Creative Process

How I Use and Manage Color to Create My Illustrations

Magoz How to Color illustrations and manage color palettes
Written by Magoz
4 min read 42.3k views 36 comments

Minimalism is settled very deep in my work (and also in my life).
This is one of the reasons why I only use a few colors and I try to avoid strokes, lines, and gradients. In fact, the color is one of the most important elements of my work.

The way I use color has evolved since I started being an illustrator. Nowadays, I use a very specific workflow to choose my color palette. I will explain the process I follow and the tools I use in this article.

Magoz illustration - colour reference

Colour database

We are surrounded by amazing colors. The world itself is an incredible color palette.
I keep a color database in Evernote with all the colors that call my attention. It includes photos, old images and work of other artists and illustrators.
My color database is huge, and with the years, it has become one of the most important tools in my working process.
I use it as a reference tool that inspires me and guides my color decisions.

Picking colors with Sip

Sip could be defined as the universal eyedropper of Photoshop that works anywhere outside of Photoshop.
I use it to catch any color inside of my screen (images, files, websites or anything else). Sip lives in the menu bar and it’s extremely easy to use. You can get the color hex value copied into your clipboard in a click, ready to be pasted in Photoshop or anywhere else.
You can also use Sip to organize your color palettes and some other extra advanced features (which I don’t use).

Sip is free and it’s available for Mac only.

Working process

  1. The number of colors
    When I have the idea, and after creating the guides in Photoshop, I start thinking about the number of colors the illustration will need. I try to keep the number of colors as low as possible.
  2. Picking guide colors from my color database with Sip
    Then I go to my color database to find colors that may fit conceptually and formally with the illustration. When I find some of them, I use Sip to copy the color Hex value into the clipboard.
  3. Creating new colors from the guide colors
    When I’ve identified colors that can work and I have them into my clipboard, I go to Photoshop and I paste the hex color code to use it. I start playing with the first shapes of the sketch and adjusting the colors inside Photoshop.
  4. Final colors
    As the sketch evolves, the color palette evolves too. I adjust the tones till I find a strong color combination.
  5. Extra: validating the colors when the sketch is finished
    Sometimes when the sketch is finished, I play around with the colors, trying to find better solutions. This is very useful because my sketches are “unpolished finals” and the impact of the colors in the sketches is very similar than how they will look like in the final.

A good color palette has a massive impact on the final result of an illustration, especially when you have a minimalistic style and you don’t use a lot of colors. A poor or bad palette can destroy a good illustration. I’ve ruined great ideas and illustrations because of a bad choice of colors. But luckily, over the years, I’ve found my workflow that helps me a lot to deal with colors.

How do you guys deal with colors? Are they important in your working process?
As always, I would love to hear your comments about it!

PS: My online course Strategy & Business for Illustrators is now available for pre-order!


Nomadic illustrator. Thinker. Seeker.


  1. T

    I love these articles!!!

    Can you tell us more bout your drawing style, do you draw in other styles?

    • Thanks, Thuan!
      I only illustrate in this style. But I draw with pencil and pens in my sketchbooks using the line a lot.

      Is there something specific you would like to know?

  2. Hi, great post as always. Didn’t know about that Sip software, seems great, thanks for the tip!

    Since I work mostly in Illustrator I rely heavily on two tools within the program: the color guide panel and the edit color option on the same panel.


    • Thanks for describing your workflow, Hugraphic!
      Very interesting to start with the color guide and the edit color option.
      Do you look for inspiration in anything else than those Illustrator options?

      • Well I don’t have a database like you but I often search for color inspiration in the same places you do: vintage posters, photography, pinterest, behance…

        It’s funny that when I look to my portfolio I can see that some colors are predominant and most of the times it’s an unconscious process.

  3. Ey, fantastico como siempre. Has oido del Swatchmate Cube? Me compré uno hace poco y es bastante util para coger colores.


