I know this is an odd question, but I get really confused and frustrated when I try to add color to something I draw. I don't ever get any farther than line art because I get confused as to how to add color for things like shading or whatever. Does anyone know a general process or something for how to add color to a picture?

4 Answers 4


One option is to scan your line drawing into a image file for your computer, then use that to experiment with colors on your computer screen where mistakes and poor results can be undone with a mouse click.

Once you find a set of colors which work for your particular drawing, you can either print it out on a color printer, or if you are looking for more authentic, human results, you can brush in the chosen colors on the original canvas, turning your line drawing into a painting.

There are several computer programs out which allow you to mimic different brush and paint types on the screen. I use the free software that came with a Wacom tablet which I bought a bunch of years ago, but I have seen videos for Photoshop and CorelDRAW brushes which look a lot more capable than what I use.


Firstly, pick your color scheme. The colors you choose should work aesthetically well together, and will help communicate a certain "mood" or "feeling" in your work. A color wheel (which you can find easily online) can serve as an excellent reference for this purpose.

Some common color schemes used in art include:

  • Monochromatic: Use only one hue of color, lightened with white for lighter/brighter highlights https://midnighttiger8140.deviantart.com/art/Dragonair-bookmark-base-348841281
  • Analogous: Use ~3-5 consecutive hues on the color wheel. Often warmer colors are used for highlights, and cooler hues for shadows. https://midnighttiger8140.deviantart.com/art/Healing-557912999

  • Complementary: Use colors opposite each other on the color wheel. https://midnighttiger8140.deviantart.com/art/Fisherman-II-629102671

(All sample artworks are my own, to avoid copyright issues)

You can find several other color scheme descriptions on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_scheme) and in the chart below. Source: https://www.hairbrained.me/posts/geeking-out-color-schemes Color Brewer (http://colorbrewer2.org/) can also provide some really interesting color scheme ideas. (While Color Brewer was designed to produce color schemes for graphs/charts/maps, it can still provide some really neat color scheme ideas that you can use in artwork).

Next, determine the order in which you apply the colors. This depends on the type of coloring medium you're using. For colored pencil, pastels, and water color, you should work from light to dark. For acrylic paint, if you're using opaque colors, it's generally easiest to paint the background first, and work your way to the foreground.

I'd also suggest testing the colors you're using first on a scrap sheet of paper (the same type of paper you're using for your final drawing) to make sure you like how they look before you start coloring in your picture.

Also, I sometimes find it helpful to watch process videos on YouTube to see how other artists use specific types of media to create artwork.

Good luck!


I would recommend using watercolors. If you use a pencil the shading will not bleed when you add the water color and it will add a layer of color without erasing your shading.

If you want to add shading to colors, just add a tiny bit of black color to the color paint to create a darker shade, giving you shadows within your color drawing.


I think that part of what must be understood with adding color are several things. What are you trying to communicate in the art? Do you need color at all to communicate the message? Is a drawing the intended final product or is it the beginnings of a larger project in a different medium? Have you looked for the emotion or psychological meaning portrayed with color? Do you feel an attraction or repulsion to certain colors, and what does that mean to you? If these aren't concrete answers, that is fine. Perhaps, pick a color that you like and use it in a study so you get comfortable with color. I hope that this helps.

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