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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Color, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 409
1. Yellers

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2. Therapy Dog

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3. Shave

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4. Danny

Danny by Yann and Gwendal Le Bec

by Yann and Gwendal Le Bec (Flying Eye Books, 2015)

I’m a big fan of Flying Eye Books. They put out a list that’s so unique and unusual and weird and beautiful. This guy comes out in April of this year, and I tend to not write about things before you can get them at your local bookstore or library, but I had to make an exception here. I’m eyeballing an upcoming dental appointment with cringing and gnashing of teeth. (Ha.)

But here’s a story that’s oddly comforting.

Danny by Yann and Gwendal Le Bec

Danny’s expression is so full of joy and naiveté and hope, which is hilarious. A two-toothed hippopotamus antsy for a good scrub? Even funnier. And a school of cleaner fish to get the job done? Of course!

The setup here is so weird and wonderful.

And then.

Danny overhears the cleaner fish worry he may have a lisp, on account of that massive gap in his teeth. He doesn’t, of course, but that darn dentist fish’s comment spirals him into self-doubt and worry. The snakes he turns to for comfort do agree that he speaks strangely, but Danny doesn’t know they were a terrible choice for speech comparison.

To the city.

Danny by Yann and Gwendal Le Bec

I love this spread. It reminds me of Richard Scarry or The Little House and this color palette is so perfect. The browns of the marsh yield to the yellows and oranges of the city. Danny looks comfortable up in that double decker bus but he’s obviously going to an unfamiliar place. Also, any book with a pink limousine can stick around for a while.

This lithe and lanky dentist gets right to work fitting Danny with some braces for that massive gap. (His office gear is so perfect here: funky wall art, oversized tooth models, and a bookshelf probably more for show than for reading.)

And then:



Danny by Yann and Gwendal Le Bec

Now here’s a huge shift in pacing, in main character, and in drama. And it works. Danny settles back into marsh life, the snakes assure him his speech is back to better, and the crocodile heads off to the city for his own newfangled tooth-contraption.


Danny by Yann and Gwendal Le Bec

Danny by Yann and Gwendal Le Bec

It’s a picture book about the horrors of dentistry. And not really, of course, but for a dent-o-phobe like me, this story about a tooth doctor and his comeuppance is absurdly satisfying.

Danny is not without its translation quirks, but because the French are so bizarre anyway a clunk here or there is pas trop grove. (And since I Google Translated that, mine might be a bit clunky too. No matter.)

Look for Danny. You’ll smile. But maybe try that without showing your teeth.



Available April 2015. I received a review copy from the publisher, but all thoughts are my own.

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5. Reflection and Projection

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6. Sunshine and Rain

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7. At the Opera

A quick piece inspired by my attendance of Tosca this past weekend at the Seattle Opera. What a story!

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8. Denial

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9. Sebastian and the Balloon

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

by Philip Stead (Roaring Book Press, 2014)

This boy. This book.

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. SteadSebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

We know Philip Stead can tell a story. Even his Number Five Bus interview series (with wife and creative partner Erin and ‘potentially interesting interactions with fellow book people’) is like a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a blanket.

Here’s what I love about this book.

That the copyright page tells us the art was made with pastels, oil paints, and pressed charcoal. Those things make your hands dirty and rub all the story off with it. There’s a feeling of grit there that I can’t quite figure out, but somehow these drawings feel loose and messy and full of both turbulence and elegance. The color is both rich and muted, deep and spare.

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

This red bird, that shows up on every single page. A constant companion to Sebastian’s wandering. A comfort.Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

That Philip Stead varies his compositions throughout, so that sometimes you are intimate with this cast, and sometimes you are pulling back for a wide shot of their world. That sometimes you are bobbing along with them and that sometimes you are floating free. That you feel the magnitude of this balloon trip, that you go with the wind too.

