In the chapter “Color” in Graphic Design: The New Basics, Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips discuss how color can express and describe mood and information, thus forming our perception of a given object.
Lynda Barry’s “What It Is” uses color quite interestingly throughout this graphic novel. Not all graphic novels make use of color, some preferring a black and white monochrome. In “What It Is”, color is an active player in how meaning is communicated to the reader. Without it, it would be much more difficult to read the pages due to all of the doodles and images scrapped together.
Page 140 provides an example of how near complement colors can combine to create a harmonious effect when she begins talking about the struggles of writing. Here she makes use of two colors that are close in value but have a different color (or hue). The gently muted salmon pink and almost sky blue seem to be an unlikely combination at first glance and that is true. This is because they are near complements. As the name suggests, this means that on the color wheel they lie near opposite each other.
For most of the page, Lynda uses various tints of this blue hue in a monochromatic effect when used with the black and white. While black dominates the page, the blue details pop and help bring in a sense of softness matches Lynda’s playful yet serious or thoughtful voice. Without it, the page would appear harsh and serious.