On being a colorblind illustrator

The other night I was at a get-together for writers and illustrators, and there was a discussion of illustrating digitally vs. illustrating on paper. I am still working on getting proficient with the tablet (see my bad bunny drawing post), but I mentioned that since I am colorblind, I have been known to scan a drawing in and color it digitally using various web sites that give you swatches of various colors. This way I can go to the browns and pick one that I like, enter the values into Photoshop, and then know that I’ve at least gotten a brown where I need a brown. (Whether or not it’s still hideous is another story). This seemed interesting to people, so here I am telling you, the internet, about it.

Amazingly, I have been colorblind my whole life. Once in college, someone came up to me and said, “You know what’s awesome about you? Your clothes NEVER MATCH!” So it’s been a struggle. In spite of it, I have worked as a graphic designer and illustrator. But I have found ways to cope in one way or another, aside from that time when my mother let me got to school on St. Patrick’s Day dressed in all brown instead of green.

Lately what I do is draw a picture in pencil, redo the lines with a Micron pen, and then scan it in. Then I’ll add the colors in Photoshop, either using the Fill tool or a brush. A site I use for pictures that are just going on the web is The Other RGB Color Chart. There’s a decent selection, but not a ton, which makes it easier to choose. Too many options will probably just confuse me. It’s divided into color groups, so I look for what I like, and then add the values into the Color Picker, and I’m off.


Before and after


There is a recent exception to this process.

For my “big plate of pancreas” drawing, I knew I wanted it to look like an old food ad, so I searched for old food ads until I found one that had gross enough colors for what I was after. I brought it into Photoshop, and sampled the ones I wanted, and worked as usual. I was especially interested in the weird background color, which a lot of old ads seem to have. Makes me extra queasy. I’m pretty sure this is the ad I used: