PDA

View Full Version : Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?


Bastet469
01-18-2015, 12:29 AM
Hey all,

Was talking to my husband the other day about how frustrated I was with wasting paint (acrylics ain't cheap) due to bad mixes. When I explained Schmid's color charting process as a solution, he said it was overkill and could destroy my creativity. As a musician, he says he's seen his share of "academic" players whose creativity was basically 'taught' right out of them. They have accuracy but no depth. He said when a mix comes out different than expected to just put my creativity hat on and find a use for it.

On the other hand, I've heard so many people tout the value of doing them. They say it's a great learning exercise. Charting every color I have would be time consuming but folks swear it will make painting easier and less expensive in the long run.

So what do you all think?

-wendy

yellow_oxide
01-18-2015, 01:32 AM
How many colors do you have? I don't know if this is exactly how other people do that chart, but suppose there's only 3, plus white- red, yellow, blue, white. Suppose you make 3 steps between each (2:1, 1:1, 1:2), and 3 tints of each (though I've seen more like 5 tints in charts). You're looking at 12 full strength swatches plus 36 tints, 48 swatches in all. Now add one more color in there. If I'm doing the math right, you're up to 24 full strength and 72 tints, or 96 swatches total. If it was 5 tints then it's 144 swatches total. For every color you add the total number of swatches to show it mixed with every other color already there is going to rise exponentially. For a moderate palette of about 10 colors it's quickly an absurd amount of swatches, and even that's assuming you're only using 2 colors in each mix. At that point I'd expect a lot of paint to have been used. I did some calculations and with 10 paints, plus white, I think there'd be 180 full strength swatches and with 3 tints each a total of 720 or 1080 with 5 tints.

I'm not saying never do such a chart, I've done a few smaller charts myself and there actually is something to be gained from them, but I think being overly analytical removes too much of the human component from art. Besides, there comes a point when the chart isn't actually revealing anything new and determinedly filling every last swatch isn't gaining you anything. Eventually you get a feel for how each pigment behaves and what to expect it to do to another pigment. I think the point of the charts is to be a replacement for simply getting familiar with each paint one by one through practice and purposeful observation, which makes the charts into a kind of crutch.

Of course everyone has unexpected results from time to time, unless they're really only using the exact same small palette for everything forever, but to avoid wasting paint just make brand new mixes small at first. If you still don't like the color, consider tinting a blank canvas with it so there's no waste. :)

Gigalot
01-18-2015, 04:55 AM
First, I think you don't have black on palette and therefore you are trying to mix 3-4 aggressive colors just to get reduce value of very common red, green or other dull landscape color. To mix gray you have start with Cadmium Orange for example. You will waste a lot of time and much paint.

Second, you don't have earth colours on palette. To mix sand color you have start with Phthalo Green for example and then you try to add Cadmium red light there and use Quinacridone Magenta and Cadmium Yellow med to tone it down...
In color theory you do absolutely right things. In practice, you can fall in panic. Just like me, when I tried to mix all colors to one paint pile :) I called it "stormy amplitude mixing", which is just a color theory trap.
For me, it is better to take a close color from earth colour collection and to add white or black to correct value. After that a tiny amount of bright color can push your mixture to a proper way.

Clare_Quilty
01-18-2015, 09:29 AM
Charting every color I have would be time consuming but folks swear it will make painting easier and less expensive in the long run.


Agree. Understanding color as simply as possible in the mind and on the palette can only help.

Patrick1
01-18-2015, 09:33 AM
Wendy, you and your musician husband are both right. Doing color charts is often the first step - it will show you how to mix particular colors. You eventually learn some of these specific recipes while actually painting, but color charts are a much more direct way. But yellow_oxide is right - and I can attest myself - color charts are often much more time consuming than you might expect. It's easy to go overboard and get distracted from actually painting. But they've taught me neat things I don't know if I would otherwise have learned - for example the wonderful range of browns you get in the intermediate steps between orange-red and green. The blacks you get from green + purple. Etc.

But once you learn how to mix certain colors, the more important quandry is which colors to use in your work, and where. IMO, this is far more important. Even for realism or photorealism, there is a surprising latitude for personal color vision and choice. Musical scales tell you which notes are likely to work well together, but it's just a suggestion...a starting point. It will be your musical note/color choices that make your art sing with your own personal creative voice :music:.

budigart
01-18-2015, 10:42 AM
This is a FWIW (for what it's worth) comment.

