How to Create Color Harmony in Painting

How to Create Color Harmony in Painting

Color Harmony in Painting

Color creates a mood and unified our paintings. Often an artist will look at their art and feel that a color is missing to achieve color harmony in painting. Adding a color may actually make the painting less unified. Instead, think about neutralizing or graying the color.

There are four ways to do this:

Add black to the color Black will quickly gray a color, but if it overdone throughout a painting, it can render the painting very flat and boring looking.

Add white to the color White “kills” color, as the saying goes. It will dull a color, but is often appropriate with light valued colors.

Add the the complement to the color Adding the complement is a great way to gray or dull a color. It's possible to have grays that range from pure gray to colors being semi-neutrals.

Add a near complement to the color This works well as a way of creating a semi-neutral that has a bias in one direction or another.

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6 Color Mixing Tips

6 Color Mixing Tips

Color Mixing Tips

Easy color mixing tips to help create clean, fresh paint colors.

1. Mix dark into light paint. A small amount of dark paint mixed into light will make a bigger difference in the color than mixing light into dark. It takes a lot of light paint to change the dark.

2. Mix browns and grays using complements instead of using grays or browns "out of the tube". You will create more variety and interesting colors.

3. For the most intense colors only use one or two primaries, avoid mixing in the third primary.

4. Instead of mixing a color, place complements (opposites on the color wheel) side-by-side for vibrancy. Mixing them together will neutralize the colors.

5. Mix opaques with transparents. Transparents will become more opaque, but mixing a transparent into an opaque will still be opaque.

6. At times you may not want to mix colors completely for more interesting color and variety.

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Paint a Better Sunset by Learning to See

Paint a Better Sunset by Learning to See

Learn to paint a sunset

Do you want your painting to sing with excitement, to glow, to be colorful? Then you need to subscribe to the color theory of using more gray in your paintings. Learn to paint a sunset You've seen the paintings of sunsets using all bright colors, but if you used grays in that same painting, the sunset would glow and appear even brighter. When you use too many bright colors, your eyes move around from one color to the next. Each  color competes with the other, nothing standing out, shining above the rest. Now before you paint a sunset,

I want you to look at a sunset. Really look at it. Squint. See the grays? In reality, most of the sky is gray. The colors in the sky become more pure, brighter and warmer in color and value the closer you get to the source of light, the sun. Conversely, The sky becomes darker, grayer and cooler as you move away from the sun. Next time you are out there look, really look. Those gray colors in the sky will make the bright, pure colors sing and glow with excitement.

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How to Keep Your Colors Pure and Clean

How to Keep Your Colors Pure and Clean

One of the most common things I hear from beginning painters is "How do I avoid muddy colors. Hopefully,  these tips will help you keep clean colors.

 

Be Organized and Clean When Painting - Avoid Muddy Colors

Brushes

Make sure that you work with clean brushes. Don't leave residue from other colors. Use one brush for light colors and one for darks.

 

Your Palette

You should get into the habit of laying out your palette of colors in the same order and place them at the edge of the palette to leave plenty of room for mixing. If you squeeze out the paint in long lines instead of puddles, it is easier to take paint from the end of the line, leaving the rest of the paint clean. Use a palette knife to dip into the paint instead of a brush. Then wipe your palette knife clean. Continually wipe your palette clean so that you keep your mixing area clean. Alcohol works well to clean the palette. Remove any dried paint. I will scrape with a razor (I use a glass palette) away any dried paint around each pile of color to keep colors separated from the next. Disposable palettes definitely will help to keep a clean mixing area. Don't be stingy and not throw it away when it becomes over used. That is the beauty of them, you can throw them away after each painting session.

 

Clean Saturated Colors

I've heard people say that you shouldn't mix more than three colors together at a time. I don't go along with this school of thought. Often I will have mixed a gray or used my left over paint from the day before. If I need to adjust the temperature or color of the gray, I will add another color to it. Once you know your colors well, you can do this. Do you paint straight from the tube if you want pure, bright color. But don't overdo it. You can create chaos in your painting with too much saturated colors.

 

Use Like Values

When mixing one color into another keep the values the same or very similar. When you mix a darker value color into a lighter color or vise versa, they don't mix well and can create muddy colors.

 

Use Color to Lighten or Darken

Before adding white or black to darken or lighten a color, always first try using a color. Use cad yellow light to lighten, then add white. Too much white will make the color chalky. Too much black and it can be dulled and gray. In fact, I don't recommend that anyone starts with black until they know how to use their colors. Black can be very over powering. I hope this has helped you with mixing and keeping clean colors. For more on mixing colors go to my FREE color mixing lesson. Click HERE. Then navigate to "Learn About Colors".

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Luminosity, How to Achieve It

Luminosity, How to Achieve It

Luminosity in Paintings

I've been asked how I achieve the luminosity in my paintings. In one word, gray. I can't stress enough how important it is to use grays in your paintings. USING GRAYS IN YOUR PAINTING WILL MAKE YOUR SATURATED COLORS LOOK BRIGHTER!