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

This leafless tree that gets the lumpiest-in-my-throat moment when it returns in glorious color. It was hard not to show you what I mean, but if you haven’t seen this part, then see this part. I won’t wreck the magic.

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

That the closest Sebastian comes to a smile is in sharing pickle sandwiches with his friends.

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

The way this milky gray fog is drawn. Moody and slightly scary and a barrier between the reader and the page. You can’t warn them about the pop because they couldn’t hear you through its thickness. They have to endure the danger.

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

That each character’s face is solemn and expressionless, but full of understanding. For each other, for pressing on, for seeing something. The tension there is the curiosity and the hope that they are finding comfort in their journey.

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

These sisters. Because.


This ramshackle roller coaster. Both “the most perfect roller coaster they would ever see” and chipped and faded and bent and broken and overrun with pigeons. And the pigeons, for where they go next.

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

That Sebastian thought to bring a boat and a ball of yarn.

And that I have a love/hate relationship with Caldecott speculation, but that big moon and patchwork balloon would look especially nice with a third round thing on the cover.


P.S. – Did I tell you about my spin on the Let’s Get Busy podcast with Matthew Winner and Kelly Light? That’s here if you want a listen. This book love guilt thing is no joke, because I keep thinking of other 2014 favorites that didn’t make our list, like this one. Huge thanks to book people for making great things. Don’t slow down. Also, here’s a super conversation between Philip and Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. More art! Not to miss.

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10. Pug Portraits: Boots & Weezy

These cute little devils are Boots & Weezy, and I was lucky enough to be commissioned to capture their full puginess in these 9x12 gouache portraits. These dignified likenesses are now in their new home in Portland. Thank you, Ame for this wonderful project!

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11. Sweet thoughts

DSC_1672Little bee, no swerving from your line when you deliver the goods back home.

A busy place with no door but when you enter you still use your buzzer.

Then back again from flower to flower, collecting the pollen that gives you power.

It’s home again, little bundles carried to feed the Queen

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12. Rendering Big Hero 6

The new animated film Big Hero 6 uses a new rendering system developed at Disney Animation Studios that simulates the effect of light on surfaces with much more subtlety and nuance than in previous CGI animated films.

The rendering system, called Hyperion, manages the huge computational volume required for ray tracing. In a ray-traced image, the graphics system tracks the behavior of light rays that interact with various kinds of surfaces before passing through the picture plane. 

Any given light ray may bounce as many as 10 times, creating all sorts of secondary shadows, reflected light, or subsurface scattering. The inflatable robot character called Baymax is a perfect proof-of-concept for the rendering system because of all the internal scattering inside the vinyl skin.

Although the designers could have used this system for a photo-real image, they were very conscious of keeping to the stylized character of the animated world. 

The film is set in an alternate universe of "San Fransokyo." It not only had to combine design elements of east and west, but also had to be extremely detailed and layered to allow for some fly-through sequences. 

The geometry was connected to an actual street grid of San Francisco, and the assets can be reused for future films and games.

Both the rendering software and the architectural generator put immense demands on the Disney supercomputers. Tech supervisor Andy Hendrickson said "This movie is more computationally complex than our last three movies combined."

In this video, Norm from Tested interviews Mr. Hendrickson about the techniques and challenges. (link to video).

Book: The Art of Big Hero 6
Ray tracing on Wikipedia
All images ©Disney 2014

Speaking of animation, I'll be a speaker at CTN Animation Expo at Burbank in less than two weeks, giving presentations about Color and Light and Imaginative Realism. Hope to meet you there.

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13. Reflected light in shadow

This oil painting by Charles Courtney Curran (1861-1942) shows the Water Gate at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893.

Here is a good example of the color of shadows, something that cameras can't capture as well as the human eye.

The sources of light in shadow are very distinct: blue sky, orange ground, and white architecture, and there are white planes facing in all directions.

The direct sunlight is coming from behind and to the right, making the illuminated surfaces a bright white.

