The Designer’s Guide to Color Combinations Book Review

There are some aspects of art that I’ll never understand. I’ve given up on learning classical notation, photography is largely a mystery to me, and I’ve never once composed a traditional sonnet correctly. Those things I can live without, but considering how I love to draw and illustrate, a huge flaw I have to face is that I simply don’t have an eye for color. Thankfully, I found The Designer’s Guide to Color Combinations by Leslie Cabarga.

What you learn in The Designer’s Guide to Color Combinations can be applied to anything from graphic design, to logos, to comic books, and to greeting cards. The nice part is, it doesn’t contain a daunting amount of information. In the past, I have looked into books on coloring only to freeze up when I come across dense descriptions or strange terminologies. Plus, so many books on coloring are written specifically for Photoshop or for other pricey programs, but The Designer’s Guide to Color Combinations can be used with any photo editing software. For instance, I use the free program Gimp and this book worked fine with it. The book will also be helpful to the rare vestige of mankind who color by hand with paint, but you will have to use a lot of guesswork. 

To use The Designer’s Guide to Color Combinations with whatever computer program you have available, you should acquaint yourself with CMYK coloring beforehand. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (black). From these four colors, all colors can be made through different combinations.  Most computer programs have given numbers to each variation of the colors, and so, to find the exact colors used in the book, it provides a guide showing what to type in.

The main drawback to this book is that it’s not written for novices. I knew very little about color going into it, and had to figure out how to use CMYK through trial and error. The nice part is, The Designer’s Guide to Color Combinations is divided by style, starting with selections of Late Victorian artwork to retro 50s to rave colors. Below is an example of an illustration I made using the template for 60s psychadelia.

If I hadn’t read The Designer’s Guide to Color, I never would have thought to combine orangle, light blue, and an earthy brown together. If you struggle with color as I do, give this book a shot.

——If you’re looking for something else to read, be sure to check out my book The Madness of Art: Short Stories, available in paperback and as an ebook through Barnes and Noble.

If you found this review of The Designer’s Guide to Color Combinations helpful, check out my three secrets to drawing comics article.



One thought on “The Designer’s Guide to Color Combinations Book Review

  1. This book looks interesting. I bet this could be applied to pixel art too. In pixel art we’re a bit crazy about color (and also a bit crazy) because historically there were very strict hardware limitations on how many colors could be processed by things like a nintendo. So pixel artists tend to obsess over producing images with as few colors as possible, and picking just the right palette of colors.

    The example illustration you made looks pretty good. I like the woman’s pose.

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