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lpb
05-01-2005, 05:24 PM
This is for those who like to use a limited palette. Do you usually use the SAME limited palette for most of your paintings, or do you vary it quite a bit? Just curious. Thanks.

JanB
05-01-2005, 05:51 PM
I paint mostly plein air landscapes and use a limited palette, have a couple of colors I add in when necessary and a couple of triad changes dictated by the seasons. My basic palette ( that I use most of the time ) is Cadmium yel. light, permanent red med, Ultramarine bl. deep, Permalba white. Actually I could paint everything using this triad other colors often just make things easier, save time when painting outdoors. My first add on is naples Yel.light, because it lets me lighten a color and keep it warm since white tends to cool as it lightens. Right now in the spring as trees are blooming, azaeleas etc. I might add Rose lake or alizarin crimson for good pinks and purples. High summer might add viridian to help with really dark, rich greens. I also might switch to cad. red light as my red. In autumn probably will break out the transparent red oxide , maybe yel ochre as an additional yel. Winter I might change triads completely and use venetian red, yel ochre and ivory black to get those earthy subdued colors. Limited palettes have many distinct advantages a very harmonious painting for one and improved color mixing skills for another.

Pars
05-01-2005, 06:01 PM
Like Jan said a limited palette can aid in a harmonious painting, but unlike Jan I have a trillion colours, but do limit myself to less than 6-8 for a given attempt at a painting.

Also I agree that limiting oneself to fewer colours enhances ones ability to mix and mix some glorious original colours (I love Jan's Spring work; check out the Plein Air Forum).

If I recall you are a watercolourist, so it's water, water, not white :D

JanB
05-01-2005, 06:28 PM
Well Zoe at one time I had quite the collection of colors....geranium lake was a real fav for a while, then golden lake...problem is I get excited about a color use it a lot then tire of it, but I never get tired of painting with the three primaries. I'm taking a Charles Sovek workshop in June and had to buy some colors I don't ordinarily use like cad. orange, and viridian which I haven't used in a long time...he requires a split primary palette, I really enjoy his work so I'm going to give the expanded palette a try for a while after the workshop and see if I like it.

Pars
05-01-2005, 06:44 PM
Jan, how exciting that you'll have a workshop with Sovek. I hope you post after you're done. You know of course I lurk like mad at PA, but haven't done more'n a tree thus far.

Yes, colours are so inticing aren't they. I am thinking of even more colours and I have a barrel full :D

Cad Orange and Virdian in w/c are lovely, mostly. I loved your tree this week and the purple at the ground. I nearly asked you what colours you used, but often feel like all I did is ask and not give. :) :wave:


Well Zoe at one time I had quite the collection of colors....geranium lake was a real fav for a while, then golden lake...problem is I get excited about a color use it a lot then tire of it, but I never get tired of painting with the three primaries. I'm taking a Charles Sovek workshop in June and had to buy some colors I don't ordinarily use like cad. orange, and viridian which I haven't used in a long time...he requires a split primary palette, I really enjoy his work so I'm going to give the expanded palette a try for a while after the workshop and see if I like it.

Richard Saylor
05-01-2005, 09:09 PM
I normally use a three-color (plus white) palette but not necessarily the same colors for every painting.

FriendCarol
05-01-2005, 09:36 PM
My complete w/c palette is 21 tubes, but I typically use 2-4 in any one abstract painting (or 2-7 for more representational work -- usually landscapes). The only time I used 7, I think, was when I was trying to duplicate the effect of another painting, but using my own pigments instead of the ones used by that artist. Normally 4 is ample, and 5 is luxury (or 'convenience'), for me. :)

arttra56
05-01-2005, 10:08 PM
My basic palette is the same six colours, 2xred, 2xblue, 2xyellow I use a few other colours including titanium white if I need to, however these 6 colours produce a vast range of mixes, and they are all lightfast.

