Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tips for Using Colors Effectively

Color is a complicated subject and this article is intended to give just a few helpful tips on the uses of colors.
First, I must say that you should invest in some good quality paints. I work mostly in oils, but I occasionally paint in acrylics. I really made an investment in the oil paints, however, I buy cheap craft acrylic paints so that I can feel free to experiment with them. Make sure that you buy permanent paints that won't fade in the sun. There are many books that can help you with this. If exposed to the sun continuously, paints fade and a wonderful painting can be ruined fairly quickly.
A standard color wheel contains twelve colors; three primary colors, red yellow and blue three secondary colors, orange, purple and green and six tertiary colors. The primary colors are the colors that can be mixed together to make all other colors. The secondary colors are made when you mix two of the primary colors. The tertiary are made when you mix a secondary color with a primary color. With these 12 there are so many possibilities. Try to keep in mind that on the top of the color wheel are the warm colors and on the bottom of the color wheel are the cool colors. A colors compliment is always on the opposite side of the color wheel. There are three primary colors, red, yellow and blue. If a color is primary, it's opposite is whatever secondary color that is made using the other two primary colors. For example, orange is made of red and yellow and is the opposite of blue. If you are looking for the opposite of a secondary color you will look for the primary color that is not used to make that color, and that is it's opposite. So, what about tertiary colors? Tertiary opposites are always other tertiary colors and are always the opposite of the two colors that are mixed to get them. For example, red orange has an opposite of blue green because blue is the opposite of orange and green is the opposite of red. If you remember this, you won't always need a color wheel in front of you. How can you use this information? Well there are several ways. Knowing your color wheel can help you to mix clean color without getting muddy color. On one side of the wheel there are cool colors and on the other side there are warm colors. I make it a rule to never mix more than three colors at a time (black and white don't count) and to never mix a color from the top of the color wheel with one on the bottom of the color wheel. Try to keep cool colors mixed with cool colors and warm colors with warm colors. I feel like I should add a little side note here: it is extremely important to really rinse your brush very well when you switch colors, this will also help to keep the colors clean. Having said this, using a color's compliment to gray it down when needed is a good idea, just add a little bit at a time. Another way to use this information is to realize that when working on a painting you should try to paint with primarily either cool colors or warm colors. This isn't to way that you can't use both in one painting, it is simply that one should dominate. A rule that I have is that one temperature should take up at least 2/3 of my painting. If you really want to make your subject stand out, you can paint the majority of the painting in a muted grayed down version of a color and then paint the subject this color's much more intense compliment, or opposite not grayed down. This will make your subject really pop out and steal the viewer's attention. You may also want to let one value dominate. Either your painting is mostly dark, or mostly light. The subject should always be the most detailed and have the most contrast. It also makes for an interesting painting when there are colors in the subject that won't be found anywhere else in the painting. Although color schemes are beyond the scope of this article, it is important to understand that we shouldn't use every color in a painting. It makes it too chaoitic and unpleasant. An interesting color scheme generator can be found here: http://www.colorschemer.com/online.html. It makes me want to paint all the rooms in my house. A simple to read article about color schemes in paintings can be found here: http://www.artinstructionblog.com/art-lesson-learn-about-color-schemes-for-your-next-painting Also remember to keep an open mind. There are more to colors than meets the eye. If you look at leaves, most people would say that leaves are green. What we are discribing here is called local color. This is the color that objects appear to be. We must re-learn how to look at objects. They are never just green, eveor red or any other color. There are many different hues and colors in a singel object. Let's take a single red apple as an example. The apple is sitting on a blue table near a window at sunset. The blue table will be reflected in this apple, and you will see blue in the apple. Sunsets are warm and this will make the apple be a very different color than it would be at noon. Are you near the apple? The color of your clothing will effect the color of the apple too. Don't over think it, but try to be aware that color is ever changing and the color of an object is dependant on too many factors to put into a formula. Custom Tree Triptych - Sculpted Paintings I used the painting above to illustrate two points. The first is that the warm colors dominate the painting, remember to let one temperature dominate. It is also important to let your larger values connect to each other and your smaller bits of the other value connect also. this creates harmony and flow in the painting. In this painting the darker values connect to each other and the lighter values are connected. Notice how the focal area is the area with the most detail and contrast. It makes the painting very pleasing to the eye.
In this teeny little painting the colors could have easily been muddied because of the use of many color compliments. I made suer that my brushes were absolutely clean before switching colors and I also painted the background colors first, allowed them to dry, then put the clouds and mountains on top of them, making sure that the oranges, yellows and pinks never mixed with the purples and blues.
As seen in this painting it is not neccessary, or even desirabl to use a lot of colors in a painting. This painting of a duck has very few colors in it, and yet it is an effective painting.
Also notic the duck's head and back. Even though the local color is black, when I really looked close I noticed the yellow from the sun and the blueish tones, probably from the sky. Including these in my painting makes the duck look more three dimensional and interesting. This painting is very simple. I wanted the sunset to really glow, so I muted down the blue sky, and even the yellow around the sunset is grayed down. Then you come to the sunset which contains the most intense colors in the painting. It really makes it stand out. However, because the grass stalks create the most contrast, they are what the eye notices first.

1 comment:

Christie Cottage said...

I love the tree!!!