I have a book that I still consult all these years later written by a guy named Jose Parramon who shows you how to mix almost every color you could want or need with nothing more than:

Alizarin Crimson

Prussian Blue

Cad Yellow Medium

If you're interested, his book is The Big Book Of Oil Color. I do not believe it is in print, but the last time I looked, it was available from used book dealers.

Now, both Parramon and me (and many others) work in oil, but I hold that color principles are sound for most of the colors artists use, or they can certainly be adapted.

As you can see, these three colors are the old three-primary-color approach. But, I gotta tell ya, this system works.

Notice, however, that his red is the classical "cool" red. Alizarin leans to the blue side. Many people do not like alizarin because it is still a suspect fugitive color. But there are many good substitutes. I use Rembrandt's Madder Deep. Or is it Rose Madder Deep?

Likewise, there are good substitutes for the other two, also.

I must confess, I have done color charts (Schmid, et al) and have not found them all that useful, but maybe that's just me. However, the color section from Parramon's book has pulled me out of many a ditch over the years.

DMSS
01-18-2015, 10:28 PM
For me, it is better to take a close color from earth colour collection and to add white or black to correct value. After that a tiny amount of bright color can push your mixture to a proper way.
I have been playing with this very idea lately and find it to be a simple and reliable approach. I read something that James Gurney wrote somewhere along a similar line. Much wisdom in this.

Bastet469
01-19-2015, 12:58 AM
Thanks everyone for chiming in.

There doesn't seem to be a consensus yet but I appreciate the input. I find it interesting that only one person mentioned Richard Schmid. His book, Alla Prina comes so highly recommended. I'm still on the waiting list for it at my local library. Artists & scholars seem to treat his book like The Bible. From what I've heard, color charting seems to be the cornerstone of his thesis.

I was originally inspired to post this question after seeing some videos on how to make Schmid's charts on YouTube. I was going to use his charting method employing a split-primary based, 12-color acrylic palette. I think it would come to 13 charts total. Not great at math, but from the looks of the finished product, the project seemed daunting. That's why had to ask my fellow brethren.

Forgive me for saying this if you're a fan of Schmid's, but I do wonder if this method of his is some sales gimick like Donna Dewberry's One Stroke painting. I'm just asking. DON'T STONE ME! :eek: lol

Gigalot
01-19-2015, 04:12 AM
Thousand people are working in a Richard Schmid style. I found this style limited. I like some of his works, but mass-production of this technique bored me. Many advantages of layered technique are just through the window due to wet-on-wet process. Personally, I found layered technique more interesting and I want to try to study some interesting transparent effects this technique can give rather than primitive mixing my colours on palette.

Bastet469
01-19-2015, 07:44 AM
Interesting points Gigalot. It reminds me to put this query out there. Why aren't there any charts included that deal specifically with complimentary & secondary pairings? With all the frustration we have with making colors like greys, greens & purples I'm surprised Schmid leaves them out. As I mentioned, I haven't gotten my hands on the book yet so perhaps he explains it.

Ugh... I wish the book wasn't so expensive. Being on a library waiting list sucks. The last person to check it out is a week overdue and there's only one copy available. I've made a request with the librarian to order another one but I'm sure it will take a while. Why is it so expensive anyway? I'm a voracious reader, buying several a year. But I haven't bought a book this pricey since college. Even the used copies cost as much as a textbook.

WFMartin
01-19-2015, 04:53 PM
This is probably not going to be popular with many artists, but I believe that many teachers of painting, and professional artists suggest the manufacturing of "color charts" [to their students] to keep prospective, promising competitors out of the loop. With a few exceptions, I consider the creation of color charts to be a complete waste of time and effort.

I say this in a bit of a "tongue-in-cheek" way, but for the most part it makes my point. I consider the laborious, manufacturing of color charts to be almost a complete waste of time for the beginning artist. It is much better to learn the characteristics of the true primary colors, and then apply that knowledge to the mixing of color, being more able to predict the resulting color.

It is much more productive and gratifying to learn how colors behave (academically), and then employ the handling of them toward creating a successful, and beautiful, (and salable) painting, than to spend days creating color charts which quite often cannot be repeated, anyway. (Change your brand of paint--you re-manufacture your color chart!) In short, I believe in doing your "experimenting" (the same experimenting that would be involved in creating a color chart) while creating a useful, and successful painting.

budigart
01-19-2015, 05:00 PM
Mr. Martin . . . if you were here, I'd buy you a cigar or cheeseburger . . . your choice. Sadly, too late did I realize that when I finished those color charts, all I had was a great sheaf of canvas pages that I carefully put away and never looked at again . . . decades ago.