I started using this palette after reading 'Blue & Yellow Don't Make Green' a great book, it really changed my view of mixing colors. Their web site is www,schoolofcolor.com worth a look

Regards Den

arttra56
05-01-2005, 10:21 PM
Re: Show us your palette colors and tell us why

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I subscribe to the limited palette used by The School of Colour.

Orange-Red, Opaque: Cadmium Red Light
Violet-Red, Transparent: Quinacridone Violet

Orange-Yellow, Opaque: Cadmium Yellow Light
Green-Yellow, Semi-Transparent: Hansa Yellow Light (Lemon Yellow)

Green-Blue, Opaque: Cerulean Blue
Violet-Blue, Transparent: Ultramarine Blue

All these paints contain lightfast pigments, which won't harm your work. I used to use 'Alizarin Crimson' for my Violet-Red until I realised it fades and is unreliable.

If I use white I use Titanium white, there are some other important colours but these 6 produce virtually every imaginable mix.

Some great references that will help are 'the guide to selcting colors' and 'blue and Yellow Don't Make Green' both have changed my palette and how I mix colors. The authors web site is www.schoolofcolor.com

Its worth having a look, as its really helped me, their system works for me.

Regards Den

Einion
05-02-2005, 08:59 AM
This is for those who like to use a limited palette. Do you usually use the SAME limited palette for most of your paintings, or do you vary it quite a bit? Just curious. Thanks.
There are one or more previous threads here that touch on this if you'd like to look for them. Now 'limited palette' obviously means something different to different people - someone with 40 or 50 paints might feel that working with 20 is limited, while to another person with a basic palette of 12-15 it will mean something a little more reasonable :)

Up to a point I think that most painters use limited palettes to some degree, as there is usually a selection made from all the paints available to suit a given subject. With greater experience it appears that palettes usually become pared down to what the painter considers to be essentials anyway, judging from the relatively small palettes of many accomplished painters.

The smallest workable palette to represent a wide range of colours is obviously a primary palette, plus white if necessary. I haven't painted with one much but from my test drives and looking at more work done with primary palettes over the recent past I have some general observations.

Even with what is arguably the best of them, rough equivalents to cyan, magenta and yellow, there is a compressed range of colour possible although with this palette the restrictions are not enough to worry most painters in most circumstances. If one is using acrylics or oils, or another medium that doesn't rely almost exclusively on transparency, the pigments here have a definite drawback when it comes to coverage - good blue/cyan and rose/magenta choices are all quite transparent and to get the best from the palette the yellow should be too if you're physically mixing them (as opposed to glazing/layering in which case an opaque yellow is much more acceptable) - which from a practical standpoint is not something that most people would welcome. The common choice for the first one is a phthalocyanine blue which poses another practical problem since phthalos are very strong tinters and can easily overwhelm other pigments, particularly in mixes where the yellow is dominant because of their tendency to be relatively weak. This problem is present for anyone who uses a phthalo blue of course but in a primary palette you'll need to use the blue much more than you would otherwise - all blues, greens, violets, earthy and neutral colours must contain it! - so this makes physically dealing with the paints, ah, challenging :)

Most painters who use only primaries don't use a CMY palette of course, but one of the many variations of a RYB palette. These all have a smaller gamut, some much smaller, and it is because of this that one tends to hear that it aids in colour harmony because reduction in chroma - an overall dulling of colours - is one way to make disparate hues work well together, as colours closer to neutral don't clash in the same way that brilliant colours of the same hues can. But saying this it's still perfectly possible to make a discordant colour scheme with only three paints so it's not an instant solution to that problem. Despite how restrictive this smaller mixing potential sounds work done using a RYB + W palette can be surprisingly realistic, at least it was to me when I first saw the work of a painter who used a one.