There are two main sources of light in the shadow: warm light bouncing up from the ground, and blue skylight from above.

At letter (A), left, the upfacing shadow planes on the roof are receiving mostly blue sky light.

(B) and (C) are down-facing planes. The light is mostly warm-colored bounced light from the ground.

The far side of the arch (D) is getting very strong reflected illumination from the brightly lit opposite side of the arch, as well as apparently some greenish light from the water in the canal (not visible in this view) passing beneath the gate. 

At (E), the columns are a little bit lighter than other parallel vertical surfaces. They're projecting outward, receiving quite a lot of light from all directions, both warm and cool. 

It's possible that the columns appear bit lighter because they're a slightly lighter local color. According to an old description, the facades were made of "staff," a mixture of plaster, jute fibers, and horsehair, painted in cream and gold.

The "White City" was torn down less than a year after it was built. 
The topic of light in shadow is covered in my book Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter, which U.S. customers can purchase signed from our web store.
Color and Light is also available from Amazon. It's the ultimate gift for the artist in your life.

The Curran painting is a recent acquisition of Godel Fine Art. Godel will be represented at The American Art Fair, November 16th – 19th at the Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street, New York. There's another scan of the image at Skinner Auction, where it sold recently.

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14. Grayed CMY Experiment

Here's a color experiment that I tried a couple of days ago.

I set up for an outdoor gouache painting in Laguna Beach, California. I limited the colors to intense versions of cyan, yellow, and magenta, plus white.

I picked the most highly saturated or high-chroma versions of them that I had: Holbein Prussian blue [PB 27] (I could have used phthalo blue if I had brought it), Winsor and Newton lemon yellow (I could also have used Cadmium Yellow Light), and Holbein Carmine red (Naphthol), plus Caran d'Ache white.

Using these ingredients, I tried to paint a grayed-down painting out of them. I didn't want to allow any bright colors in the final image.

What a fun and strange feeling that was, like trying to drive a racing car in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Just touch the accelerator and it wants to blast off. Each of those colors has so much firepower, but I had to put on the brakes at every stage by restraining each color by using the other two as a complement.

No matter how hard I tried to achieve quiet, neutral colors, one of those strong colors wanted to dominate.

This challenge is the reverse of starting with a limited palette of pigments and trying to stretch those colors to be as pure as possible, such as in the painting above, which used a limited palette of weak colors: raw sienna, Venetian red, cobalt blue, and titanium white.

For more about limited palette experiments, see previous post on Limited Palettes.

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15. Cast Shadow in the Foreground

I painted a watercolor demo during a daylong visit to Favilli Studio, a multidisciplinary design group in South Pasadena. 

I walked down to the Arroyo with a group of designers and chose this view toward the York Avenue Bridge. I wanted to paint the forms—arch bridge, trees, and embankment—as realistically as I could.

But the light was overcast the whole time, so I decided to invent some light and shadow effects. 

I figured that I could make the planes of the retaining wall much more clear if I cast a foliage shadow across it, with the dappled spots of light following the vertical, horizontal, and diagonal planes.

The cast shadow serves two purposes. It invites the viewer to move from the dappled foreground shadow, where they seem to be standing, into the brightly lit middle ground, where Jeanette is standing.

The foliage shadow also helps to define the plane changes as the ground slants up and over the embankment wall.

Shadows can be a powerful tool for expressing plane changes, as Arthur Guptill demonstrates in this plate from Color in Sketching and Rendering (1935).
Previous posts:
Learn more methods in my video  Watercolor in the Wild

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16. The Promise

The Promise

by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin (Candlewick, 2014)

The Promise is on this year’s New York Times Best Illustrated Books list and I’m so glad it captured a spot. I imagine weeping and gnashing of teeth to pare down a year into a handful of notables, but they got this one so right.

The Promise by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin The Promise by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin

Here you have bleakness. Bare and raw. And a girl who doesn’t have much but the desolate things. The words themselves pierce the brightness.

