Tuesday, December 05, 2006

BG Painting 4 / Color Theory- Art Lozzi explains some technique

Yes John,

I saw the newest post and I sit here open-mouthed at the reaction and the responses. Above all (and I repeat) you deserve lots of praise for turning these people on and directing them, like you're satisfying a hunger. The way you describe and analyze makes it clear that you have a great sense of color yourself.

But as you point out, color sense is not a subject or an item that can be taught in a class. It's innate and it grows with exposure. Color theory? Yes. The technique of color? Yes. Psychology of color? That too. We know that color affects moods, as light does. We cannot paint with light but we can paint light itself, by using different tones, contrasts, etc. Color is a tool.

Now how does one use it? Acrylic? Water colors, oils, gouaches, pastels -you name 'em. You can slap it on, dribble it, roll it, sponge it, spray it, finger it and even glue it. But that's not what determines if the final look is good or not. If there is no inborn taste or acquired, studied, knowledge, then don't expect too much. And if you see that you don't have the feel of it, then drop it and hire someone who has it. If one exposes him-her-self to what's considered good, long enough, then it's possible that it can rub off onto him-her. Open the eyes, observe, absorb. What's good is not necessarily what's trendy. Beware of trends. Analyze: WHY do I like it? WHY is this considered good? It has to come from inside. Usually, good is lasting. And usually good will last.

The technique I used in the bgs you ask about? I don't remember. (I keep reminding you that this was 45 years ago! What were YOU doing then?). I see that I painted the sky a soft salmon pink, knowing who and what is working against it. It's always pleasant, warm and it goes with so many other colors, like a sunset. It's not dramatic. No need for drama unless the story calls for it. Yogi looks great against it...as somebody pointed out his muzzle. You?

Art Lozzi on Technique

Paint Overall BG Color First

This color is rolled on (onto the thickish Bristol paper we used, not board and not canvas) and everything was painted on top of it so that if there were any "holes" or spaces, the sky color would tie it all together.

You can see the peach sky in the little holes in the hills where the sponge didn't paint. This gives the effect of mixing the main BG color with the other colors in the BG and it ties them all into one harmonious color scheme.
You can also see the hill color behind and through the tress and so forth.
Blending the colors makes all the objects in the BG part of a family of color, rather than having a bunch of separate objects each with completely different colors splitting up the image and all competing for attention-John

What Tools To Paint With?
Sponging, frisketing, brushwork, pencils, as you mention, were all used. (The paint is cel paint)


The brown path was a hole cut in a cel, then painted brown over the green The light green above the brown path was done the same way. The outlines of the foliage at the top of the BG was cut out of friskets and sponged on over the salmon sky. The tree silhouettes were cut from friskets and sponged on, that's why you see the rough edges from the rough texture of the sponge.These trees are painted with sponges and friskets.

The leaves and black tree sketchy lines are done in pencil. The light blue lines on the turquoise tree might be chalk.

The black heavy lines are drawn on with brush in slow smooth controlled yet flowing natural lines.
I think these light lines are done in a jagged brush stroke, but they may be chalk too.

What Colors To Choose
The choices of these colors were what the artist felt were right. This is what distinguishes one from another. Same goes for the shapes, other than what the layouts called for.

Use Nature's Colors to add Depth and Interest
And try to use the many colors of nature itself. There is NOTHING in nature that is pure brown or green or red. Everything is a blend or a texture. Animated characters and objects, of course, have to be painted flat, but this is why a textured bg adds depth and interest. Even on a one-color wall we add a shadow or a slight texture. On a flat sky we add a slight white cloud or two. Avoid bland.

Use Contrast and Variations on a Theme To Keep Things Organic

Notice how every tree is different, as in nature: wide, thin, tall, short, various colors. Same also goes for branches, leaves, pine needles, ground plants, etc. Sometimes Art would add a lot of drawing and detail that wasn't provided in the BG layout. The bark on the tree. The free flowing patterns on the bushes etc.

This is NOT because the layout artist asked for it, but because the bg artist "felt" it. Look around you. It's all there. Look at your hand and notice the nails, skin, pores, veins, colors, tones, textures, size, shapes. And yet, every hand is different from all the others. Simple: If you don't look, you can't see.

John, how else can I say it? I hope it's useful to all those who ask. I certainly appreciate their interest to learn.
Continue it, whatever you're doing.

Best, Art Lozzi
Me, I'm being called back into the cruiseship world with a couple of new medium-sized ships to work the Aegean. Busy, but very glad.


Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot Art!!

Anonymous said...

This is fantasitc! Thank you John, and thank you Art!

I'm saving this stuff.

Mikko said...

Thankyou so much! Both of You..


Sean Worsham said...

You should check out an old friend of mine Gooby Herms, he likes using the sponge technique a lot in his bg's :).


He is one of the best colorists I know personally.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful explanation! Art has the same way with words as he does with his paintings. Thank you for the lesson Mr. Lozzi and thank you,John for posting the pictures so well to fully understand. I'm eager to try these methods out.

-David O.

Anonymous said...

