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How to color outside the lines

It has become a cliche, to “color inside the lines.” There is no artistic reasoning behind such demand, and in fact, the possibilities are not endless. So why should an artist base their work on outlining? Good question. They shouldn’t; they don’t have to.

For many beginner artists and children, it is stressful to control a pencil, crayon, or brush in their hand as they try to color a drawing that has been defined with landscapes, objects, and people. Such stress may come from sketching, and the definition it gives to a vision, as I discussed in my first post. Definition gives meaning and helps other people make sense of what you paint, but it is important to remember how you feel about what you create as well.

Unless you’re illustrating or your work requires outlines for everything you depict on a page, try relaxing your mind from the perfectionism that comes with staying inside the lines. Read for more instructions on how such meditation is practiced in art.

  1. Remember that lines aren’t constraints. Many artists make the mistake of seeing lines as limitations. If that is you, remind yourself that definitions aren’t absolute in art. Beyond the line is the same empty space as inside it.

  2. Forget about backgrounds. Just forget it! The page you’re drawing on is one huge backyard every character you draw can live in. You don’t have to create contrast between silhouettes on every single canvas.

  3. Blend in and out objects. To really get go of boundaries, try blending the outside of your outlines with the color inside. When you do this, you’ll notice how irrelevant lines become sometimes.

  4. Cross the line with a purpose. Some art styles welcome coloring outside the lines. But remember that once you go for it, you should keep your style consistent within your painting. Or not!

  5. Practice with coloring books. It might sound ridiculous to purchase a coloring book just so you can color outside the lines, or maybe just a bit inside them. I have a better idea: make your own coloring-outside-the-lines book!

  6. Try to draw without outlines. If you find it impossible to stay outside the lines, start depicting your ideas without sketching at all. Let colors run into each other.

Here is my take on the concept of “coloring outside the lines” using Procreate. There aren’t many rules in art unless you set them yourself.

Multimedia painting of two fish and a whale, with colorful brushstrokes surrounding them and merging within their outlines.
Fish, Multimedia, 4×6, 2020

This is a simpler way to color outside the lines. It can start with a flower in your garden, but the colors can bleed outside the petals. Be brave when you’re leaving brushstrokes behind. Unlike petals, they’re almost forever.

One reply on “How to color outside the lines”

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