The Promise by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin

The people, too, dry and dusty.

And then.

Some seeds and a promise and a reluctant okay.

I pushed aside the mean and hard and ugly, and I planted, planted, planted.

The Promise by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin The Promise by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin The Promise by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin

Everything works in this book. The text is exquisite. The pictures haunting and heartbreaking and hopeful. The paper is luxurious. The case cover differs from the jacket itself. Dig in. Look around. Don’t miss the endpapers that start as stone and end as spring.

There’s a little Frog Belly Rat Bone here, in this fragile world in need of color and life.

(Also, there’s a lot of great stuff about this beautiful book here, and this post is so, so lovely as well.)


And PS! Add a comment by Wednesday, December 3rd to this post for a chance at winning all ten of those books from Chronicle. Don’t forget your pledge to #GiveBooks this year!


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17. Nicky

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18. Snow

Snow by Isao Sasaki

by Isao Sasaki (Viking, 1982)

Snow by Isao Sasaki

I’m not too sure if this book is still in print or not, but I snagged it at a used bookstore in Seattle once upon a long time ago. It was the best six bucks I spent in the entire city. Maybe the best six bucks ever.

This book felt familiar, and I’m sure I’ve buried some memories of reading it as a kid somewhere deep inside my book-person-soul. Opening the pages again to a story both calm and busy was also the only way to experience any snow in these parts.

And so, Snow.

Snow by Isao SasakiSnow by Isao SasakiSnow by Isao Sasaki

The book itself is a square. It’s the soft gray of winter skies. Each illustration is framed within a border of a lighter shade of that barely gray. Maybe it’s its 1982-ness, but it also feels like looking at a slide. Remember those?

Because of this bit of framing, this story is told in snippets like snapshots—of a day, of a season, of a bustling platform, but it also feels like we’re watching from a distance, remembering something that was so simple and sweet.Snow by Isao Sasaki

And at the same time, Snow is intimate. All of the action happens in the foreground. That’s where the train rumbles and the station agent shovels.

Once upon another long time ago I wrote about the rule of thirds, and that’s beautifully at work here.

We’re looking in from the outside, thanks to the white space, but we’re right there with them, thanks to the foreground action. It’s a balance, a push and pull, and some inviting tension in the quietest of stories.

Snow by Isao Sasaki

Only one spread has an illustration that takes up the entire page. A wide rectangle becomes a perfect track for rolling in. (Or is it out? But does it matter?) A wide rectangle becomes the perfect break in the pace of this book.

Much like the snow, falling heavier at times, lighter at others. Much like the light of the day, changing from dawn to dark.

Snow by Isao SasakiSnow by Isao Sasaki


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19. I Know a Lot of Things

I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand

by Ann and Paul Rand (Chronicle Books, 2009; originially published in 1956.)

I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand

You might remember how much I love this pair’s Sparkle and Spin, and this one is just as playful and just as true. That case cover surprise is an a delight, and complementary-colored endpapers start this book with a bang.

I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand

Paul Rand’s graphic genius is so well-matched by the simple and spare words of his wife, Ann. The text and the pictures both glide through that magical reality of childhood. Things that might seem daunting to someone bested by time are small and accessible. Things that may seem obvious or forgettable are ripe for play and adventure.

I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand

It’s a reminder to slow down, listen, and watch. The world is built of wonderful things. The big picture is as beautiful as the details.

I Know a Lot of Things by Ann and Paul Rand

Here, the sentiment is the whole of this person. I’m not sure there’s an ending more perfect, not for kids or their grownups. There’s so much more to know, but what you carry with you can stay.


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20. Wading

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21. LA Street-Light Colors

LA Streetlights, before (left half) and after (right half)
c/o LA Curbed and LA Bureau of Street Lighting
Los Angeles is in the midst of a major street light replacement program. They are changing out the sodium vapor lights (left) and replacing them with LED lights (right).