Art Lozzi - Fantastic lesson! Thank you and thanks to John for sharing. I still have a lot of questions! Was this Cartoon Color paint? Obviously something that covers very opaque. Do you mix a little of the peach color in with the green to neutralize it? Or just let the BG color show through? Did you paint all the BGs in a section of the picture at the same time? Did you try to vary the color scheme from one scene to another, or keep it consistent?

How many BG artists did you train at Hannna Barbera?

Art, I wonder what your job is like on the cruise ship? It sounds like a great gig, cruising around the sunny Agean Islands, while half the US is under snow!

Anonymous said...

Awesome! Thanks too much Art & John. I've been (impatiently) waiting & hoping for this post! After the Scooter Looter post, I went out & bought enough paints & sponge to experiment a bit. It's tons of fun & looks like something that might stick with me.

Is it illegal to send a thankful six-pack in the mail?

Taco Jack said...

Wow. Thanks so much for sharing Art, and have a great time in cruise ship land.

One other question for Art - does he have a favorite episode?

Kali Fontecchio said...


I'm going to go get some sponges right now! This is ridiculously great! Secrets revealed! I can't wait to try it out!!!

Thank you Art!

And thanks John!!!!!

Benjamin De Schrijver said...

Thank you both!

kudhatama said...

these is heavy.....!!
thanks you art and jhon !

just wandering...
why this kind of bgs dont exist anymore..?
budget? instant industries?
anime influence...?

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! I'm heavily influenced by the old Hanna Barbera backgrounds in my work - and it's great to hear the details behind creating them. Thank you, John and Art!!

Kitty said...

some of the backgrounds reminded me of those that are on Camp Lazlo, except the BGs on there have a yellowish sky.

Hryma said...

Best post yet!
For myself anyways, I to am saving it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks,so much. That helped alot. I will use it in my Banjo Beaver cartoons. I'm trying to acheve that look. When I got the Huckleberry Hound DVD earlier this year it inspired me to create cartoons again. So, Thanks. To the both of you. And awaaaaay we goooooo!

Anonymous said...

Hey John, this really is incredible! Thank you very much for Art Lozzi also, because now we know more secrets of the cartoons! Really this is a privilege! thanks again!

Pedro Vargas said...

Thank you so much, Art! This is exactly what I was craving for! And thank you too, John. You are making a great change of things with this blog. You're inspiring me so much!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for making the time to share this with us Art and John. There's a wealth of information here very simply presented so that even I can understand it!


Chloe Cumming said...


Thank you Art and John, you're both helping me to see more and better.

Indigo said...

Thanks a lot, Art, ando you more yet, John!

Please, dont give up as you said in a previous post. Your word in this blog makes a great diference to me. Sometimes, I learn more about many things reading your posts than in an entire period of University here in Brazilia (Brazil).

Please keep going!

Indigo said...

Thanks a lot, Art, and you more yet, John!

Please, dont give up as you said in a previous post. Your word in this blog makes a great diference to me. Sometimes, I learn more about many things reading your posts than in an entire period of University here in Brazilia (Brazil).

Please keep going!

Anonymous said...

Hello, Mr. Lozzi.

I've got to say those backgrounds look quite impressive. Some of them kind of remind me of Japanese prints. Were those your inspiration?

Anonymous said...

...forgot to thank you too JOHN!

What is the paint used for those BGs? (acrylic, gouache...!?)

S.G.A said...

Thank You

Incredible post, My Favorite yet.

I am putting this to practice and posting my experiments here-

Incredible post, I'm gonna start practicing!

The Jerk said...

wonderful! thanks to Art for this lesson! It was both informative and inspirational!

Frank Forte said...

Great tutorial.

Thanks Art and John.

Frank F

:: smo :: said...

magic, a whole lotta magic.

Anonymous said...

Oh my! This is completely awesome. Thank you Art, Thank you John, you're the greatest.

Freckled Derelict said...

Thanks Art!

Jack Ruttan said...

Thought I'd just join in with the pile-on of love for this demo. Thanks, Art, and John, for hosting it.

Raff said...

John and Art,

This is now officially the greatest blog EVER.

That sponge looks so useful - it's like a workhorse organic texture generator; it can look like rock, like dirty ground...I never would have figured it out.

Organic materials to get organic results - look how logical it is! And all it takes is a scanner to pop it into Flash or whatever you're working in. So simple! Why are we getting all this Atomic Betty crap??

Also, would anyone like to tell me how
and THIS

and especially THIS

were done?

Max Ward said...

Thank you very much for this. The information is invaluable.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Art! Thank you John!

Jorge Garrido said...

THANK YOU ART!!!!! Thanks you, John! I'm gonna use these principles for my Children's Book project in graphic design!

Ryan Wood said...

Thanks Art & John for sharing such valuable art & color theory examples!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Art!

Kris Boban said...

This was awesome! Thanks so much Art for your response.

This is so inspiring that after work tonight I'm going to paint a landscape utilizing any medium I have available for playing with textures and lines. I can't wait!

Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

This was great!

