STEAMPUNK, HUH? BROWNS. You’ll need a lot of shades of brown,” my son advised. I stopped coloring and stared at him.
“Just browns? Seriously?” I asked. “Pretty boring!”
After mumbling something about Jules Verne, he explained that steampunk fashion is usually made up of brown fabrics and accessories; but there’s a fair amount of black, as well.
Oh, great. That’s changing it up. Black, too.
My excitement about spending many hours working on Marty Noble’s drawings in “Steampunk Designs”, one of many great coloring books from Dover’s Creative Haven series, waned a bit. But then I looked at the book’s cover designs. Brown was not the dominant color. Rather there were yellows, greens, blues, purples, and pinks. Ha! The “rule of brown” was already broken. Yes!
What is Steampunk?
Steampunk describes a cultural and artistic movement that comes from a Victorian-era romanticism of science in literature and fantasy art. It uses elements from 19th-century industrialized Western civilization, especially steam powered technology. The innovative, imaginative works of science fiction writers like H.G. Wells (The Time Machine) and Jules Verne (Around the World in Eighty Days) have been said to influence steampunk fashion and design.
Gadgetry, gears, clocks, steam engines, hot air balloons, heavy jewelry, big hats, boots with buckles and dresses with ruffles make up many of the thirty-one designs in this book.
After doing a bit of research on the steampunk movement and checking out images of steampunk fashion, I again got excited about coloring steampunk designs. Gears, buckles, and jewelry call for metallic colors: gold, silver, and bronze. Hot air balloons are always colorful; anything goes. And the dresses – Victorian women definitely did not just wear brown and black. This is looking much better!
But, There Are Guns
Then, my son makes another discovery. “Uh, mom, there are guns in several of these designs. You don’t like guns. Are you sure you want to color the pages that have guns?” he teased.
I assured him I can handle the guns. After all, it’s science fiction. And they’re actually called “blasters.” They don’t really exist and if they don’t really exist, I can color them any crazy bright color I choose. Heck, I can make them look like the squirt guns we used to have around the house – neon green comes to mind. (I have yet to tackle the designs with guns blasters, but I have a neon green pencil handy for when I do.)
After all that research, I finally finished the first page in the book. It didn’t include a blaster, but I’ll work up to that. Of course, I went beyond just using shades of brown. I would have gone mad exhausting all the browns in my Prismacolor Premier pencil collection! But I did choose pretty conservative colors for my first attempt at coloring steampunk, browns included.
Greys: I chose various shades for the outer border (Slate Grey – my favorite grey) and inner background (10% French Grey). For gloves, dress draping and part of the vest I used 30% French Grey and 90% Warm Grey.
Metallics: Metallic Gold, Silver, and Bronze colored pencils for the gears.
Browns: I used Terra Cotta for the inner border frame, the gear designs in the outer border, and the hat band. I chose dark brown for the main outer border “S” designs.
Reds: I got a bit less conservative and used Clay Rose for the main part of the dress, the clock face just below it, the blouse sleeves and dress suspenders. I selected various shades of red (Raspberry and others) for the birds, and adornment on the cuff and glove.
And that’s it!
Staying “True” to Steampunk Fashion Colors
If you really want to keep steampunk in the brown/black/grey world, Prismacolor Premiers have the best pallette. You can go crazy with interesting shades of brown and grey. For black, there is a true black and then there is Dark Umber, which is a good variation on a stark black; it’s a very dark brown that appears black on the paper.
But take a chance and have some fun with other colors! Steampunk can get as wild as our imagination allows. Why not a neon green gun? Or purple hair? Or bright blue ruffles on an orange dress?