AuthorTopic: Your choice of background color  (Read 8451 times)

Offline Gil

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Your choice of background color

on: December 04, 2009, 12:44:40 am
I think this is a very interesting discussion. What is your preferred background color to work on. There's a few popular choices. First off there are people who like to work on pure white. I don't like this, it usually screws with your gamma perception, creating unfavorable palettes.
Then there's pure black. It tends to screw more with perceived shapes and silhouettes and if you're creating saturated artwork, it can be a little hard on the eyes, seemingly lacking cohesion. Here's what Henk Nieborg has to say about it, concerning his work on Flink:

"I Think there were a few reasons I started drawing everything on a black background, not just on the MegaDrive. First, back in those days I drew most of my gfx on a black background, I just liked that. You could get away with a lot of stuff by fading it into darkness. It's also quite handy when you're dealing with systems like the MegaDrive which didn't give you much memory to play with. I also prefer to draw to blackness because the contrast on the megadrive system was insane, if i would have anti-aliased everything to white i would have probably gone blind." [ref]

The next important one is the mid grey background. It's one of the more useful ones, because you're basically drawing onto the shade that has the most use in any palette. Almost any palette you create can be augmented by greys to buffer between shades with different hues. Since midvalues take up the biggest part of an image usually, drawing onto a midvalue grey canvas gives many advantages. One problem is that the lack of any hue can wash out the other colors, because you always try to work towards the background color subconsciously.

The obvious fix for the mid grey is a slightly tinted midvalue color. I think this might be the weapon of choice for most artists. Desaturated, dim midvalue backgrounds work easier, have no apparent issues and are probably the easiest on the eyes. I like to take a color that doesn't appear in the image to get a little hue contrast going, which usually turns up richer palettes.

Then there's the last one, which is a bit controversial, the saturated background. Many hate it, some swear by it. The usual suspect is pure magenta RGB(255,0,255), because it's used by many graphics libraries as the default background color. Obvious disadvantages are that the canvas can become tiring on the eyes and that the palette will usually go towards pure saturation. It doesn't seem to have any apparent advantages, yet I see myself turning back to it time and time again. Let me explain why.
As a lover of high saturation, high contrast palettes, I love how the magenta automatically pushes me to use bolder colors. I get very colorful palettes, with usually a good range, because you need them to get a good visibility of your image on the background.

My favored approach so far seems to be magenta for sprites, desaturated midvalue for other work. The extra oomph in the palette when working with magenta tends to work fine for sprites, since I like them to pop on top of the tiles or backgrounds you created.

Please share your own workflow in terms of background color.

Offline vierbit

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Re: Your choice of background color

Reply #1 on: December 04, 2009, 01:10:16 am
I use a mid gray with a slight tint of either green, blue or something between these colours. When I started with pixelart I used pure black, but its the same as with pure white that it screws with the values. Although black is a lot easier on the eyes than white.
-
But it depends, if you draw some sprites for a game and you know the background will be mostly dark, then using black is probably wiser
then a mid gray.
"Extreme" colours like 255,0,255 or 0,255,0  is just eye killing for me, canīt imaging to working with that.

Offline Gil

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Re: Your choice of background color

Reply #2 on: December 04, 2009, 01:16:00 am
"Extreme" colours like 255,0,255 or 0,255,0  is just eye killing for me, canīt imaging to working with that.
I'd like to note that your monitor is important too. On some monitors I can't stand working with it either. My current LCD screen seems to be fine though, I can work for hours without getting any more eye strain than working with another color.

Offline Dusty

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Re: Your choice of background color

Reply #3 on: December 04, 2009, 01:23:58 am
I usually use 25% grey, if only to separate my current canvas from the rest of the white canvas in MSPaint; since MSPaint has very few undos, I usually have a canvas the size of my screen and copy/paste instances of it as I go along around the rest of the canvas, for back-ups. Also, it's one of MSPaints default palette colors, so it makes it easier to just select and use.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2009, 01:50:22 am by Dusty »

Offline Larwick

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Re: Your choice of background color

Reply #4 on: December 04, 2009, 01:29:21 am
This is interesting. I pretty much always go towards a beige/sandy colour - yellow, slightly red, low saturation and lighter than midtone. It's a very calming colour for me, almost like working on an old canvas. Sometimes i'll mix it up a bit and go towards a cooler hue like green. I enjoy working on black sometimes but due to the way i outline my sprites with black i very rarely work on it if making sprites. I dislike working on pure grey, not sure why but i prefer my background to have a slight colour to it.

