The Relative Color and the Absolute Color


Since the colors are never what they look like, It’s useful to understand the color in two ways : the RELATIVE color and the ABSOLUTE color.

The Relative color is the color as it is seen, according to the perception of the eye and the translation from the brain to the mind.
The Absolute color is the color as it is, in reality.

This is part of the colors relationship, and the contrast of the colors.

To be able to get the right relative color (meaning without any false notes), it’s crucial to know what its absolute color really is.

For example, the absolute color of grey is very often the relative complementary color of its surrounding color.


Depending of the kind of picture and depending of your color’s intentions (that is off special effect or narrative effect),
using an absolute complementary (that is, for the previous e.g, a true blue) in direct contact to its surrounding colors may easily create
a so much strong contrast that the mind will perceive it as a false note, then causing a global unbalance on all other colors in the image.

E.g, here is the page 05 from “Detectives” vol.02 (Hanna/Sure/Lou, ©Delcourt editions)

The “grey” panels 05 and 09 have a cold vibration, almost blue, because they are in a direct relationship within a yellow hot tan.
This two panels, in minority, are also secondary in the narration of the page.

Using a true absolute blue would reverse this narrative order because the color contrast would became so much strong that they would became the primary focal point of the page.

Let us look a little closer at the 3rd strip.
The mind read the left panel as cold, in a subtle blue. The shirts are read as white, and the bottles of champagne as greenish…

…but by isolating the absolute colors, in comparison with a Titanium white, none of this previously mentioned relatives colors exist in this picture.

…And if they were, the balance of the colors would be broken, and the falses notes would be made.
Notice how the eye now read differently the picture, it can’t stop looking at those white shirts and then those bottles.
It almost forget to look at the balloons and the characters. ( i’ll talk about the narration through the contrast of colors later, in another post)

It is the same for the values.
A relative value defines itself compared with its surrounding values.



Let’s look back at our 3rd strip.
Watch the contrast between the shirts, and the light jacket in the front, how they seem to be so much lighter in comparison with the other clothes.

When in reality, if we compare them to each other, the difference became a lot more subtle than it seemed to be.

This is a side effect of the relative color.
The mind analyzes et translates a color based on its database stocked in its memory, trying to identify the color in the most simple and efficient way possible.

The shirt itself is light indeed, and white. But it’s simply its “name”. Its “classification”, its “identity” (see the flat step of my quick step by step).
What we’ll ask in a store.

In reality, this shirt is not white, and not much lighter than the light face of the grey jacket or the blue shirt.
But for our mind, white means light. Lighter than everything.
However, a white shirt in shadow is often darker than a back shirt in the light, whatever the mind is saying.

So, compare, isolate, compare, isolate, compare, always.

You can change your “mind database” with some practice.
By using a paper sheet with holes to isolate outside colors. ( grey paper is best)
Or by opening some pictures in a software and use the color-picker to learn what is going on with the color relationship.
Testing yourself to find out the absolute color of your surrounding whenever you can.

Then, colorisation will become much easier, and like a musician able to reproduce a song he heard a the first try,
you’ll develop the Golden eye.

Stretch and Squash


As a 2d animator myself, I spend a lot of time watching and analysing my favorite animations, trying to understand why they are so great.

So, as an exercice for me and a research of the secrets of the art of animation, I though it could be a good thing to share with you. I’m not sure every followers will be interested, but I think all the animators and aspiring ones could find useful tips. And if this post is successful, perhaps I’ll bake new ones latter.


So, here I ‘m studing the importance of Stretch and Squash. It’s a basic principal everyone interested in animation knows through the bouncing ball, but it’s in fact a basic rule to make clear, understandable and fluent animations. It works from the most general mouvement to the tiniest detail.

It has always been a struggle for me to understand how to use this principle, so here are some good ways to use it.

In this animation, James Baxter applied the stretch and squash principal to this walking and dressing up rabbit.


The up poses are here the “strecth” and the down are the “squash”, the general mouvement being here very close to the bouncing ball mouvement. The S&S principle works perfectly here because it’s a cartoony walk. You can use it too for a more realistic walk because the principle stay the same, but you’d have to use it in a more subtle and lighter way.

If you look close, you can notice between the first S&S that the rear foot and the trousers are out of the circle in the stretch pose, expanding the silhouette, and then they are retracting into the silhouette, making the squash pose even more compact.


It’s interesting how James Baxter applied the S&S principle in the whole mouvement as much as in the details. It’s very subtle, but if you look the ears you’ll see that the shape is a bit wider in the extremes and thiner in the inbetweens, helping the eye to understand where are the slowing downs and the accelerations.


Here, the S&S is used in the continuty of the walk but with a more extreme stretch at frame 49, expressing all the energy the rabbit is using. And, going even farther, James Baxter uses a double stretch when the legg finally goes out of the pants, releasing even more strenght and power. Then, the whole silhouette squashes again on the up pose, then stretches in the inbetween when going down to the ground, and squashes again when hurting the floor.


In this scene, Nik Ranieri makes a great use of S&S to exagerate the expression of Kuzco, making a very fluent and funny mouvement. It’s intersting to see how he uses S&S for the stagger between the extreme stretch and the last squash.


This James Baxter test for Marina (Sinbad, legend of the seven seas), is a perfect exemple of how to use the S&S principles for a lipsynch. The S&S shapes on the head are given by the mouth and the eyes/eyebrows, following perfectly the accents in the dialogue. The mouth shapes are in a perfect adequacy with the acting and the general mouvement, making the scene a pure eye candy. It’s interesting to take a look at the mouvement and shapes of the hair: they are not only fluently flying in the wind, they are following all the S&S, emplifying the smooth of the mouvement: on the first squash, the hair are round and, then, they are like thrown away by the following stretch pose.