My basic palette is the same six colours, 2xred, 2xblue, 2xyellow I use a few other colours including titanium white if I need to, however these 6 colours produce a vast range of mixes, and they are all lightfast.
The palette you're promoting here and elsewhere, it should be obvious to you, is not capable of producing high-chroma dark greens and good cyan-side blues (you would need a green like Phthalo Green BS in concert with the French Ultramarine to make one up).

A much better six-colour palette for watercolours would have a green, orange and violet paint in addition to RYB primaries and this would provide a much wider gamut than any split-primary palette, in fact the widest possible with only six paints.

Einion

jdadson
05-02-2005, 09:10 PM
I started using this palette after reading 'Blue & Yellow Don't Make Green'.

Regards Den

But blue and yellow DO make green. It's usually a rather dull green, but unmistakably green nonetheless. I never understood that peculiar fact until I read http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/wcolor.html. Give that one a looksee! It has been invaluable to me.

If anyone cares what a neophyte uses... I usually use three or four colors plus white and sometimes black, but never the same three or four colors. I probaly have about two dozen hues besides white and black. I use three kinds of white and three kinds of black, all for different purposes.

jdadson
05-02-2005, 09:23 PM
Its worth having a look, as its really helped me, their system works for me.

Regards Den

Here's a better one (broader gamut): http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/palette4e.html

Enjoy

jdadson
05-02-2005, 10:25 PM
The "split primary" concept is debunked on this page:http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/color5.html#mixmethod

It's amusing that the guy who says blue and yellow don't make green advocates a pallete that's incapable of mixing a strong, saturated green.

laudesan
05-02-2005, 10:33 PM
I subscribe to the limited palette used by The School of Colour.

Orange-Red, Opaque: Cadmium Red Light
Violet-Red, Transparent: Quinacridone Violet

Orange-Yellow, Opaque: Cadmium Yellow Light
Green-Yellow, Semi-Transparent: Hansa Yellow Light (Lemon Yellow)

Green-Blue, Opaque: Cerulean Blue
Violet-Blue, Transparent: Ultramarine Blue

Watercolours are my passion, and transparency is my main priority.

You list opaque colours which make mud..

True watercolourists strive for tranparency in their work from everything I have read..:)

Cheers JJ

LarrySeiler
05-02-2005, 10:59 PM
The "split primary" concept is debunked on this page:http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/color5.html#mixmethod


I always enjoy when someone proves what can't be logical or done.

Some will insist the absolute best brushes must be used, and that good paintings can't be done from poor brushes. I've done paintings from branches cut off tree limbs and then whittled into shapes, some pounded to create fibers.

Myself...I built my painting reputation from the split primary palette. I actually didn't call it that until a few years ago....I just thought of what I did as a warm and cool version of the primaries.

What is more....I find that the K-12 students I teach art to seem quick to pick up on the concepts of warm and cool and mixing.

As to the comment in this link that the intensity of nature's pigments cannot be captured with such a palette...no pigments can imitate nature's light perfectly.

Yet...by using adjacent principles such as Itten's, harmonies from reserve...one can manipulate the eye sufficiently to believe the light works.

For near 25 years or so I used this split primary palette. For the past 1-1/2 years I've used a limited palette similar to what Scott Christensen uses and recommends...and a number of others in the plein air forum.

I use Utrecht's French Ultramarine Blue, W&N Bright Red, Cadmium Lemon Yellow...Utrecth's Naples Yellow, a viridian plus white. The viridian exists to add variation and character to my darks...or add to the blue for various sky pigments.

I have found no want for a darker value...and have not found myself wanting of other colors to add. I imitate the light of nature sufficiently with my plein air using such.

Relatively speaking...I am yet applying principles of warm and cool. Though only one blue...or one red...I can yet tweak appearances that color will appear warm or cool. Reserve (less) has a marvelous way of making the least appear to be saying much more. Its a great test of skill...and a good learning experience.