They're making the change because the new LED lights run far more efficiently and last longer. But an additional consequence of the change is a different visual appearance to nightscapes, which affects nocturnal on-the-spot painters, filmmakers, or anyone who is sensitive to the qualities of light.

LA Streetlights, before (left half) and after (right half) c/o LA Curbed
The most obvious difference is that the light has an overall cooler appearance compared to the distinctly orange colored sodium vapor lights, which are the most common street lights these days.

That older sodium vapor light is almost a monochromatic orange, as you can see from the solitary spike on the spectral power distribution chart at the lower left, which charts wavelength against output.

Spectral Power Distribution of various light sources c/o NoFilmSchool
Even the improved high pressure sodium lamps (bottom center) are still not very good on reds or blues. Incandescent light (upper left) is warm, but it contains some of all the wavelengths, which means you can correct it with a colored gel. Metal halide (lower right) is a whitish street light that's used in a lot of big-box parking lots.

Natural daylight (center top) is the standard, with all the colors well represented.
Spectral Power Distribution for a Philips Lumileds LED
Here's a chart for an LED light, but it's not one of the street-light LEDs that they're using in LA. LEDs can vary quite a lot in the quality of light they deliver, but the bottom line is that the light will be cooler and more natural than the creepy-zombie effect of sodium vapor lights. 

It's also good news because the best best portable work lights for outdoor painters are the small LED lights, and the more you can match your work light to the subject's light, the more likely you'll choose the right colors for the painting.
More in my book about light and color for painters:
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter
Read more online:
No Film School: "Why Hollywood Will Never Look the Same Again"
LA's New LED Streetlights Will Change the Way Movies Look
Thanks, Angela

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22. Krampus

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23. Translating "Color and Light" into Japanese

Last summer, Japanese publisher Born Digital ordered the fifth reprint of Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter. 

I am always fascinated by the way ideas about the visual world vary from culture to culture. Given that Western and Japanese traditions are so different, I wondered what was involved in translating the ideas in my book for Japanese readers. 

The translator of Color and Light, Sanae Hiraya, very generously offered to answer some questions.

1. What concepts in Color and Light were the most difficult to translate?

"Is Moonlight Blue?" was the most difficult topic to translate.

This topic explains a new and sensational fact. It is easily expected that this topic will draw readers' attention. We paid extra attention to this scientific topic on both readability and accuracy.

2. In Japan, do Western color names such as "red, blue, yellow, violet, and green" correspond to similar hues there?
In the Japanese education system, art education employs western style theory and method. So we have Japanese color names correspond to key color names such as red, blue, yellow, violet, and green.

However, in the old days, there were only four color names in Japanese.
They are red (AKA), black (KURO), blue (AO) and white (SHIRO).
Green was included in the range of blue.

3. Are Japanese children raised to recognize the same set of primary colors as American kids?
Yes. Children are taught the Munsell color system in elementary school along with the concept of primary and secondary colors.

4. Are there Japanese concepts of color and light that are completely foreign to most U.S. artists?
Traditionally, Japanese paint/draw subjects with lines (not with planes). It was 1876 that we started learning western style of art execution/theory. Until then, Japanese painters did not use light and shadow in their paintings nor express 3D forms in their artwork.

Let's see the example, a series of drawings called "Animal-person Caricatures," which are stored in the Kosanji-temple, drawn during 1053 to 1140 by an unknown painter (probably several monks). These drawings are still popular in Japan.

In the case of portraits, you can see a typical traditional Japanese style in the Hyakunin Isshu cards. On those cards are drawings of the poets and their poems. All of the poets are of high rank, including monks, emperors, princesses and so on. This kind of plainness was typical in the Japanese traditional painting style. There is no expression of light and shadow.

As for the color, Japanese regard violet as most noble color because of the cap system established in 603 (Cap system itself no longer exists). Please refer to Wikipedia on details.