Now, that being said, there is the orchestration of the paint colors and values. It is much like the orchestration of music. The crescendo builds to the focal point, the finale. If the focal point (the finale) has the most saturated color, the overall colors in the painting will become more saturated as the viewer moves closer to the focal point. I orchestrate the colors by progressively creating more saturated colors as I move closer to the purest, brightest, most saturated color in the painting at the focal point. Subtle changes in your grays can make all the difference.

Use your palette knife to pick up small bits of paint for mixing. Warmer grays closer to the warm focal point. If it's a cool focal point, then it would be the orchestration of cooler colors in the painting. Think about reflected colors in the painting. Where will colors bounce around the scene? That will also help with the luminosity.

For a FREE lesson on mixing color, click HERE and navigate to "Learn About Color".

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How to Paint Moonlight - About the Effects

How to Paint Moonlight - About the Effects

How to Paint Moonlight

To learn how to paint moonlight, let's first look at the light that we are dealing with. The light from the moon is a weaker source than the sun causing the light to appear cool to our eyes. Unlike the sun, there is usually no reflected light. Although, in some instances snow will cause some reflected light on a clear night with a very bright moon. The value range in a moonlit scene is diminished to about two thirds of the spectrum. Colors become grayer and cooler.  And, edges are softer.

Toward the foreground the colors will become more saturated and closer to their local color. There is a multitude of grays in a moonlit scene and the darkest darks can be either warm or cool. Generally, the colors that are exposed to the light of the sky will be cooler than their local color.  The rule lights are cool and shadows warm applies here. Black can be mixed with colors to gray them, but don't use black in itself. There are subtle differences in colors.

If you are painting the moon itself, the color is not just white. It can appear a bluish color, yellow, orange or pink and will vary slightly in values over the surface. The moon will also have a glow around it, causing the sky to appear a green color from the yellow or a reddish color, depending on the color of the moon.  The sky can vary from a bluish dark to a violet. If there are city lights, the horizon will pick up some of the warm lights in the color.

Remember that the moon light is directional. So, the sky can vary in color and value and an object will show the source of light with varying values and slight temperature changes. But, it is all very subtle in a moonscape.

Below are some paint swatches in bright daylight. I took the same swatches and manipulated them in photoshop, making the value range less and darker. I cooled the colors with blue and made the colors less saturated. This will give you some idea what moonlight will do to the colors. This is just a generalization and certainly not true for all night scenes or all colors in the same painting.

Daylight

How to paint moonlight  

Moonlight

how to paint moonlight

 

The blog, Illustration Art has a post about Remington's night scene paintings.

As far as equipment, I use two clipon  booklights, one on the canvas and one on the palette. I have found that at times I have to turn them off for a while, especially on bright moonlit nights. Sometimes it is easier to see the values comparing them with the lights off. And always, I need to check the painting the next day. Sometimes, it's a surprise.

Nocturne in Blue and Silver: The Lagoon, Venice ,1879-1880 by James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Oil on Canvas. Museum of Fine Art, Boston.  

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

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How to Control The "Difficult" Paints

How to Control The "Difficult" Paints

Using Synthetic Paints - The Difficult Paints

You've probably heard other artists say they don't have pthalo blue, a synthetic paint, on their palette because it is too hard to control. It gets into every color and all over you, the artist.

Well, it doesn't have to be like that. You can learn to use the intense colors with control. The most intense pigments are synthetics, such as Dioxazenes, Pthalocyanines,  Napthols,  and Quinacridones, rather than organic pigments. The trick is in the mixing. Any of these colors when added to white might take 1% of the colored pigment versus 99% of titanium white. An organic pigment, such as Cadmium Red Light, might be 10% pigment and 90% titanium white to create the same value as the small amount of synthetic with white.

When you mix the colors, use a palette knife, not a brush. You will have much more control over the mixture mixing in this manner. If you need to lighten the mixture by adding white to it, don't add white to the entire pile of color that you mixed.

Take your palette knife, divide the mixture in half or so and mix the white into just one of the partial piles. I have seen many people add more white and more white, creating huge piles of paint. You may as well push some aside and just use a little of it at a time.

Then, there is the pigment that gets all over you. That's another problem. You have to solve that. But it would probably be a lot less on you if you use the palette knife and 1% of the paint rather than 10%. I hope this helps you in handling the paint and not letting it get away from you. Becky

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Painting With Warm and Cool Whites

Painting With Warm and Cool Whites

Using Warm & Cool White Paint

Use your whites as a bias for warm afternoon light or cool midday lights by using Gamblin's Warm and Cool White Paint. Reserve your Titanium White for a few highlights.

Examples of how the Cool and Warm White Paint affect the Color Temperature of the colors, Perylene Red and Cadmium Yellow Light in the examples of the photo below. 

warm and cool white

One of the places I find that is very useful for using the warm and cool whites is in clouds.  I very seldom use pure white while painting clouds. Give it a try. Check out more youtube videos on my youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/beckyjoyartist  Click HERE for youtube.

