked on the first text box, pressed down SHIFT, then clicked the second text box. This meant that both boxes were selected.

With the text highlighted, I opened the ‘Paragraph Styles’ tab and selected ‘body copy’.

I highlight each word, one at a time. I then changed the colours to match the colours they correspond to in the timetable, choosing from the ‘my data’ swatches.

I wanted to remove the lines within the timetable. To do this, I selected the lines by making sure the lines in the square at the top of the page, were blue and changed the thickness of the lines to ‘0 pt’

I then used the timetable design as a template for experimentation. I played with merging cells, inserting images, bitmap images and adding colour.

I merged cells to give me a larger area to work in. I highlighted the cells I wanted to merge and clicked ‘Table’ > ‘Merge Cells’
I used the bitmap images from week 1 and 2 to incorporate into these designs.

Screen-printing Workshop 2

Our second screen-printing workshop was focused on building another layer onto our previous prints. The first prints would become backgrounds and the second layer would need to add something to the composition. For this step, I needed to consider colour, line, pattern and balance. (known as the formal elements of art)

I looked at A Primer for Visual Literacy by Donis A. Dondis, to help me learn tips for composing my prints. Some key quotes from this book:


“Line can take many different forms to express many different moods. It can be very loose and undisciplined, as in the sketch as illustrated, to take advantage of the spontaneity of expression. It can be very delicate and undulating or bold and course, even in the hands of the same artist.” “Line really exists in nature. But line does appear in the environment: the crack in the sidewalk, telephone wires against the sky, bare branches in winter, a cable bridge. The visual element of line is used mostly to express the juxtaposition of two tones. Light is utilized most often to describe juxtaposition, and in this, it’s an artificial device.”


“Line describes shape. In the parlance of the visual arts, line articulates the complexity of shape. There are three basic shapes, square, circle, and equilateral triangle. Each of the basic shapes has its own unique character and characteristics and each is attached a great deal of meaning, some through association, some through our victory, and some through our own psychological and physiological perceptions. Sky has associations to it dullness, honesty, straightness, and workmanlike meaning; the triangle, action, conflict, tension; the circle, endless nurse, warmth, protection.”


“Since perception of colour is the single most strongly emotional part of the visual process, it has great force and can be utilised to express and reinforce visual information to great advantage. Colour not only has universally shared meaning of their experience, but it also has separate worth information leaked through Sim. In addition to the highly negotiable colour meaning, each of us has our own personal and subjective colour preferences. We choose our own colour statements and settings.” “Colour has three dimensions which can be defined and measured. Here is of the colour itself of which there are more than a hundred stop the second dimension of colour saturation, which is the relative purity of the colour from the cuter grey. The third, and last dimension of colour is achromatic. It is the relative brightness, from light to dark, of value or tonal gradations.”

Whilst including detail in the second layer, I wanted to reserve using the finest details for the top layer.

I started with this print from my last session. Securing it to the table using the suction switch. I like the simplicity of this print and combined with the colour, it resembles the Earth.

I didn’t want to take away from Earthly aspect of the image. Therefore, I used rounded shapes as my second layer to blend into this theme.

The use of green for the second layer meant that this layer was harmonious with the background. Choosing a darker green meant that the shapes stood out against the circle.

I found the orange ink to be fairly transparent. This meant it worked well as a flat layer, since it blended in visually. The grey lines of the background became brown when mixed with the colour of the second layer. I am not sure why there are white speckles across the page. I assume the markings were on the screen. I like the overall warmth of the image.

I chose blue ink for the second layer.

I thought the blue would blend with the pink and create a purple image. This was not the case, as the blue paint sat on top and looked purely blue. Using a purple paint for the final layer may help to unify the colour in the image.

Adding binder to the blue would have helped to create the effect I had in mind.

For my second layer, I used 2 colours. There was not a perfect merge in the middle, but I was happy with the effect I achieved. I wanted my second layer to be translucent, as I wanted the grey of the background to be tinged different colours. Knowing that yellow is a transparent colour, I didn’t add any binder to the paint. I did, however, mix binder with the purple paint, to make sure I could see the design clearly through it.

The theme of this print was always going to be about the Earth. I was hesitant to add a second layer, as I was happy with how the first layer turned out and I didn’t want to obscure the delicate brushstrokes. I chose to use the grid pattern, as I felt it fit with the theme of mapping. I chose grey, so that the lines would not be too harsh.

When printing, I did not use the vice, but instead worked with a classmate. Human error meant that the screen was jolted, this left blurred lines. To correct this, I plan to add another grid print, although in a darker colour, for example dark blue. This will help to define the print and anchor the design.

I used a paintbrush for creating this effect on the second layer.

The blue of the background mixes with the yellow to create a greenish hue. The orange appears more brown. I have learnt that mixing complementary colours dulls down or neutralizes the colour. It cancels out the vibrancy, which might be used intentionally in future prints.

003 Raincoat Girl & Colour

I printed the photos of the raincoat girl with labels. I wanted to see how I could use different effects to influence the message of the picture. I printed these images at 75% of the original image size.

I selected black-and-white for printing, and I really like the effect this has on the composition. Printing in black-and-white allows me to see the different tones within this image, that I couldn’t see in the colour version. Waiting is something that we usually do not like to do. Therefore, printing this image in black-and-white emphasises the boredom and passing of time that we associate with waiting.

I then chose to print one of the photos in red. I chose the ‘unbreakable’ image because of the use of scissors in the picture. When looking at colour theory, I learned that red has associations with danger and blood. Therefore I felt it appropriate to use red with the subject of something being ‘unbreakable’.

Colour by Ambrose/Harris

For this next image, I used an effect called duotone. This is where the image prints in black and another colour. In this case I chose yellow and black. According to colour theory, which I read about in the book Colour by Ambrose/Harris, yellow is a bright and happy colour. The book also says that yellow is versatile and can represent many emotional states. “Greeny yellows have a stronger connection to illness and nausea.” I think this is the case within my image, since the use of black and yellow in my prints, combine to create a greenish tone.

I wanted to try the duotone effect using a different colour in place of the yellow. For this image, I used blue and black. Colour theory suggests that blue is calming, however the use of black in this print, combines with the blue and creates a darker navy blue. “Darker blues, such as navy, are considered conservative and uniform.” I like the depth created with black and blue this photo. It is appropriate for the image, because of the strong shadow in the foreground.

I used blue when printing this image, but this time I chose to omit the black. This gave the photo a cooler and lighter feel. “Pale blue suggests more youthful and serene qualities.” I feel that blue in this case gives The Raincoat Girl a youthful look. I wanted to combine the ‘unbreakable’ image with the image of bricks, to emphasise the word unbreakable. I took this photo of bricks while in town. I like the warmth of the bricks in contrast to the pale figurine. Because of the paleness of the blue print, the background was useful in framing the subject.

I had the idea of combining my figurine with different backgrounds, to see how this could add to the message. I need to be careful so as not to overcomplicate the image and therefore the message. For the old-fashioned figurine, I used a photo I took of a dead tree. The tree is clearly aged, and this ties in with the theme old-fashioned, but in a literal way. I kept the text on the left-hand side, as it relates to a JPEG file. This is a contemporary theme, so I felt it made a nice contrast with the rest of the subject.

I photographed some flowers in the park. People say that no two flowers are alike. In this piece I played with that idea, by combining the flowers with a copy stamp. The viewer considers the fact that this figurine is a copy, due to its being mass produced. The figurine also has a story of its own, and therefore is more than just a copy.