Tutorial: Using Gradients on Complex Backgrounds
What Are Complex Backgrounds?
Backgrounds support the subject of your image, similar to how the setting of a fine ring showcases a precious gemstone. So although many people tend to overlook or give little thought to the background of their image, it plays an important role in creating a masterful, eye pleasing image.
To help understand the design of a background, I will classify them into two basic types…simple and complex.
Simple backgrounds are pretty straightforward and are one of two types:
- A solid, unbroken background — You can easily use solid colors or gradients to create nice backgrounds when all parts of the background are connected into one large piece. In the example below, it might not be immediately obvious that the background is all interconnected, but it is a simple background.
A background made of isolated parts but you use the Fill Bucket with a solid color — In the example below, the background would normally be classified as a complex background because it is comprised of many parts. However, if you are using the Fill Bucket with a solid color, it is very easy to tap/fill all pieces of the background as I did using black in the example below.
What are Primary Options to Consider When Designing Your Backgrounds?
Backgrounds should be designed so that they enhance the subject of your Pigment image. To make the most of your background space, you should consider these three options as you make your choices:
- Color: Select colors that relate to the subject of your image without overwhelming it. I try to select complementary colors that will increase the “pop” factor. For example, if I have a lot of purple or violet tones in my image, I will use some yellow tones in my background. If I have blues in my image, I will use some orange tones in my background.
- Lighting: Select light, dark, medium, or mixed lighting to help your image stand out. As a general rule of thumb, if you have a pastel colored image, use a darker background. If your image has mostly dark colors, use a lighter background. If your image is ~ 50/50 light and dark colors, you might want to use a variety of light/dark tones in your background. Another option would be to try both light and dark backgrounds to see which enhances your image the most. <deleted some text since I don’t know what examples were referenced>
- Textures: Decide if textures would complement the subject of your image or overwhelm it. As a general rule of thumb, less is more. Subtle textures over solid or gradient backgrounds can be very beautiful. However, you do not want your beautiful background to overshadow the subject of your image.
Selecting Your Background Color and Lighting
You have many options available to you when selecting your background color, with each option providing a different viewing experience. Sometimes you have to determine the lighting you want to project before you make final choices in your colors, such as you see in the two examples I provided. These examples show how the color and lighting of a background can change the feeling projected by an image. In both examples, I chose a blue sky. However, one background shows early morning, and the other shows the transition between day and night.
The first example illustrates morning lighting.
The second example illustrates the transition between day and night.
Using the Multi Select Option for Complex Backgrounds
The Multi Select option enables you to select one or more sections to color. To use the Multi Select option, the Advanced coloring mode must be selected.
1. Click the Brush tool and select the Advanced coloring mode if it is not selected.
2. Tap and Hold one of your background sections until the “Color areas together” message displays at the bottom of your screen.
3. Select all other sections of the background that you want to color. In the example above, there were many different sections of the sky because of the tree branches. After all areas of my background were selected, I added a blue linear gradient to color the sky.
4. When you have finished coloring the selected sections with a gradient, texture, or a combination, click Done to unselect all sections.
After all areas of my background were selected, I added a blue linear gradient to color the sky.
In the following image, I added a bright orange linear gradient from the lower left corner to simulate a setting sun. I also used the airbrush to add orange highlights to the rocks, trees, apples, and grass to show reflections from the setting sun. I then added light silvery blue highlights on the opposite side of the tree to show reflections from the evening sky.
To make it seem even later, I then added a red radial gradient in the lower left corner, and added a dark blue linear gradient on the top right to simulate evening. In this case, I allowed the dark blue to go over parts of the tree. I then added additional orange highlights to all parts of the image to finalize my image.
Adding Texture to Your Background
Adding texture to your background is a personal preference. But as I pointed out earlier, less is more when it comes to texturing a background. Too much texture will draw the viewer’s eye to your busy background thereby overwhelming the subject of your image. Instead, a background should support your image. In the next example, I used the Watercolor Brush and the Multi-Select option to texture my background with clouds.
I hope you have found this information helpful.
Digi Coloring and Design
Janet Dickerson-Deshotel has been involved with artistic endeavors for approximately 30 years, which includes traditional art media, graphic arts, and photography. Today she is actively involved in adult coloring using traditional and digital methods. Janet leads the Digi Coloring and Design Facebook group and also hosts an adult coloring group at her local library.