Thanks so much Art and John!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks so much Art! John, right on! That was very informative! "nothing in nature is ever a pure color, using textures for backgrounds leaving characters in solids.

Josh "Just What the Doctor Ordered" Heisie said...

Wow. Thanks, Mr. Lozzi! I've been working on improving my color skills, but I'm completely incompotent at painting. Maybe someday though.

Mr. K, I wonder if you might be kind enough to view an animation I made last week. I've desperately tried to incorporate all of the values you've been instilling on us for the past number of months, and I think it's beginning to pay off for me.

I've used line of action, strong poses, form, etc. and I'd really appreciate any comment you could give me. I personally think I'm doing pretty good for seventeen.

My Animation

Josh Heisie

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Lozzi! WOW!! can we get a better christmas gift than this? i doubt it. Thank you very much John for sharing this with us.

Anonymous said...

That was the one, baby! We asked and you and Art delivered and in a huge, splashy fashion. Awesome entry.

It's specific. That's what's so cool about it, beyond the aesthetic pleasure of looking at Art's paintings where we can really study them, rather than just having them flashing by at us on tv.

But yeah, it's specific. You can actually go and DO what he's talking about here. Not only is Art a great artist, but he's also a clear, logical and natural teacher and communicator of this stuff.

Thanks John and Art!

Shawn said...

This is great! Thanks, Art! I'm working on a couple paintings right now, and this post will definately help!

mike f. said...

Wow! A brilliant and informative post.

Thank you SO much, Mr Lozzi - for the careful analysis of design theory, and for articulating your step-by-step approach to painting and color.

Your generation did everything profoundly well... with ONE exception:
For some reason, you weren't able to raise smart, talented kids.

Now if someone can explain to me why a generation of giants went on to spawn a generation of retards, I might finally be able to make some sense out of the modern world...

Charlie J. said...

This is so great, thanks so much!

Jorge Garrido said...

>Now if someone can explain to me why a generation of giants went on to spawn a generation of retards, I might finally be able to make some sense out of the modern world...

The Beatles.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!! I will feast on every tid bit of information you give!

Dave said...

Wow! That is some great stuff. Thanks Art for sharing some of your technique with us. Makes us appreciate the real art that went into some of those cartoons all the more!

Cayen said...

hey John
I've been doing your techniques. However doing things by yourself means that you increase your chances of making mistakes without realising it. Is there a place where I can post a link to something I'm working on to get some critiques on better improving it?

Anonymous said...

wow. Lemme say that backwards, wow. I can not believe how accessible you guys are! Thank you both for your expertise and most of all for you PASSION. It's refreshing and dare I say, contagious?!

jtruss said...

most awesome!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Nice post John! And many thanks to Art!

Lattaland said...

Wonderful! I 'll have to go out and get these Yogi DVD's. Gawd only knows why I can;' see this stuff on Cartoon Network!

Allan L. said...

This is stellar! Thank you so much, Art and John. Big time!

U.P.R.O.W. said...

awesome! thanks!

Julia Lundman Midlock (Julie) said...

oh man i wish i had this info about ten years ago for my former job!!! thanks SOOOO much for posting this. Fantastic, John!

Julia Lundman Midlock (Julie) said...

oh man i wish i had this info awhile back for my former job! awesome techniques. i love that they painted on bristol paper.

thanks John K!

Hammerson said...

Fantastic post! I wondered for many years how these beautiful backgrounds for the early HB shows were made. They truly had an unique appeal and quality. It's a great honor to hear the detailed explanation from the master himself. Thank you mr.Lozzi and John. This post will be studied by thousands of aspiring cartoonists.

Randy said...

Hugely inspiring stuff! So rare to hear about the process that went into this work. Sadly most people look at it like it was jut cobbled together easily or even un-thinkingly, because they view cartons as "simple."

Really what the style does in a cartoon is prove whether you really have what it takes, because anybody can lather up their stuff with detail, or make it "look cool." What cartoon stylization does is force you to do more with less, and if you don't know how to do design, all the detail in the world doesn't save you.

This is great stuff, thanks for posting!!!

Enclothe said...

Wow good stuff! Reminds me of working in gouache in my color and design class, I really enjoyed it.
Perhaps I'll have to set aside some time and try out some of these great techniques.

Thanks Mr Lozzi!

I don't really care said...

Now if someone can explain to me why a generation of giants went on to spawn a generation of retards, I might finally be able to make some sense out of the modern world...

Follow the money, Mike. It's the first step in any crime investigation.

Vonster said...

This is awesome! Thank you for sharing your process.

Anonymous said...

thanks john for being cool and getting other pro's to show us how they work as well as how you work as well. im probably better than i ever have been thanks to ya

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

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Christmas shopper said...

Interesting info
Thanks for article

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Will said...

Thanx mate =), i paint digitaly though so i'm gna havto have a massive play to find how to not have all the colors competing with each other, Thanx so much this information is invaluable =)

Anonymous said...

I love your art John!

adam taylor said...

Such a masterclass in painting awesome backgrounds. Thanks.