Larry

FriendCarol
05-03-2005, 12:25 AM
We do get attached to our colors, don't we? I've only been using transparent tube w/c paints for about 14 months (during which time I've revised my palette 2-3 times) -- but now just try to force me from my beloved perm A.C. to the (admittedly, in some ways) superior magenta (PR122). No way! :evil:

Before I could buy my paints, I read the handprint site obsessively. I chose what pigments I wanted based on that information. When I prepared to bid on 'lots' of W/N tubes on ebay, I made sure the lot contained my chosen pigments (and colors). The information on handprint is good; I trusted it then, and still believe it... But now that I've been painting for awhile, I'm just as strongly resistant to change (based on more changes in the handprint pages) as those who've been painting 20-30 years or more! :p

nether
05-06-2005, 02:23 PM
As the conversation is to do with various limited palettes, perhaps I might have a word. If for no other reason than to clarify the position that I have taken via my book 'Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green'.
It seems to me that two approaches have been taken by the contributors to this segment of the forum: One, a limited palette which suites the needs of the individual and two, the most efficient limited palette as far as the possible gamut is concerned.
The possible combinations which make up a suitable limited palette for the individual are vast and bring to mind the saying 'one man's meat. It is an individual choice and there seems little to say on the subject unless it is to examine any particular combination for reasons other than the gamut, fastness to light etc.
The second issue, 'widest gamut from the least number of contributing colours' is another matter. Comparisons have been drawn between the gamut available from the printer's primaries of Cyan, Majenta, Yellow and Black. Because the printer commonly uses this approach is is often assumed that it must be efficient. This is very far from the case. As any printer will verify, this combination produces very poor oranges and rather dull violets. It is also deficient in many other areas. Before anyone jumps in to claim wonderful results from the red, yellow, blue and black approach let me say straight away that this takes us back to my first definition of the palette which suites the individual. I am now taking about the most efficient approach, the widest gamut from the least number.
Printers can produce some wonderful results from their basic CMYK as can many an artist. In fact two colours used with skill and understanding can produce superb effects.
But the printer often requires a wider gamut. Until recently an approach protected by patent has been called upon. This utilises CMYK plus a green and an orange. This is getting close to the 'ideal' limited palette suggested by many an artist and by contributors to this column, the use of a blue, yellow, red, green, orange and violet plus possibly black.
The most commonly advocated blue seems to be Phthalocyanine Blue, the yellow is often a Hansa Yellow and the red a Majenta (violet-red). Actiually it does not matter. Pick your most favoured combination and you will have an arrangement which will always be inferior to the split primary approach, when handled with knowledge.
How can I state this so firmly?
Well, let's go back to the printer. Over the past few years I have taken my earlier work and adapted it to the needs of the printing industry. This has led to the formation of a set of printing inks based firmly on the split primary system. In order to be given even the time of day by the commercial printer I had to prove that I could offer advantages over the present three primary plus green, orange and violet approach favoured for advanced colour printing and by many an artist.
Working with Heidelberg (press manufacturers) and Swansea University we printed some 20,000 colour samples and many an art piece using the various systems. Each colour sample was read by instrument and fed through a sophisticated computer program. CMYK came a poor third, with severe limitations in many areas, colours lost saturation on darkening with the use of black. The red, yellow, blue, green, violet and orange approach was also hard pressed when it came to gamut. Deficiencies were very ovious in several areas, notably the yellow oranges, red, oranges and violet blues. Colours were also subject to a severe loss of saturation as they were once again darkened through the use of black. The only advantage was a slight gain in deep saturated greens. Some 30 million pieces of packaging a day are now produced using my sytem, not becasue the hard nosed commercial printers like me but because I could offer a much enhansed gamut and colours which remained saturated as they were darkened.
Colour printing and the mixing of paints are both reliant on the rules of subtractive mixing so there is a definite cross over.
My approach to both colour printing and the split primary system that I advocate in my book is based very firmly on science, on the way that light behaves under varying conditions, It is not based on heresay, on what seems to be the case or on a pet theory or set of ideas. Neither is it based on the findings of the past which have simply been handed down to us. It is a straightforward matter to prove both scientifically and practically where the advantages are.
A common perception seems to be that I base my work on a particular set of paints (a favourite palette). As anyone who has actually read my book properly will know, this is not the case. I clearly and strongly suggest that the only way to gain full control over colour mixing as well as to achieve the widest possible gamut from the least number of colours is to understand and to work with colout-type, green-violet-blue etc. Find out what is actually going on inside the mix and you will come to understand why so much confusion is still in the mind of those without such understanding. For those who scoff at the title of my book, try actually reading it (perhaps from the library-I am not trying to sell). You might come to realise why so much nonsence is still put forward by those who should perhaps know better.
Michael Wilcox