If you want to play in the paint, I strongly suggest getting four tubes of paint . . . red, yellow, blue and white. You'd be amazed what you can do with four tubes of paint.

DMSS
01-19-2015, 05:07 PM
I know I posted something about wanting to do color charts, or having found them helpful to do a few a while back, but in the end it is just not me. The 2 or 3 I did I never referred to, and I think I've learned a lot just playing with my paint. I agree with Bill that learning about color theory has been a huge aid to my figuring out how to mix colors.

J Miller
01-19-2015, 05:26 PM
If I had to do color charts I would have long ago given up. It's like playing scales, or drawing cubes and balls - so utterly boring! I need something I like to paint before I'll paint it. I'm not a color mixing expert, but it doesn't really seem that hard to me so far. It's actually guite a lot of fun with some surprises! I do still waste paint with my mixing, but at least at the end I have a painting I might or might not like instead of a color chart I know I won't like.

Mr. Martin has some great advice!

yellow_oxide
01-19-2015, 05:38 PM
Also, just to mention, the color charts that I've found to be by far the most useful are ones that compare the same paint from different brands, especially the charts made by gunzorro. For example, red earths come in a huge variety. Seeing those differences between brands and from that getting an idea of which brand you want for that particular color without having to buy them all is extremely useful and money saving.

By the way, I didn't mention Richard Schmid by name earlier because I don't know anything at all about him, or nearly any other workshop/author artist whose names sometimes get mentioned on this site. I know some people go all in with buying their books and videos to learn from these people, but it's not my thing. The instructional books I bought back when I was a student really weren't that helpful, except maybe enough key information to be distilled down to one or two pages, and with the internet most or all of this information is free anyways.

The three greatest instructors are direct observations of all creation, personal experimentation, and copying the successful works of past artists. A color chart could be filed under personal experimentation, but like I said before there comes a point, very quickly, where the chart really isn't revealing anything new with each additional, slightly different, swatch placed in such a rigid structure.

opainter
01-19-2015, 09:47 PM
I don't think the question should be whether if color charts are useful, but actually when they are useful. I think they might be useful for limbering up the painting muscles. (Kind of like doing stretches before running.)

I'm adding to this because I wrote the above tongue in cheek. If a painter is using the same palette of colors on a consistent basis, then he won't get anything of much value from painting a color chart. It really is a tool for the beginning painter, I believe. However, if the painter is experimenting with different color palettes, or with having fewer or more colors on their palette than usual, then, yes, I think that painting a color chart might be helpful. :thumbsup:

llawrence
01-19-2015, 10:00 PM
(Kind of like doing stretches before running.)Yes, or a musician learning scales. How could these possibly curse creativity?

That said, I nevertheless do think that an overemphasis on technique, over a long enough time, can stifle creativity to some extent. I think this might have happened to me with the training I did. I've had to fight against a tendency to tighten up that may - or may not - have partly come from years of learning to do academic life studies.

OP: But keep in mind we're talking years of study here. One set of color charts? It won't hurt you, I promise. On the other hand, you might learn a thing or two about color and pigments, which can be a very good thing. Nothing will stifle your creativity faster than not knowing how to quickly mix the color you need!

Bastet469
01-20-2015, 03:52 AM
Nothing will stifle your creativity faster than not knowing how to quickly mix the color you need!
You make an excellent point Llawrence.

I was thinking along the same lines that charting was to painters what scales are to musicians. I assumed that every art form had some sort of theory mastery required. But Darrell counters that the orginators of any art form didn't have theory available to them so how could it be required? At that point, the discussion seemed to quickly devolve into a 'chicken or the egg' debate. Lol

Mythrill
01-20-2015, 06:21 AM
You make an excellent point Llawrence.

I was thinking along the same lines that charting was to painters what scales are to musicians. I assumed that every art form had some sort of theory mastery required. But Darrell counters that the orginators of any art form didn't have theory available to them so how could it be required? At that point, the discussion seemed to quickly devolve into a 'chicken or the egg' debate. Lol
Painters had a color theory since antiquity which stood still ever since modern age. It was very primitive, however, and they relied more on practical observation.

Interestingly, green was considered a basic color of classical theory even if it didn't show up very much and if there were only a few source pigments (e.g, malachite).