    • Hola Stefano!
      Pues nunca había oído hablar de Smatchmate Cube, pero está increíble. Muchas gracias por tu aportación. Por lo que veo funciona solo en el mundo “real”. Has probado de usarlo directamente en una pantalla? Funciona bien en esas circusntancias?

      Un abrazo y gracias por aportar valor al artículo!

      • Pues la verdad es que lo tengo desde hace unos meses pero no lo he usado mucho, pero lo voy a intentar sobre una pantalla, a ver si funciona. También me voy a bajar el Sip, a ver que tal, por lo que se ve fantastico. Yo lo que uso bastante para colores en el ordenador es el DigitalColor Meter de los macs.

  4. Have you tried using the Adobe color app? The thing that is great about that is the palettes sync with the Adobe programs so you don’t have to copy and paste them. Works seamlessly with the smart phone app too.

    One of my students uses this which looks pretty great too.

    • Hi Jason, do you mean Adobe Kuler? How do you use it?
      I know, it’s an amazing tool for discovering new colour palettes!

      Thank you very much for contributing to creating a better blog!! :-)

  5. I think they renamed it to just Adobe Color. The smart phone app is really great! is good for community stuff around color and pattern as well.

  6. Thank you for the advice !

    Very usefully and easy to do it

  7. I really appreciate it, each and every new entry that you post makes me feel closer to you! Thanks, it’s really useful!

  8. ¡Hola! Gracias por compartir. Este artículo lo encuentro muy interesante, al igual que los comentarios.
    Yo encuentro muy útil la aplicación online


  9. These posts are truly fantastic! I read them every time you post them. As an artist I tend to use the fixed colour range you can get from fine art material (inks, pastels, watercolour). Of course I can mix to create new colours, but that’s when my mind blocks! I love colour, but to keep my work harmonious and flowing I tend to stick to a few basic colours. The same applies when I do digital work! Otherwise I would be stuck forever in a limbo of colours! :)

    • Hi Sofia,
      Thank you very much for your comment!

      Would be interesting to see the different workflows when we compare digital and traditional way of working.
      Anyway, and you said, the important is to keep harmonious and homogeneous colour palettes.

      Thanks for reading!

  10. This is great – I’ve been using Kuler recently but it takes time to sample the colour – I think Sip is going to be my new best friend.


  11. Hola!
    Ya hace tiempo que sigo tu trabajo y la verdad es que me encanta. Hoy justo he entrado en tu blog por primera vez y lo encuentro muy interesante, todo! Ver los procesos de trabajo es muy enriquecedor. El viernes vi tu charla en el Blanc y tb me encantó!.

    Felicidades sr nomáda!

    • Hola, Núria. ¡Muchas gracias por tus comentarios!
      Me alegro mucho que el Blog te parezca interesante y que te gustara la charla en el Blanc.

      Nos vemos por aquí :-)
      Un abrazo

  12. Hi Magoz, thank you for sharing your experience! Have you ever run into problems with colors for prints? I always feel there is a slight discrepancy between the colors shown on screen :S

  13. Hello!

    You have an amazing blog! I really liked this post, especially for the Sip app.

    Thanks for all the wonderful tips and please, keep writing!

  14. y

    Nice article, Magoz.
    How you start your freelance job? im confuse, i illustrate something at instagram, and dont know what should i do? or its just like or adding followers, i dont get nothing. thanks the answer.

  15. K

    thanks for your insight, i’m really inspired by your work and found this super helpful as a budding graphic designer!

  16. A
    Arline C Harris

    Good info – I’m just starting the marketing for my own company which is not graphics based as is yours. My goal it to advance my InDesign skills so that I can make adjustments and changes to the art I already have. Color is so important in my marketing efforts and I appreciate you sharing your library process for color.

  17. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who has been conducting a little homework
    on this. And he in fact bought me dinner due to the fact that I discovered it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanx for spending the time to discuss this topic here on your

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