Richard Saylor
05-06-2005, 03:23 PM
.....For those who scoff at the title of my book, try actually reading it (perhaps from the library-I am not trying to sell). You might come to realise why so much nonsence is still put forward by those who should perhaps know better.
Michael Wilcox
You are underestimating the degree of sophistication of the people here at Wet Canvas. While it is possible that there may be isolated posts which scoff at the title of your book, I have never seen them. On the contrary, your book is wildly popular here. It is probably the single most recommended book on color theory.

I do have a question, however. Why do you seem to think of yourself as a revolutionary? Your ideas on color mixing seem very sound and scientific to me, and I do not know of anyone here who thinks otherwise.

Richard

nether
05-06-2005, 05:31 PM
Richard,
I do not think of myself as a revolutionary in any way. Only as, like so may, someone persuing an understanding. I am probably being oversensitive as I have been subjected to so much aggresion over the years from many similar forums. In this instance I picked up a few comments on the thread to do with the efficiency of the three primary system which I felt worth answering. I am pleased to be part of a forum looking for answers.
Michael Wilcox

lpb
05-06-2005, 06:25 PM
Maybe Mr Wilcox was referring to this comment. But ITA, I don't think the poster intended to scoff at the book title.
But blue and yellow DO make green. It's usually a rather dull green, but unmistakably green nonetheless. I never understood that peculiar fact until I read http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/wcolor.html. Give that one a looksee! It has been invaluable to me.
I received the book last week and look forward to learning form it.

jdadson
05-06-2005, 06:36 PM
I am only a beginner. The web page that I cited has enabled me to mix the colors I want accurately and expeditiously. If my paintings are not nearly at the level that I aspire to, it is not because I can't mix colors.

The page again is http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/color5.html#mixmethod
It does not speak well of "split primaries." He discusses the subject further on these pages:

http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/color5.html#splitprimary
http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/palette4r.html

I have learned quite a lot from the handprint.com pages. I think I have a pretty good bunk sniffer. I get the distinct impression that the author's scholarship is first class.

I read the "Blue and Yellow" book for perhaps half an hour at a bookstore, but I did not purchase it. I wanted to find what he meant when he said blue and yellow don't make green, but I did not find it. I am aware that deep blue and light yellow are visual complements. However, when I mix blue and yellow, I DO get green. Indeed, I can mix black and yellow and get green. The handprint site explains those paradoxes.

I would very much enjoy reading a discussion between Mr. Wilcox and handprint's Mr. MacEvoy.

[Like many beginners, I have bought quite a few paints. I have painted using a "secondary palette" comprising Hansa yellow, naphtol scarlet, quint. magenta, ultramarine blue, phthalo blue GS, phthalo green YS. For the painting I'm working on now I am using only Venetian red, burnt umber, Prussian blue, and just a little bit of yellow ochre. The mixing method described on the handprint page works for either palette.]

jdadson
05-06-2005, 07:37 PM
I just found a page on handprint.com that criticizes the Blue and Yellow book specifically. http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/book3.html#wilcox

nether
05-07-2005, 02:12 AM
Jdadson
I would very much welcome a discussion with Mr. MacEnvoy. Ideally this should be point by point rather than one long letter replying to another. I have read the article in question and feel confident that I will be able to reply to each point in detail. So, let's get going Mr. MacEnvoy.
Michael Wilcox

Patrick1
05-07-2005, 07:06 AM
Welcome to WetCanvas!, Mr. Wilcox...nice to have you on board.

