Art schools will teach you about value and color. They will not teach you about color and value.
Value is the lightness or darkness of a color; it’s important in shading, but not in surface colors. Color is the hue or temperature of a color; it’s important in surface colors, but not in shading. Together they comprise all the information the human eye needs to see form and space, the two things that are most important to art-making.
Telling you to mix your own colors is like telling you how to make your own paper clips when you’re making paper airplanes. You’re just going to get frustrated; you need to learn how to use what’s on hand first. But once you know how, then maybe you can start experimenting with your own paper clips.
Before I tell you how to mix colors – or even more importantly, how to apply them – let me tell you about color palettes for painting still life, landscape and portrait art. That way we’ll be talking about the same thing when I do get around to telling you how to mix colors from those palettes. You’ll know what I’m talking about, and why there are so many different ways of doing it.
As with so much else in art, there
I will provide you with a lot of information on color theory, how to choose your paints, how to mix the colors. I will give you an idea on what are the most popular color schemes and what are their meanings. I will also give you some examples of still life, landscape and portrait paintings that use these color schemes.
Color is not just something pretty to look at; it has meaning. One of the things that we as humans are naturally drawn to is color. We have a certain response to it whether it’s in an object or in a painting. Color can make us feel calm or energetic, happy or sad, etc. Colors can often say something about objects that we would not expect. Color can also help define our moods such as red for strength and power or blue for calmness and peacefulness.
There are many different types of color schemes for art work but here I will focus on 4 that are very popular: Monochromatic, Analogous, Triad and Tetradic which I’ll refer to as Analogous, Triad, Tetradic and Monochromatic from now on. You may be wondering why there are only 4 and not more since there are so many different colors out there but believe me there are already enough
I am often asked about color schemes for painting, whether for landscapes, still life or portraits. Color is a very personal thing and so it’s hard to give general rules, but I have had a lot of practice in knowing what will work and what won’t, so here are some guidelines that can help you choose your color scheme.
Determining the right color palette for a painting always starts with choosing the right values (lightness or darkness) of the pigment. If you have matching values of the three primary pigments—red, yellow and blue—then you have what is called a “primary” color scheme.
Look at this color wheel:
The three primary pigments are red, yellow and blue, each one next to its complement (the pigment directly opposite it on the color wheel), which creates an effect of high contrast. Because there are only three primary pigments and they are all equally light or dark (they all have the same value), this palette has a lot of visual power and drama.
I sometimes use the primary palette in my still lifes; it works especially well for small paintings done on location when I want to create impact quickly by having strong contrast between light and dark areas. For example, here is a sketch I did on location
Color is a powerful tool for artists. It can make or break a painting, and it can make the difference between one that is memorable and one that falls into obscurity. A good color palette can elevate an otherwise pedestrian piece of art to greatness.
A good color palette is determined by choice, not chance. It doesn’t matter if you are starting from scratch or working from an existing painting, there are still many choices to be made. There are so many factors affecting color choice that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the possibilities. But with some practice and patience, anyone can learn to use color well in their artwork.
Choose Your Palette Wisely
There isn’t just one right way to do things when it comes to color combination. In fact, there are many successful ways to create a good color palette, but they all come down to having a balanced set of colors that work well together while also striking a good balance with the painting itself. The first step in creating a functional color palette is finding colors that work well together. One way of doing this is by choosing colors from an analogous palette . An analogous palette consists of three colors found next to each other on the color wheel . Analogous palettes work well because their colors have enough contrast between them but
Your first concern as an artist is to choose your palette.
Every color has different properties that affect the way it is seen and affects what color will be best for the painting you are creating. For example, if you are painting a portrait of a person, then choosing a red will make the subject appear more dangerous. The same goes for green or blue. In contrast, if you want to paint a landscape with a calm feeling then you will want to use browns and grays as they are more calming than reds, blues and greens.
Tints are created by adding white to a color, shades are created by adding black. The tints and shades of each primary color have different effects on the painting when used together. For instance if you combine yellow and blue and add white you get green which is considered one of the most unpleasant colors in art history.
A secondary color is created by combining two primary colors together. A secondary color cannot be made by mixing tints or shades of its components alone. For example: red + yellow = orange; blue + yellow = green; red + blue = violet; blue + red = purple (violet or purple is not considered a secondary color).
The tertiary colors (or split-complementary)
1. Typically, a pastel artist will use one or two main colors, and then the rest of the color scheme is made up of tints and shades of those colors.
There are no hard and fast rules about how many colors you can use in a painting, but you may find it easier to get started if you pick a limited number of colors, perhaps three to six. That way you won’t be overwhelmed with too many possible combinations. If you are choosing your own palette of colors, remember that complimentary colors (colors opposite each other on the color wheel) make vibrant paintings while analogous colors (colors next to each other on the wheel) create serene paintings.
2. Color triads are often used in traditional art: red-yellow-blue; yellow-green-violet; blue-red-orange; violet-red-yellow.
3. Learn your basic pigment theory so you can mix paint yourself using raw pigments (the pure particles found in nature). It’s very satisfying to learn how to do this, and it can help eliminate some of the frustration that comes when you don’t know what kind of paint you’re using or why it isn’t working for you. Here is a link to a blog by an artist who
The color wheel is the fundamental building block of color theory. It describes how different colors are created, and how they bring out different emotions when used together. The wheel is a circle, broken into twelve pieces, each representing a different color in the spectrum.
The most important thing to remember about the color wheel is that it’s based on additive mixing. That means it only works for light, not pigment. Pigment doesn’t mix the way light does.
The analogy I’ve always used for this is lollipops (I know I know, but bear with me) Imagine that you have a palette consisting of red, yellow, and blue paint. You paint a dot of red onto a blank canvas, and then mix that dot with some blue to make purple. Now you paint another dot of red onto the purple, and mix it with more blue to make more purple. What do you get? Purple again!
So what happens when you put yellow on top of red? Nothing very interesting: it makes orange-red. So far so good; this is what happens in light. Now what if we put yellow on top of green? You might think you’d get brown (because mixing green with red makes brown), but if you try it you’ll see