Offline Ryumaru

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Re: Your choice of background color

Reply #5 on: December 04, 2009, 02:26:06 am
Anywhere from 25 to 75 % grey with a slight blue tint has always worked great for me.

Just thinking about the calming effect of that color makes me want to pixel again( and reminds me that I will, seeing as how I have a secretsanta to do!)

sometimes I experiment, but I have always found a cool grey most appealing. Warm background colors for whatever reason make me create palettes I don't like on any other background.

Offline Mathias

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Re: Your choice of background color

Reply #6 on: December 04, 2009, 03:09:31 am
Great topic, Gil. I think it's significant, too. Most important is the subliminal effect exerted on you as you work, it's important to at least be aware of it.

I've always understood working with different bg colors can cause different effects on your color choices as you work. For instance I always avoid light saturated colors, out of fear that they'll skew my color perception/choices as I draw and then realize it too late.


On the computer, I'm typically in Photoshop, so there's both the canvas bg and the outer workspace bg (that space outside the bounds of your document) to worry about. Which is typical in most art programs. White is always the default when making a new doc. Seems like as long as my outer workspace is a nice dark desaturated shade I'm fine, but usually turn the doc's canvas black, I much prefer very dark to work on. Black is a warm color ( . . . yes I know it's not really a color, call it "void" if it floats your boat), it's inviting, it doesn't absorb attention, it let's you look past it. That's why picture frames are so often black. White on the other hand repels you. I HATE white for serious artistic thinking yet I love the way it feels clean and beckons to be covered with something. Some websites are best suited for having a white background, nothing else would work.  (in photoshop you can change the color of both shades in the transparency checkerboard pattern, you can even change both colors to magenta if you really want)

The color I use for my workspace surounding my current document no matter what the doc's canvas color is:
#383a3a  - dark desaturated blueish green



And Veirbit brings up a very important point in choosing working bg's - the intended usage's general color. Is it for a very dark game? Maybe a space shooter with a black outer space background? The only choice that makes sense to me is to design in context of it's implementation - design your sprites with black as your working bg so they mesh correctly at run-time. I've even used the game's art background as the background layer in making some game assets.


Off the computer I like plain ol' white, I guess I'm just used to it. Paper is light, ink is dark, it's just a standard thing I guess.
Recently got a moleskine sketchbook (thanks again ryumaru, for reminding me they exist) and I love it's pages light creamy yellow tinted pages more than white. They somehow easier to draw on, warmer, comforting.

While we're at it, why not use a gradient for your background? Why just a single spot color?
« Last Edit: December 04, 2009, 04:34:02 pm by Mathias »

Offline Rydin

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Re: Your choice of background color

Reply #7 on: December 04, 2009, 03:25:15 am
I used to do all my pixelling in The Games Factory, which has a default dark teal background.
Now a days I use Photoshop, so usually just black.
Man cannot remake himself without suffering for he is both the marble and the sculptor.

Offline Jakten

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Re: Your choice of background color

Reply #8 on: December 04, 2009, 03:45:24 am
Wow I'm surprised to see how many people start on different coloured backgrounds. I always have used a white background, occasionally I would start on a black background but... I've really got to try some of these different ideas. I find a lot of my art comes out looking very desaturated and I wonder if this is because I use a white background all the time.

Offline EyeCraft

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Re: Your choice of background color

Reply #9 on: December 04, 2009, 05:02:33 am
Interesting discussion. I'd never actually paused to think how exactly canvas colours influenced how your palette evolves.

I usually pick a grey somewhere around 50%. Sometimes I'll go down to 25%. Sometimes I tint it slightly cool with something like a teal. I also periodically shift the canvas colour up to a bright tinted grey like a yellow-green or teal, and down to a dark near-black, just to check how it looks.

Sometimes when I edit a sprite quickly it will open with the magenta background. If I'm going to be there a while I change it to what I described above; if its just quick I grit my teeth and bear it, lol.

I used to pixel in KnP and Games Factory as well, so for a while I was very much accustomed to saturated teal backgrounds (as well as horrid, horrid colour swatches  >:( ).