I read the "Blue and Yellow" book for perhaps half an hour at a bookstore, but I did not purchase it. I wanted to find what he meant when he said blue and yellow don't make green, but I did not find it.
How about the second last paragraph of page 34? (revised edition).

I noticed on Bruce MacEvoy's critique of this book, he says "The full range of hues between every pair of paints, from masstone through tints, are handsomely reproduced on full page color spreads — although these are computer generated colors, not photographs of actual paint swatches." In my book (Revised Edition), color mixing swatches and color wheels look like photographed watercolor samples...quite nicely done in fact. Maybe the newer versions of this book use computer generated color samples?

FriendCarol
05-07-2005, 11:55 AM
In another thread in this forum, Mr. MacEvoy mentioned he would be away this weekend but would return next Saturday. I, too, would like to welcome Mr. Wilcox to WC!, even though I am not interested in 'limiting' my palette (except for particular paintings, which has little to do with selecting a limited-in-the-other-sense palette). Now I'm really looking forward to a very excellent discussion of some advanced topics in color, um, whatever-word-we're-using-for-possibly-non-theoretical, yet closely related, body of knowledge. :D

Einion
05-07-2005, 01:16 PM
As the conversation is to do with various limited palettes, perhaps I might have a word.
Hello Michael, great pleasure to see you here.

The most commonly advocated blue seems to be Phthalocyanine Blue, the yellow is often a Hansa Yellow and the red a Majenta (violet-red). Actiually it does not matter. Pick your most favoured combination and you will have an arrangement which will always be inferior to the split primary approach, when handled with knowledge.
Actually I think you'll find that, with one or two notable exceptions, members here will readily acknowledge that a three-primary palette can't compete with wider palettes in terms of colour only when you closely examine the results - the appearance of French Ultramarine alone is impossible to match exactly with any CMY choices and that is before we even examine the hues at the midpoints between the primaries, plus all the specific interactions between actual pigments that mixes don't replicate.

I work in the graphics industry so I've seen first-hand the limitations of CMYK printing, even when using inks based on pigments that don't have to have the permanence artists should demand, so they can be chosen to maximise chroma at all costs, the relatively dull optical mixtures are quite easy to see in comparison to colour swatches (although much less easy to see in context it must be said). Since they also have to be used very thinly and transparently on a high-white ground to best effect they also force a given working method, which may not be an issue for watercolourists - ignoring the difficult handling of staining pigments for a moment - but is an unacceptable obstacle as far as most painters would be concerned, as one can judge from their palette choices.

Over the past few years I have taken my earlier work and adapted it to the needs of the printing industry. This has led to the formation of a set of printing inks based firmly on the split primary system.
Okay, so in your tests it performed better than Hexachrome, yes? For those unfamiliar with this it is good cyan, magenta and yellow inks, with black, a vivid orange and green.

What about in comparison to other six- and seven-colour systems in common use? Especially the relatively common ones which add a lighter cyan and magenta?

What is the system you developed called by the way?

Working with Heidelberg (press manufacturers) and Swansea University we printed some 20,000 colour samples and many an art piece using the various systems... CMYK came a poor third, with severe limitations in many areas, colours lost saturation on darkening with the use of black. The red, yellow, blue, green, violet and orange approach was also hard pressed when it came to gamut. Deficiencies were very ovious in several areas, notably the yellow oranges, red, oranges and violet blues. Colours were also subject to a severe loss of saturation as they were once again darkened through the use of black.
This is interesting, and little surprise, but given that one of the major reasons painters choose to use a more limited palette would be to obviate the need for black it doesn't bear directly on the question at hand.

