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Submitted on
March 31, 2011
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a study of flat color by GregStevens a study of flat color by GregStevens
I'm fascinated by minimalism in art, and one form of minimalism is "flat coloring".

A lot of people associate flat coloring with comics or cartoons or "non-serious" art. They think of it as a way for people to make something look "lively" without having skill or interest enough to deal with light sources and shadows.

But flat coloring can also be more than that. In a way, flat coloring is a philosophical statement. It can be a way of asking the viewer a question: what are the key, minimal parts of a colored area needed to give the impression of a face, body, or object?

In this study, I tried to explore this idea by reducing a typical "hot model" subject to four colors: four colors is enough to produce detailed (if stylized) shading.

But then, I separated each color layer out to examine it separately. Each value of the shading provides different aspects or features to the whole, but somehow you still get the overall impression of "hot model" -- his physique, his expression, his form -- even when only one or two of the shading levels is present.

In some ways, I did this study to examine the minimalist question: how little shading detail can you show, how few colors can you use, and still convey the impact and the draw of the model? Or to put it another way: what is the smallest possible atomic unit of "hot"?

So what are some of the things that I have learned, from looking at the different combinations of color areas in this study?

  • Shadows don't generally outline an entire shape. In each of the images that uses only 2 color tones, you don't see the shading shape completely outline the ab muscles or the chest muscles. Instead, usually only one half of the shape is outlined by a particular shade, giving a suggestion of the whole shape.

  • Different color values work together. Often times, an edge that it begun by one flat color value will be continued by another one when it is superimposed. You see that in several places on the body, where an edge with a darker shade will end, but will be continued by a lighter shade

So what do you see when you look at these different combinations of coloring?

Technical details:

Painted using a Wacom Tablet with Corel Painter 11. The model is Niko Vlasidis.

Some other studies and demos that I've created:

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The first one would work well for a silhouette, but is not enough to fully define a picture of your model. Adding a third shade helps define your subject, but it is still not enough. The fourth picture helps to define your model by providing an outline, and is the closest to a well-defined image.

The fifth, though is a step back, although with four shades instead of three. The reason I'm saying this is because it lacks the outline. I felt outlining the picture helped define it. The sixth model is the best one, and the one that definitely shows the most realism. The pecs and abs are very well defined and his facial expression is the clearest.

In other words, I'll have to agree with you that four is the magical muber of shades needed for a well-defined image. I've done some minimalism myself on some of my photos, and ended with similar results.

Feel free to experiment some more, and eventually, you'll know exactly what you're looking for.
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RouseMouse Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
this style reminds me of mine my flat color but very professional you have given me many inspirations with this excellent tutorial thank you very much :)
JMGPG Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2013
I like it a lot
fithotguy Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2012
has an Andy Warhol look...ur very good; but have u settled on any particular style?
GregStevens Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! And.... I don't know. Consciously, I have no settled on a style. I still think of myself as a "student" and as constantly trying new things.

On the other hand, although I still deliberately try to "shake things up" and try new things, there are definitely some "looks" and techniques that I'm drawn to more.

So I guess I'll have to just see how I keep evolving! :)
foulscreen Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is great! I have one WIP(not posted here) in which I had only made the darkest shadows and a slightly light shadows, and I observed the same thing that you don't have to completely outline an image, just show it's shadow. I didn't know about flat colouring before. It's definitely very useful for people who are learning colouring (like me).

Thanks for posting this.
Manovich-art Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2011
This will educate many people just starting out in art.
GregStevens Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks! I'm glad.
anatawa-kuroneko-des Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2011
awesome 0.0
beachelf Featured By Owner May 4, 2011
:iconclappingplz::iconclappingplz: Bravo!
HMart Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2011  Professional General Artist
great & awesome
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