ATTERION
01-20-2015, 04:03 PM
If I am feeling especially uninspired on a given day, I will do quick little charts. I will throw together a few colors that are not on my standard palette, and play with them to see what I get. Or I will just use my regular palette, and try mixing combinations that I would never normally use. Since I am not focused on developing a specific color for a painting, I feel a little more free, and often the end results will inspire something new. If nothing else, I learn what works for me, and what does not.

In the end, it is all about balance. Learning technique and theory is not a bad thing, as long as emotion and expression are not overtaken.

basalsa
01-20-2015, 04:21 PM
Already many good responses. I myself as a beginner, think that charts are not curse neither blessing to creativity. Making them is still useful at least to know how they interact and this is experience but finally I want to do paintings not just keep making charts so when I know each paint on my palette (this can be achieved in painting process also) I hardly refer back to the charts I've made. Every time I see a color on the model, I try to mix it. otherwise I should have several charts, searching for a "similar near" color. But overall, making them is better than not.

sidbledsoe
01-20-2015, 05:13 PM
Making charts for all the million colors that can be mixed with one red, one yellow, and one blue would be a daunting task for me, making charts from ten colors would be too nebulous to comprehend, so I just do it all in my head.

karenlee
01-20-2015, 05:43 PM
I can't see how making a color chart can be a "curse to creativity." Mixing color correctly is not really creativity, it is the application of empirical knowledge of the blending qualities of the pigments you use.
What does your husband say about following a recipe for baking bread?
In your case of difficulty achieving a specific mixture, paint will be "wasted' (?) whether you mix it for a chart or for the final product. A carefully noted chart can be used for the future. I didn't make any color mixture chart for 50 years, and when I finally did, it was with only a small number of my available colors, but I have to admit, I learned a few things. I will say, making a color chart can't hurt and will help, but it's not magic and you still need to remember what you did.
As for musical creativity being "taught out" of the student, well, that seems pretty unlikely, given the drive of genuine creativity. There's gotta be a difference between mixing the color of sand and getting the right timbre in Bloch's Prayer.
"But Darrell counters that the orginators of any art form didn't have theory available to them so how could it be required?"
Not true...the practice of oil painting etc was highly apprenticed & taught; the masters traveled from town to town, from artist to artist --read a couple of chapters in A Treatise on Paintlng [1390] by Cennini.
And, there were no "originators"-- there were artists who modified common practice with meaningful innovations.

karenlee
01-20-2015, 06:11 PM
Aw come on, Yellow Oxide, you know there are only TWO great teachers, Trial and Error. It must be true because I read it on WetCanvas! :)

dlWood
01-20-2015, 06:53 PM
I'm still a newbie member and a newbie to working in oils (acrylic background) and I have purchased quite a few tubes in M. Graham and W&N Artisan (due to solvent/health issues). Money well spent, but a lot spent.

I also found and bought the Jose Paramon book and found it inspiring - 3 colors plus White. Now, Paramon also incorporates some additional colors of blues, reds, yellows, greens, earths and a black... 12 in total. My dear husband only rolls his eyes when I would come home with another bag of paint or the mailman brings it. So when I discovered the CMY palette from our member Mr. Martin and backed up by Mr. Paramon's book, I also made color charts to explore the landscape of this very limited palette with oils and with acrylics and I have found it exciting and useful across both mediums.

For example, I can see where I would need to 'tweek' a swatch color to get the color I'm after for a particular part of my painting and not have to stop and figure it out from stage 1. Also how vibrant my mixed colors are now -- just ready for what ever degree of desaturation that I may be needing for a branch, bush, shadow, petal, etc.

So in this respect, I agree with the many who've commented that if you're a beginner (to painting in general, the medium used or new palette of colors), making color charts is a blessing. And not only has the bank account found a haven from the need to buy many colors, but my husband is a very happy camper with 3 large tubes of color and one even bigger tube of white.

Did I mention hubby is a very happy camper with this?
:clap: :thumbsup: :music: :cool:

Gigalot
01-20-2015, 07:05 PM
Aw come on, Yellow Oxide, you know there are only TWO great teachers, Trial and Error. It must be true because I read it on WetCanvas! :)
Stepping on hidden art rakes. OOps!

A.Ali
01-29-2015, 12:39 AM
Making color charts helped me discover different characteristics of colors from different brands. To me, making color chart doesn't affect creativity. As one becomes 'familiar' with different colors through the process of color chart making, you will be challenged to think of other ways to express your creativity.

