View Full Version : What colors to use for the rocks?

04-27-2013, 08:40 AM
Hello everyone,

The other day I bumped into this pic of snow on rocks on the internet.


I found the texture of the rocks interesting and wanted to capture it in watercolors. I plan to use the wet in wet for the first layer on the rocks, then wet on dry for the second layer and finally create texture (with some dark shade) by dabbing paint using a sponge (I am hoping that works :crossfingers:). There are many colors that can be seen on the rocks. I am struggling to narrow down the colors to use :(, especially the first light wash (I think Naples Yellow would be a good choice).

Any suggestions/ guidance would be much appreciated.

Thanks! :)

04-27-2013, 09:27 AM
Hi Nayan,
I've moved your thread to the Studio which is where we go to ask for help with questions such as yours.

I painted rocks recently for my painting which you see in my signature line and I had great fun placing the colors on the wet paper individually and letting them mix and mingle there rather than mix up the tones in my palette. I also used sponging and spattering and dabbing with a semi-dry brush for texture in the end.


04-27-2013, 09:38 AM
Thanks for moving the thread Sylvia.

I hope I will be able to get similar effect you were able to get! btw, awesome painting of the big cat there!!

04-27-2013, 10:01 AM
I would try various mixtures of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna with a little salt added as it is drying to get some texture.


04-27-2013, 01:21 PM
I think Naples yellow for first wash on the rocks is perfect. :thumbsup:

You remind me of the time WC member, Larry Seiler, went into the far back woods to paint and realized he had no tit white so he used Naples yellow, and painted a wonderful snow scene. I was amazed!


04-27-2013, 01:51 PM
Hiya... This is a beautiful reference and I'm sure you asked the photographer for permission to use it.

There are a lot of wonderful textures in this... and both warm and cool colours. I used the eyedropper tool in my photo programme to pick out the colours, making it easier to visualize. The column on the far left are colours picked out of the rocks, the next column is the sky and snow shadows and the final column is taken from the fence posts.


04-27-2013, 03:41 PM

This is a really cool ref photo. The painting should be gorgeous. I see lots of colors in the rocks. You could really put a wide range of warms and cools together. You really can't go wrong. I am also doing a painting now that has large rocks in it. I won't be done with it for a while, but I will be watching what you do. Good luck.

Char, that's a really interesting way to pull color swatches from a picture. Well done.


04-27-2013, 05:02 PM
Its a difficult question - but it yours ;)
If you would copy the photo - try to mix it exactly

but :D you can also go your own way :thumbsup:
every color is possible for rocks = artistic license

on the other side :D the sky and the shadows on the ref photo are blue
the complimentary color to it is orange / brown :music: = maximum contrast

and - you have a touch of orange on rocks in your ref photo


04-27-2013, 10:14 PM
wow what a beautiful ref pic; yes permission would be necessary if you plan to show or sell the painting. If it's just for you then you wouldn't need to get permission to paint it.

You've been given some great advice on the colors of the rocks. I hope you show us your steps here so that we can see it coming together.

04-28-2013, 03:32 PM
Char, What photo programme did you use for picking out the colors with the eye dropper tool? Can you give a brief explanation of how you use the eye dropper tool. Thanks

04-28-2013, 06:59 PM
Alex, I'm using Corel PhotoPaint 11 which is no longer available. I downloaded Gimp some time ago and I'm trying to find a way to pick the colours in that programme. It's not quite as friendly as my old standby, but it can be done.

04-29-2013, 05:24 AM
Fantastic reference! I would look very closely at the rocks and see what colors they have in them. I'm not going to give you any specific brand or color as we all have our favorites. I see yellow, red, orange, brown, gray. As a first layer, I would put these in different values on the combined rocks leaving the snow, painting wet and letting the colors merge. Then sprinkle with salt and let dry.

04-29-2013, 08:10 AM
Thanks everyone for all the inputs Doug, Mary, Tom, Sylvia, noge, Darla, Jan, Char and Alex! Thanks for picking the colors Char, that one neat tool!

I have never tried the salt technique before, but looks like it needs lots of practice to get it right! I did two samples below;



In the first one I started off with a dilute wash of Naples Yellow and dropped in a mix of Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna for the orange, Yellow Ocher and Cobalt Blue for the green, very light Payne's Grey and let that dry. I then dabbed a dense mix of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna using a piece of sponge. Now this exercise did not really give a 3 dimensional rock, so I put some dark shadows with a brush using the last mix.

In the second sample I avoided Payne's Grey and the green mix is barely visible. The salt technique gave a decent result, but, again had to dab the dark brown mix with a brush. The salt technique needs just the right amount of water in the paint, and the time when you sprinkle the salt is of utmost importance. And the results will almost always be unpredictable (but it sure is fun and interesting!)

I used Cerulean and Cobalt blue for the sky ( I later realized that using only one would have been a better idea!) and a mix of Cobalt Blue with a touch of Rose Madder for the shadows.

I m not sure if the shadows on snow on the rocks was a good idea.

I used a point and shoot camera and had to brighten the pics a little as they were a bit dull.

What do you think? Am I going the right way?

04-29-2013, 08:29 AM
You will find that some colors react with the salt more than others do. Also, be sure to remove every bit of the salt once the paint is dry because it will keep reacting with the paper in a negative way if you don't.

I think you will find you want to use several techniques as you did in the first one ^^^ to get a rocky appearance.

Also, looking at your reference photo I see more of the grays and blues on the sides of the rocks not facing the viewer than the orangy tones you have there.

The shadows on the snow aren't on the topmost rocks, they are on the snow that is in the shadow of the taller rocks on top of the shorter ones.

Good idea doing test samples before tackling the final painting. :thumbsup:


Quinacridone Gold
04-29-2013, 06:29 PM
I'd use granulating DS Buff Titanium, Goethite and the mixture of Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine for all the greys and browns for those rocks.

04-30-2013, 10:41 AM
"I downloaded Gimp some time ago and I'm trying to find a way to pick the colours in that programme. It's not quite as friendly as my old standby, but it can be done." -Char

In Gimp you can use the Color Picker tool. It looks like a little dropper.

Here I picked up the sky color. One potential problem with this method is that if the area is a combination of many pixels that are a lot of different colors, you will pick up one of the pixel colors not the combination of the colors that the eye sees.

05-11-2013, 04:19 PM
:clap: :clap:

Corel Paintshop Pro photo x2 you can pick out the colours used with their colour picker tool . I think the program costs around the $60 or near that . Ive had paintshop pro for years now I find that a useful program for all sorts of things. and when you upgrade which they try to get you to do quite often ( but I do not ) they give you a discount on the next edition. I think if you shop around you can get earlier versions cheaper again and they are invaluable for photo editing changing colours /backgrounds / adding in people or removing people . Same as photshop but a lot cheaper than photoshop .

:cool: :cool: