Making Inverted Colour Pictures

2015 Artwork Inverted colours article sketch

Before I begin, I should probably point out that to make this type of art, you will need both traditional art supplies (pens, pencils, coloured pencils, watercolour pencils etc..) as well as either a scanner or a digital camera (to digitise your artwork) and an image editing program too.

The features you will need to use for making these types of pictures can be found in almost every image editing program – and if you don’t have an image editing program, then a good one to start with would probably be a free open-source editing program called “GIMP“.

Anyway, one of the types of art that I like to experiment with every now and then is the inverted colour picture. This is, essentially, a picture where either all or most of the finished image is a negative image of the thing that you actually drew and/ or painted. It looks surprisingly cool when it’s done well.

In other words the colours in your final digital image are the exact opposite of the colours in your traditionally- made image.

But, you might be ask, do colours even have opposites? Yes they do. Let’s take a look at the colour wheel. Here’s an example of an old colour wheel from 1908, but you should probably look for one that is based on how computer displays handle colours (since they do it very slightly differently).

NOTE: This is an old public domain colour wheel from Wikipedia. Computer displays handle colours slightly differently, so it may be worth looking for a more up-to date one

NOTE: This is an old public domain colour wheel from Wikipedia. Computer displays handle colours slightly differently, so it may be worth looking for a more up-to date one

In order to work out which colours will appear in your final image, just look for the colour you want to use on the wheel and then look at the colour that is directly opposite it. You will need to use this opposite colour in your original drawing or painting.

For example, if you want something to be pale green in your final picture, then you should use pink/purple paints or pencils in your original picture. Or, if you want something to be orange, then you should use blue paints or pencils, I’m sure that you get the idea.

Making a painting or a drawing in this way is a bit of a surreal experience and it can take a bit of practice, failure and experimentation – in order to get it right. But, eventually, you will end up with something that looks a bit like this:

"Metropolis (Original version)" By C. A. Brown

“Metropolis (Original version)” By C. A. Brown

Once you’ve finished, you need to either scan or photograph your picture, then you need to look at the image using your image editing program.

If you want to, you can also adjust the brightness and contrast levels of the image in order to make the colours look bolder (but, be aware that this will also affect how your inverted colour image will look too).

Anyway, once you’ve loaded your image into the editing program, take a look through the options menu for an option titled “Invert”, “Negative Image” etc… In “GIMP”, this option is called “Invert” and it can be found in the “Colours” menu at the top of the screen.

After this, all you need to do is to click on it and you’ll end up something that looks like this:

"Metropolis" By C. A. Brown

“Metropolis” By C. A. Brown

Well done! You’ve just made an inverted colour picture!

But, that’s not all. In addition to this, most image editing programs allow you to select smaller areas of an image to edit – so, with a little bit of practice and experimentation – you can make pictures where, for example, only the background contains inverted colours. So, remember, you don’t have to use these effects for the entire picture if you don’t want to.


Sorry for such a short and basic article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (8th February 2015)

Well, for some reason, I felt seriously uninspired when it came to making today’s painting. In the end, I finally managed to paint a very boring landscape.

But, since it was so dull, I decided to liven it up a bit by using a lot of digital effects on it after I’d scanned it (As well as my usual adjustments to the brightness/contrast level, I inverted the colours and then I increased the saturation shift(?) a lot… well, whatever it was, it made the picture look cooler ).

As usual, this picture is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Lost Island" By C. A. Brown

“Lost Island” By C. A. Brown