Talk to you all later. Becky  

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Color Exercises & Color & Light Workshop

Color Exercises & Color & Light Workshop

I taught a color workshop in my studio, my first 3 day class in the new studio. I wanted to pass on a little exercise that we did in the class. First, the students started with values. Sometimes a boring exercise, but soooo important.

They made a value scale, then painted a small scene in 5 values. From the value sketch we worked in the afternoon. I had them put all references away and only work from the value sketch.

First, imagine what time of day do you want the scene, what season? what color should the tree be. Put that color down, then cool, warm and gray the colors for the rest of the scene. What colors would work? What is appropriate?

You learn to start thinking about warm and cool colors and graying colors rather than copying a photo or becoming literal. It really helps to learn more about color and how to mix different colors. I think they were surprised at their results and definitely learned something. Here are a couple of more examples. 

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A Brief History of Color Pigments

A Brief History of Color Pigments

  • The first evidence of decorative painting is of painting the body with charcoal and chalk as well as using earth colors of red ochre. In the beginning "paints" probably didn't last and washed away.
  • There is evidence of ochres and charcoal being used in caves possibly as old as 60,000 years. The colors were burnt wood from the fire, and yellowish and reddish clays. They were at first applied wet and allowed to dry.
  • Eventually a basic paint was  developed with the addition of animal fats, or honey or egg which made the paints more durable.
  • With the growing power and wealth in Egypt, artists were employed. This gave rise to the production of paints in new colors. Some of the pigments were malachite a natural green copper ore as well as the blue variant called Azurite. An impermanent yellow, Orpiment was discovered. It was known to be poisinous, but it was the only bright yellow. Blue Frit, basically a ground up blue glass, was the dark blue found in the Egyptian tombs. Later a green and yellow variety were discovered. White came from the mining of gypsum as well as the use of chalk. Lamp Black was the early black that was used. Red Earth and Cinnabar were the only reds. Madder and indigo were known to be used in the dying of textiles.
  • By the Roman period greens were added with green earth and verdigris. White Lead ((an artificial copper green) and green earth were added as greens as well as Manganese Oxides. White Lead (Flake White) was being made. It's known that the yellows, Massicot and Naples Yellow, Tyrian Purple, Burnt & Raw Umbers and Siennas, and Realgar, a yellow-red, were used. Paintings of Greek, Roman and Egyptian usually were encaustic (probably bee's wax).
  • Although impermanent, a bright red, the gum from a tree in Southweast Asia, was used for many centuries.
  • Most of these colors, with the exception of blacks and earths, the colors were often toxic or impermanent.
  • During the Dark Ages, two important colors came about . First, Vermillion, a poisonous but permanent bright red. The second was a bright, permanent blue known Ultra Marine, which came from Persia and Afghanistan.It was ground Lapis Lazuli. Eventually the production became more refined and revolutionized art.
  • After the Roman period and up to the Renaissance period the wax process was lost and replaced by the use of oil, most often olive oil, which had a very long drying time.
  • The illustration of bibles and the churches during the Renaissance preserved the processes of paint making.  The color range was still very limited, but many colors were still either too expensive, too impermanent, or too poisonous. During the Renaissance linseed oil, walnut oil and poppy-seed oil were used.
  • With all the painting at this time, only two major colors were developed, Naples Yellow and Red Lake (now Carmine) was developed into a wide range of colors. Red Lake came from the insect Cochineal in Central America and India. In India a similar insect called Lac is used to produce Shellac, the varnish.
  • A little later Gamboge, from the gum of a Southeast Asian tree, was developed. Although a bright and transparent yellow, it was impermanent.
  • In 1704 Prussian Blue was developed. It was soon after this during the Industrial Revolution that the variety of paints became widespread as we know them today.
  • Some of the 18th century discoveries were short lived. Bremen Blue was quickly replaced by Cobalt Blue. Cadmium Yellow replaced Turner's Yellow. Prussian Blue was almost totally replaced by Pthalo Blue.
  • The 19th century during the Impressionist movement brought a lot of new colors, a new one every 4 to 5 years.
  • 1802 - Cobalt Blue, 1804 - Cerulean Blue, 1809 - Chromium Green Oxide. Indian Yellow came from India, but cruelty to animals in the production banned its production. Cadmium Yellow - 1817. Then artificial and affordable paints were produced - Ultramarine, Zinc White, Rose Madder,  Viridian, Cobalt Violet, Emerald Green and Aureolin. Some were later found to be poisonous.
  • Artificial Iron Oxides provided more consistent and pure natural earth colors, such as Yellow Ochre and Mars Black.
  • Coal tar dyes were invented, the first being Mauve. They were impermanent, but have been changed to since that time and now are permanent.
  • During the 20th century a large range of permanent colors were in use. Hansa colors replaced Vermillion (Cadmium Red), a toxic color as well as Titanium White, also toxic. In 1935 the Pthalocyanines were discovered. Soon after Quinacridones and Perylenes were discovered. This was the time of the expressionist painters and their bright colors.

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