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Artist's Color Manual by Simon Jennings

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Book Review Artist's Color Manual by Simon Jennings

Book Review: Artist's Color Manual by Simon Jennings

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The Bottom Line

I don't know if I could want more from a book on artist's color: it's packed with helpful information and sumptuous illustrations (photographs, color swatches, and artwork). Paging through it is a visual delight.

It's a coffee-table version of a book on color, which means you're as likely to laze in a comfy chair paging through it as you are to use it in your studio as a reference.

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  • Combines useful factual information on color with numerous, appealing photos
  • Looks at colors in different mediums as well as individually
  • 20+ pages of color index, swatches from different paint manufacturers
  • Covers the fundamentals of color theory and ways to use color in a painting


  • So visually enticing I'm often distracted while I'm looking up something specific.
  • Some people may find the design too busy and chaotic.


  • Hardcover book, 192 pages. ISBN 9780811841436.
  • Published by Chronicle Books in the USA and Collins in the UK.
  • Author Simon Jennings is a painter, graphic artist, and art teacher who attended the Royal College of Art in London.
  • Chapter 1: What is Color? Chapter 2: Color by Color. Chapter 3: Creative Directions. Color Index. Index.

Guide Review - Artist's Color Manual by Simon Jennings

A visual guide to a visual subject, that's what the Artist's Color Manual is in a nutshell. Quite how the author managed to gather all the tubes of color, brushes, sketchbook pages, and artwork is mind-boggling. Not that this means the information isn't good (it is), just that this book is beautifully designed and crammed with glorious color photos and plenty of color swatches.

The text is easy to digest, being presented with plenty of headings (and cross-references) to guide you around and entice you in. The information tends towards the bite-size format, rather than in-depth, so if it's scientific or historic color detail you're after, stick with Philip Ball's Bright Earth. (Personally, I can't imagine living without either.)

The first chapter, "What is Color?", is an introduction to color in a painter's world. It looks at the history of paint pigments, the color wheel, types of mediums (oils, watercolor, acrylic, gouache, egg tempera, pastels, colored pencil), choosing a palette, and color language.

Chapter two looks at the pigments available in the various color groups, color by color, including metallic and so-called flesh colors. The captions for each color includes the name and color index number.

Chapter three looks at techniques for using color, such as broken color, transparency and luminosity, working without black, subdued color, or texture-free color. Each is based around an artwork from a contemporary painter.

Chapter four is a visual index of color swatches of different mediums and from different paint manufacturers. The common name, paint index name, medium, and manufacturer are given with each swatch. It's a fabulous way to compare various yellows and to find a color if you want, say, a yellow that's just a little darker than what you generally use.

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