View Full Version : Palette based on pairs of neutralizing compliments

06-28-2014, 07:46 AM
I am new to this area on wetcanvas, new to really studying all this ( starting painting last october really ) and my main focus is on watercolor. My trade skills are in Printing Prepress, color correction, graphic design, and computer programming related to graphics since about 1995.

Forgive me as I am just trying to figure this stuff out, and I am reading a lot of arguments over blue and yellow making green ( and learning quite a bit as I see wilcox defend his theories ). Not sure if it's better here in color theory, or in the regular watercolor forums to discuss this, but part of what I want to do is learn how to explain what I am doing. Probably just link from there to here since it seems like there is far more discussion about theory.

I live in San Diego, and am doing sunsets, seascapes, landscapes, nude figure painting (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1353003) and the like. I had diox purple and yellow ochre, and really found I loved how they do the sandstone cliffs here. Just lovely. I've always known I like the earth tones. Then I found burnt sienna + Ultramarine blue, which were really good at the oceans. So I figured out I like neutralizing compliments and had a big discussion (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1347927) in the watercolor on finding a green and a red that work like these other 2 combos. Basically I went with Viridian and Perelene Maroon, then I learned that Diox Purple is too strong and adjusted to Ultramarine Violet. These six work together.

Been learning how to mix viridian with all 5 other colors to give myself varied vegetation, and think I have been using these 6 colors exclusively for about 50 paintings. I think of these 6 as an "earthy" palette with neutralizing compliments which are good "watery" colors, perfect for capturing the sea shore. These all granulate very well together and in a way they just click, this palette is just me.

Now the thing is, these colors look like a wheel, that is a "happy accident" which is not my intention. I don't think around the palette, rather I use a diagonal thru the center with the grays in the center while I compose my pictures. Everything is either a contrast of these complements or a blending between them, and I am learning how to work in the grayed out center. Yes it's "technically" a secondary palette, which I think is part of why it works, but that is secondary to having neutralizing compliments. I am thinking in terms of these pairs, which seems to be helping me deal with color at a higher level than I was before.

Yet watercolor is about other properties, and we just had a lesson in doing rich darks using staining and transparent pthalos (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1354347). I just did this and found I like the gray goop mixture and it echoes my other palette. So I just decided to work up a 6 color palette of neutralizing complements. I don't know how well these work, but I actually am lucky enough to own these already, so my choices are biased.


This is a pair of palettes, one is staining, one is earthy. I intend on using them both alone and together, but to find a synergy between them if possible.

Earthy/Watery Colors ( granulating, usually liftable, weaker mixers, muted colors )

PB29 French Ultramarine Blue 3 / 1 / HA288 / 8,8
PR101 Burnt Sienna 4 / 3 / HA45 / 7,8

PG18 Viridian 3 / 3 / HA176 / 8,8
PR179 Perelene Maroon 4 / 4 / HA27 / 8,8 ( need to replace with better match )

PV15 Ultramarine Violet 4 / 2 / HA303 / 8,7
PY42 Gold Ochre 2 / 3 / HA56 / 8,8

Staining Colors ( transparent, smoother, strong mixers, brighter colors )

PB15:3 Pthalo Blue GS 4 / 4 / HA249 / 7,8
PO73 Winsor Orange RS 3 / 3 / HA48 7,8

PG7 Pthalo Green 3 / 4 / 178 / 8,8
PR179 Perelene Maroon 4 / 4 / HA27 / 8,8

PV19 Winsor Violet ( Diox ) 3 / 3 / HA306 / 7,7
PY154 Winsor Yellow (Benz) 3 / 4 / HA87 / 8,8

(Pigment PaintName Trans Staining / HueAngle / Lightfastness - all per handprint )

I am not sure where I am going with this, or entirely what I am doing. Basically it might be how I learn properties, and how to tone paint, or it might be an actual palette.

I have a lot of suggestions for replacing my perelene maroon already, mainly I need to do trial and error. I'd like to move it from my earthy group, and into the staining group, but it is actually working just fine as is in both palettes. Still need to figure that out in a way that is still similar since the whole thing is about a relationship among all the 6 colors.

I am not sure If the colors are compatible, if there is a better choice, if they neutralize and mix well together, or not.

I need to learn how to explain how what I am doing is different than other artists, in an articulate manner.

I wonder if such an approach would work in other media, probably not need more than one set of colors, or is that also true in other media.

I need to also do an opaque palette, oxide of chromium, cadmiums ( prob. Daniel smith hues for those ), etc.

If this goes off on a tangent so be it. Not even sure if this is color theory or if it's watercolor specific, but I'd like to use watercolors and end up with pieces that are more like what other artists are doing in oils.

Richard Saylor
06-28-2014, 08:15 AM
Are you familiar with the Handprint site (http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/water.html)? It is a technical presentation of color theory as it relates to watercolor.

06-28-2014, 07:48 PM
Yes it's my bible of sorts, kind of hard to process it all though. Unfortunately it's out of date so you have to use it more for general principals, and hope that currents paints are similar to what he tested. Sennelier is completely new and changed after he did his research. I probably have a problem of too much information, but also I tend to limit myself to what is documented by him and others because I can't just buy a complete selection of paints.

Going thru trying to figure out opaque colors, some I have so I can test, using the handprint list of what are the compliments.

PB36 Cerulean Blue ( Using Holbein, but that is not on handprint, some are opaque, WN Cerulean is transparent which I also have.
Orange ?? -
PG17 Oxide of Chromium ( compliments perfectly with Diox and Ultramarine Violet )
PR108 Cadmium Red ( Actually neutralizes pretty well with PV15:3 )
Purple ?? None, perhaps mix or just rely on Diox and Ultramarine Violet
PY35 Cadmium Lemon ( also compliments with Diox and Ultramarine Violet per handprint )

I might take a look at Daniel smith venetian red for use as my earthy red. Still keep thinking about the graphite gray by Daniel smith, basically pencil as a pigment which sounds fun.

I am finding old threads where artists say they focus on mixing compliments, and discuss how they want that to be a wheel. If I want opaque colors there are just going to be a lot of gaps. This is a real case where theory does not match practical reality, but then the goal is more about how I organize my pigments. I need to look at caput mortum, and sennelier which are showing up in my searches for opaque on the daniel smith site.

The fact is that these are intended as jewels, so it's much akin for these to be used as highlights and sparkles and scumbles, much like chinese white.

06-29-2014, 04:16 AM
... I am reading a lot of arguments over blue and yellow making green ( and learning quite a bit as I see wilcox defend his theories ).

Interesting! Has he has put down in writing anything along those lines recently?

06-29-2014, 04:54 AM
I don't think so, lol, these arguments go back 5-10 years, it's kind of incredible how long this forum has been discussing color mixing and in such detail, very informative.