5. In Japan or Asia in general, are there different cultural reactions or emotional reactions to soft edges or the illusion of depth?

I don't think there are different reactions to those effects. However, there is a classical style of painting called SUIBOKU-GA. SUI=water, BOKU=ink and GA=painting.

The painters of SUIBOKU-GA type of paintings intentionally utilize large negative spaces, strange subject placement, soft edges and so on. As we are used to seeing such techniques as a part of paintings, Japanese accept paintings depicting real objects or scenery that are far from reality.

6. Are there any feelings associated with the color green? (Here in the USA it is often conceptually associated with the environmental movement or the color of money, and painters have often debated the so-called "green problem," where high-chroma green colors in landscape paintings are often said to have a repellant effect on the viewer). 
Most of the feelings associated with green are positive: for example, nature, relaxation, peace of mind, new birth, youthfulness, safety, friendly to eye and so on. In elementary school, children are encouraged to look at greens (leaves, grasses) to rest their tired eyes between classes.

As old Japanese did not distinguish green (MIDORI) from blue (AO), there are many expressions that mix up these terms. For example, we say "blue mountain", "blue leaves", "blue woods" "blue chili" and so on. We Japanese ourselves sometimes feel these expressions strange.

In terms of art, Japanese artists usually start learning art from how to paint/draw Ka-Cho-Fu-Getsu. Literally, Ka=flower, Cho=birds, Fu=wind, Getsu=moon but Ka-Cho-Fu-Getsu means the distilled aspects of nature enjoyed by artists including poets (it does not mean the wilderness as is). Japanese people love to use the color green in paintings as we believe it relaxes our mind.

Painting by Kazuo Oga, background painter for Studio Ghibli
7. Are lightness and darkness, or light and shade regarded differently in Japan?
There isn't much difference, other than the fact that we sometimes do not care about light and shade. 

There was one thing I noticed during translation. Translating "dark + COLOR NAME" into Japanese is simple. As with the English expression, saying "dark + COLOR NAME" worked. However, in the case of "light + COLOR NAME," most of them were converted into the specific color name.

For example: dark red vs. light red. The expression "dark red" is acceptable. However, in the case of light red, we feel some unnaturalness and feel better to use the specific color name such as "pink", "salmon," "cherry blossom color," "peach color," and so on if appropriate. I don't know the exact reason why I felt that, but this is one thing we need to care about in translating the Color and Light book.

Thank you, Sanae Hiraya, for taking the time and effort to answer these questions,  and I'm grateful to you and the people at Born Digital for introducing my book to Japan.

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24. Sleeping monsters

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25. Digital tool for analyzing color gamuts

Joost van Dongen, lead programmer and co-founder of Ronimo Games, wrote me to say that my book Color and Light inspired him to create a digital tool for analyzing color schemes.

When he developed the geometric racing game Proun (screenshots above), he was thinking about restricted color schemes, but his new tool let him see exactly what parts of the color spectrum were occupied by the colors he chose.

The blacked out areas of his diagrams represent the parts of the entire range of colors that are not included in a given color scheme.

He also used the tool to analyze screenshots from Awesomenauts (below), a game that his art team developed.

Looking at the gamut maps, he says: "the colour scheme is all over the place. It really is an explosion of colour, as is fitting for the over-the-top Eighties themes of Awesomenauts. Nevertheless you can see that even in the top image the colour scheme ignores large parts of the colour wheel, so even there the colour usage is limited."

He used the tool to analyze the color gamuts on other games, including Uncharted 3, Star Control II, and Far Cry 4, above. The first is a narrow complementary gamut, the second uses high chroma primaries without neutrals, and the third is clustered around a fairly muted gamut near the gray center of the spectrum. 

On his blog post, he shares a link to download the tool for free so that you can try it yourself. Thanks for sharing, Joost.

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