Just because it's a painting does NOT mean that creativity is confined with the artist's use of color.

Mastery of color is just one aspect (element) in painting; the way you utilize other design elements (ie. lines, shapes, value, textures, etc) [and the context of your work] becomes the totality of your creativity. So, if your purpose is to become familiar with your color palette so as to avoid wasting expensive materials, go make a color chart. Nevertheless, embrace the truth that you will still make variety of mistakes in the future -- everyone does. As long as you're not making the same mistake over and over, you're on your way to becoming more creative. :)

Crystal1
01-29-2015, 09:21 AM
My first painting teacher insisted we make a limited color chart. It was only 1 chart on a 16"x20" board. I did refer to that chart fairly often for the first year and thought it was helpful. Now I keep a sheet of canvas paper close by when I paint, and if I mix an interesting new color while I'm painting I dab a bit of the paint on the canvas and write down how many parts of of colors I used to make it. That alone, helps me to remember how to mix colors for when I need them.

sidbledsoe
01-29-2015, 03:48 PM
I made some charts the other day and decided that I think I will not only start making basic charts but also will start doing what crystal1 is doing. I have run into the need to repaint things and rematch some colors and I forget what I used, a log would help me remember stuff in my old age.

Beedle
02-19-2015, 09:53 PM
hello, Bastet, et al,
Making color charts for all the oil paints I have is time-consuming and can be enervating, but I do learn a lot from them.
These two charts were done from some new tubes of Vasari, OH, Mussini, and Blockx,
822045

822046

They tell me how each reacts in mixes with white, giving me an idea of the intensity of the paint, how much I need to use when mixing for a painting, and overall handling properties; also, in this particular run, I found the Vasari to have a somewhat more consistent gradation than the others. Trying out different whites is also informative…so I find doing color charts to be a valuable tool, in general.
And sometimes, just messing around with paint is fun :wink2:

JamieWG
02-20-2015, 12:05 AM
Wendy:
Hey all,

Was talking to my husband the other day about how frustrated I was with wasting paint (acrylics ain't cheap) due to bad mixes. When I explained Schmid's color charting process as a solution, he said it was overkill and could destroy my creativity. As a musician, he says he's seen his share of "academic" players whose creativity was basically 'taught' right out of them. They have accuracy but no depth. He said when a mix comes out different than expected to just put my creativity hat on and find a use for it.

On the other hand, I've heard so many people tout the value of doing them. They say it's a great learning exercise. Charting every color I have would be time consuming but folks swear it will make painting easier and less expensive in the long run.

So what do you all think?

I think you and your hubby each make good points. Personally I like making color charts. When I make them, I feel like I am getting something out of it. But when the time comes to actually paint, it's my brush mileage that pulls me through, not what I learned from making color charts. What I learned from the act of actually creating paintings, and exploring color theory not only as dry formulas, but also testing how the colors work in practice, is what I find to be most important in making good color mixing choices.

The fact that acrylics darken when drying (some brands more than others), combined with its quick-drying properties, create additional issues for color mixing that don't exist with oils. Lately I'm finding it helpful to mix and store (in plastic, sealed containers) colors and tints that I find myself reusing time and time again. I paint the color onto the lid of the container so that I can see what it will look like when dry, and write the pigments used onto the side of the container. It saves me mixing time when I'm in process, and enables me to start with a color that's close to what I want, and adjust the mix as needed, without having to start from scratch every time the paint dries on the palette. It keeps much better in the cups. Jerrys sells sets of 18 plastic cups with lids (http://www.jerrysartarama.com/discount-art-supplies/painting-supplies/palettes/watercolor-and-fluid-media-palettes/double-take-palette-system.htm) that are working out pretty well for me to store the mixes. I sort the trays by color and value so it's easy to locate what I need, and I save some money by purchasing paint in larger quantities. 'Just food for thought!


Patrick:
Musical scales tell you which notes are likely to work well together, but it's just a suggestion...a starting point. It will be your musical note/color choices that make your art sing with your own personal creative voice .

That is such a fabulous analogy!!!

cinderblockstudios
03-10-2015, 03:54 AM
Yeah your husband's view on the matter seems pretty biased and shallow if you ask me. I actually did a big color map (late last year) of my acrylics and I found mixes that I never even thought of doing. It's a bit tedious to do, but it can really open up some possibilities.