Colorist Showcase: Shawn Hallenbeck

One of the most enjoyable parts of being a coloring book author is seeing colorists put so much talent into coloring the pages I publish.  It truly adds meaning to the work I do and I wanted to share some of this wonderful work I see, so I will be featuring colorists on this blog on a regular basis in my Colorist Showcase series.  Today’s featured colorist is Shawn Hallenbeck.  She is an amazing colorist who is equally talented with line art and grayscale coloring pages.  She makes magic with Spectrum Noir markers – her shading and palette choices are simply amazing!  Seeing her work always lifts my spirits.  I was very happy when she agreed to share about her coloring journey with us.

Arthur Rackham's Fairies and Nymphs colored by Shawn Hallenbeck

How did you get into adult coloring books?
I’ve been coloring since I could hold a crayon. I really couldn’t find any good “adult” coloring books until the early 80’s. I really appreciated when the coloring craze hit, because now there’s a plethora of “adult” coloring books!  As far as how I got into the Coloring Groups on Facebook, my goddaughter gave me an Adult Sweary Coloring book for Christmas 2016 that had a link to the artist’s Facebook group, and the rest is history!

What are your main reasons for coloring?
It’s a form of meditation for me.

What are some of your favorite genres/types of coloring books/pages to color?
I like to color text and simpler designs (short attention span).

Coloring Gifts: Gifts of Thanks colored by Shawn HallenbeckDo you have any favorite supplies/tools?
All of them! I do love my Spectrum Noir sparkle pens.

Are there any coloring techniques that you have recently learned or that you’re particularly excited about? None that are recent, but I’m always learning!

Do you have any particular colors/palettes you like to use when you color?
Yes, I’m a sucker for hot pink, orange, and yellow together. Also, purple, aqua blue, and lime green!

Artful Flowers colored by Shawn HallenbeckAre there any supplies or techniques you would like to try someday?
I’d like to try some Caran D’ache and/or Holbein pencils, and watercolor techniques.

Do you prefer to color in coloring books or print out your pages? If so, do you have any particular paper you prefer?
It depends on the quality of the paper in the book & the medium that I’m using to color that page. If I’m using colored pencils, standard coloring book paper usually works for me. I also, cut the pages out of the books, I find it difficult to color in the book.
As far as preferred papers, I usually go for a 65lb cardstock.

Coloring Gifts: Gifts of Encouragement colored by Shawn HallenbeckDo you have any tips or advice to anyone who just discovered Adult Coloring?
If you want to improve on your techniques, there are tons of informative videos on Youtube
You do NOT need expensive supplies! Learn techniques first. If you don’t, it won’t matter how many supplies you buy/own!
Do NOT compare your coloring to anyone else’s!
Don’t be afraid to share your work in the coloring groups.
Don’t be afraid to screw up!
Markers bleed through the paper, it’s what they are supposed to do!
Most importantly, HAVE FUN!

Coloring Gifts: Gifts of Thanks colored by Shawn HallenbeckThat is wonderful advice!  Thank you so much Shawn for taking the time to share some of your experience with coloring and your gorgeous colored pages.

Stay tuned for more Featured colorists in the near future!


Colroring Gifts: Gifts of Thanks colored by Shawn Hallenbeck

Simple Kaleidoscopes colored by Shawn Hallenbeck

How I Create Grayscale Books

I’ve received questions about my grayscale coloring books and thought I’d talk a little bit about how I make my books.

What is grayscale?  Grayscale is essentially an image that is not just line art but also retains some of the darks and lights in a picture.  I consider grayscale coloring like coloring on training wheels because having these gray colors showing where darks and lights are helps take the guesswork out of  shading.  I find coloring grayscale makes complex images easier to color, allowing me to relax and fall into coloring rather than stressing about where the light source is and where the shadows and lights in the image will go.

What is involved in making a grayscale coloring page?  There is a lot more to it than just removing color.  I spent a while researching how to do the best grayscale processing for coloring.  There are many ways to edit an image to change it to black and white, but not all give good colorable results.  In the Arthur Rackham illustration from an upcoming book below I show the most common way I see grayscale done (on the left) and the same original image after several rounds of processing I put it through to create a quality colorable grayscale page (on the right).

Grayscale Coloring

Common processing on left, my work on right

You’ll see there is a big difference in the images, you can see a lot more detail in the image on the right.  The dark areas and skin tones are a lighter color as well, leaving room for more luminous color in your finished page.  If you’ve noticed some colored grayscale pages having skintones that look rather gray and that the whole picture shows a gray cast to it, this is the reason why – they started out with an image that wasn’t really processed for coloring.

Other things I also do when I work on a page are painstakingly restoring the original work, as the usual images I work with are usually more than 100 years old they are bound to have damage or imperfections due to aging.  After restoration and cleanup, I do several rounds of preparation to get an image ready for coloring.   I use 5 different pieces of software to make my grayscale books.  I work hard to keep as many of the original nuances of the original artist’s work as possible.  I had someone ask why I don’t make my pages more smooth and perfect, but I want them to look as much as possible like the original with the only changes being processing it so it can be colored.  After the book is finished and assembled, I order a proof and test the hard copy by coloring some of the book.  If the image is too dark, I will go back to the files and work on them again and order another proof.  I do this several times until the images are just right, not too dark, not too light.  It takes me months to make a good quality grayscale book, but I think the results are worth it.  Many colorists have mentioned that my books are their first grayscale and that they fell in love with grayscale as a result.

Another question I receive regards what is public domain.  Public domain images are ones that are not subject to copyright laws.  What constitutes public domain is a very complex question.  A quick rule of thumb in the US and most of the world is that art enters the public domain 70 years after the artist’s death.  So even if an image is 70 years old, that is no guarantee that the image is public domain, it could have been created early in the artist’s career and the artist could even be still alive.  Some items (such as the King James Bible, for example) have perpetual copyright and cannot be used regardless of their age.  So thorough research needs to be done to determine whether an image is truly public domain.  I hand draw most of my books myself, but for my Vintage Grayscale series I use vintage images that were created 100 or more years ago.  I work to carefully research public domain rights for all the images in my books and also credit the original artist in the title and interior of my books.  My grayscale books are copyrighted, and the reason why is that even though I started out with a public domain image, by the time I restored and processed the image to convert it to a colorable page, it is a derivative work, no longer the same as the original image.  So the copyright in my books covers the many hours of work I do to process the original vintage image into high quality colorable grayscale.

There are many grayscale books out there.  There is a huge difference in quality.  Look carefully to make sure that the books you buy to color have images that are legally sourced, and that the images are processed precisely for grayscale coloring rather than merely having the color removed.  Sourcing quality grayscale books will result in a more enjoyable coloring experience and top quality finished colored pages.