Illustrator Marina Munn shares her pro tips for using colour
Marina is an illustrator working and living in London.
A rising star with a bucket list of clients including Grazia Italia, Wired Magazine, The Washington Post and Vegetarian Times, Marina Muun works out of her London studio. Curious to learn more about her techniques and incredible colour palettes we sat down with her to delve deeper into her creative process.
Do you experiment a lot with shading, layering of colour? How to you create a colour palette?
My approach to selecting a palette for a piece is usually roughly a combination of 80% intuition and 20% experimentation. I tend to go by what feels right. I think everyone find’s their own way of solving colour compositions – it’s an aesthetic sensibility which develops over time with practice.
Sometimes I will take a lot of seemingly random swatches and just throw them in and try to balance them out. Other times I will select just use one or two basic colours and create a visual hierarchy by using different tones on the spectrum. It helps to approach the colour treatment of a piece the way you would a screen print – just playing with two or three basic colours overlaying them to expand the palette – this is usually a safe and easy way to make sure the colours go together and saves a lot of time when working on a tight deadline.
I collect all kinds of materials all the time and keep an archive of them – posters, packaging, photography, ceramics, textiles, pretty much anything that catches my eye.
In my work rarely use transparencies – I mostly stick to solid colours so it’s just a matter of finding the right balance. Juxtaposing cold and warm tones is something that I always seem to unintentionally look for when choosing colours. I think it’s really key to achieving harmony and balance of the shape and size of elements and their proximity to each other.
Using a limited palette also helps to achieve a level of visual clarity and readability in an image.
What tools or techniques can you share about the process of building up layers of colour / tonality to evoke specific atmosphere, mood or emotional response?
I think about what the image is trying to say, is it supposed to convey tension, sadness, tranquility or be more playful? Sometimes I like to use more unusual colours for the theme at hand.
This can create a different kind of tension within the image. If it’s a more playful topic I might spread the colour around creating more of a tapestry of varying colours. If there’s something that requires specific attention within the image I will direct the viewer’s eye to it by using a contrasting or unusual colour. My approach is never really set in stone – I go by what’s best for that particular image.
Can you talk us through your technique from start to finish?
First I start out with my rough – this usually happens in my sketchbook, but sometimes also directly in Photoshop. I clean up my sketch and adjust anything in the composition that needs tweaking. I create most of the basic shapes in grayscale because I don’t want to get distracted by colour at this point.
Once all the shapes are ready I start thinking about the colours and try a few things out, and when I’m happy with the general mood I go in for all the texture and the finer details. I finish by tweaking the colours little more and putting in some finishing touches.
Can you offer a tip for selecting colours?
A quick tip for harmonising the overall colours in an illustration is to create a solid colour layer overlaying it onto the whole image – this can acts almost as colour wash and can even out some more stark colours in the image setting an overall mood and slightly washed out look. Play around with the opacity to find the right balance.
Extracts from this interview appear in 20 Amazing techniques for using colour in your art published by Digital Arts. Read the feature here.