This scene is a perfect exemple of why, in a lipsych, it’s better to animate the main mouthes in the first rough. It helps you to find the most important moments and leads you to built the acting arround them. This way, the all mouvement and animation will only serve the dialogue and what your character as to say.

As we see in all those exemples, the stretch and squash principle is a very good way to make appealing animations, it shows what is happening and what is going to happen (like the anticipation/action/reaction principle), it helps to show what is important and what is less, and it’s a very good way to catch the eyes of the audience.


So here we are, I’m not sure all the explanations are clear enough (english is not my mother language), but I really hope it will help some of you.


Quickest way to improvement? Practice. It’s a simple bit of advice that rings with absolute truth. Articles, tips, mentors, and study will never get you as far as rolling up your sleeves and getting down to work, be it animation or any other skill. Today we’ve compiled a list of exercises, like animation push-ups, that will get your art skills buff and toned.

Maybe you still need convinced of how important the “Art of Doing” is? Look no further than the early days of animation, especially at the Disney studio. Here were a group of animators (before being an animator was even a thing) who HAD no books to read, or websites to visit, or even experienced animators to ask. They learned via the age old art of hands-on training, experimenting and discovering as they went. And some would argue they created some of the greatest animation to ever be seen. Masterpieces like the dwarfs dancing in Snow White or the terror of the Monstro scene in Pinocchio. So be like them! Get out there and do animation!


Some of these exercises you may have done or seen before; some maybe not. Consider doing each of them, even if you did once previously, because returning to an old exercise to see how much you’ve progressed is a very valuable experience.

Level 1 Exercises

(Do not discount their simplicity! Here you have the principals of animation, which all other animation is built on. They are worth your time and effort.)

  1. Ball Bouncing in place, no decay (loop)
  2. Ball Bouncing across the screen
  3. Brick falling from a shelf onto the ground
  4. Simple character head turn
  5. Character head turn with anticipation
  6. Character blinking
  7. Character thinking [tougher than it sounds!]
  8. Flour Sack waving (loop)
  9. Flour Sack jumping
  10. Flour Sack falling (loop or hitting the ground)
  11. Flour Sack kicking a ball
Level 2 Exercises
  1. Change in Character emotion (happy to sad, sad to angry, etc.)
  2. Character jumping over a gap
  3. Standing up (from a chair)
  4. Walk Cycle [oldie but goodie!]
  5. Character on a pogo stick (loop)
  6. Laughing
  7. Sneezing
  8. Reaching for an object on a shelf overhead
  9. Quick motion smear/blur
  10. Taking a deep breath [also tougher than it sounds!]
  11. A tree falling
  12. Character being hit by something simple (ball, brick, book)
  13. Run Cycle
Level 3 Exercises
  1. Close up of open hand closing into fist
  2. Close up of hand picking up a small object
  3. Character lifting a heavy object (with purpose!)
  4. Overlapping action (puffy hair, floppy ears, tail)
  5. Character painting
  6. Hammering a nail
  7. Stirring a soup pot and tasting from a spoon
  8. Character blowing up a balloon
  9. Character juggling (loop)
  10. Scared character peering around a corner
  11. Zipping up a jacket
  12. Licking and sealing an envelope
  13. Standing up (from the ground)
  14. Pressing an elevator button and waiting for it
  15. Starting to say something but unsure of how
Level 4 Exercises
  1. Character eating a cupcake
  2. Object falling into a body of water
  3. Two characters playing tug-of-war
  4. Character dealing a deck of cards out
  5. The full process of brushing one’s teeth
  6. A single piece of paper dropping through the air
  7. Run across screen with change in direction
  8. Sleeping character startled by alarm then returning to sleepy state
  9. Opening a cupboard and removing something inside
  10. Putting on a pair of pants
  11. Opening the “world’s best gift” and reacting
  12. Any of the above exercises using a very heavy character/object next to a very light character/object. Enhance the differences the weight change makes!
Things to keep in mind:
  • Reading these exercises will do as much for you as reading about push-ups would do for your physical muscles: NOTHING. If you want the benefit, you must animate them. Take a deep breath and just do it.
  • Do not forget the famous words of Ollie Johnston: “You’re not supposed to animate drawings [3D models]. You’re supposed to animate feelings.” If a character isn’t thinking, they aren’t alive, and the animation has failed.
  • Keep it simple! There is no reason to over complicate any of these exercises. Going back to push-ups, would push-ups be harder if while doing them you also recited the Gettysburg Address? Yes. Would they be any more beneficial? No. Keep things nice and simple and clear.
  • Do your best. There is no reason to do these exercises poorly. Give it your all. You don’t have to show anyone, these are for you. You owe it to yourself to try your very best. Something not quite right? Take the time to fix it.
  • As always, have fun. Push ups are not fun. Animation is supposed to be. Be joyful in your work!

Have any questions about the exercises above? Leave a comment below and we’ll answer them the best we can! Someone else may be wondering the exact same thing, so you’ll help them too. Likewise if someone is looking for possible exercises, why not share a link to these and give them a hand?

Article featured on 
Article composed by J.K. RIKI
MARCH 18, 2013
Follow @AnimatorIsland on Twitter for more updates tips and tricks.


The entirety of The Legend of Korra’s Final Book Countdown that I did. Thank you all for such a positive response! :) It was fun and I enjoyed it a lot! I also did countdowns for Book 2 and Book 3!

(You can check out my deviantarttwitterinstagram, society6 and facebook pages) :)


The Legend of Korra’s Final Book Countdown

People usually assume that I’m daddy’s helpless little girl, but I can handle myself.