Black is a necessary component of printing for the text alone and the thinness of the ink films on white paper lead to problems in depth which is the reason it's necessary in practical terms for process printing of colour images. I couldn't be sure from what you said whether your system uses black but didn't suffer the severe loss of saturation when darkened with it, or that it didn't require the use of black in order to achieve the darks.

Colour printing and the mixing of paints are both reliant on the rules of subtractive mixing so there is a definite cross over.
Accepted. But having a palette of a set of direct mixing complements - i.e. the secondary palette - or at least built upon one, does have an immediate appeal for those seeking to mix their darks from scratch, for reasons that should be obvious - lowering the chroma of any of the six cornerstone colours requires only one other paint, not two as in most cases with a split-primary palette. And ignoring the question of mixing requirements for a moment, some artists might find having visual complements readily available very useful too.

Find out what is actually going on inside the mix and you will come to understand why so much confusion is still in the mind of those without such understanding.
This is something that a number of us here promote as much as possible. The variability of what happens when you physically mix pigments together, as opposed to just layering them as in printing, is a critical argument for an in-depth examination and exploration of paints to learn what is suitable for one's palette requirements.

For those who scoff at the title of my book, try actually reading it...
As Richard has already pointed out, many of us understand that it is the green from the blue and yellow that account for the green of the mix :)

Einion

Einion
05-07-2005, 01:20 PM
I read the "Blue and Yellow" book for perhaps half an hour at a bookstore, but I did not purchase it. I wanted to find what he meant when he said blue and yellow don't make green, but I did not find it.
How about the second last paragraph of page 34? (revised edition).
Thanks for that Patrick. The principle is actually pretty comprehensively covered in the introductory sections so Jive mustn't have looked it that closely - as I think I've said before, I grasped it reading the book standing up in the library, it really is that simple.

To summarise this part of it for you Jive: it is the green light reflected from the blue and yellow paints that results in the green of the subsequent mix. This is a cornerstone of subtractive mixing and is essentially true of all colour mixtures - the colour you see is the remaining light after subtractive effects have taken place - although with some colours, like magenta, the light in question is not so straightforward to imagine.

It should also be pointed out here however that not all colour mixtures are that easy to predict, there are a host of irregular results because it is pigments we are mixing, not light, and the ways that they interact are idiosyncratic to say the least.

Einion

WFMartin
05-13-2005, 01:19 AM
I do have a question, however. Why do you seem to think of yourself as a revolutionary? Your ideas on color mixing seem very sound and scientific to me, and I do not know of anyone here who thinks otherwise.

Richard

Richard,

Surely you must be kidding! There are many who firmly believe that "blue and yellow DO make green", and at least one is represented right here in this thread.

Personally, I go along with the concept that blue and yellow DON'T make green, because cyan and yellow make green.

The only item that I would take issue with nether on is that of the need to ROUTINELY include and extra color or two in the printing process. One reason that printers' magenta and yellow do a poorer job of creating "orange" is that of a factor known as proportionality failure, primarily because of the fact that a printing plate usually breaks the image into halftone dots, instead of being continuous tone. Its effect is to create "oranges" that seem grayer or dirtier than the oranges we'd like to see, and that the solids of those same inks produce. But, it's the dots that contrubute to this phenomenon.

Since the advent of stochastic screen, printers can now nearly achieve the results of continuous tone printing, thus making it LESS important to use 5 and six color systems.

Another way toward achieving better results with printers' primaries of cyan, magenta, and yellow (without resorting to including extra printing plates) is to shed the cloak of "SWOP" inks. They may be "standard", but this set of "standards" is exceedingly poor!! Purer primary inks are available (or at least, USED to be available). They can simply be bought. (But, don't ask me how to effectively proof them). :evil: Those proofing materials that used to be available for matching a "good" set of inks, have since been marketed right out of existence, I believe.

Bill

Richard Saylor
05-13-2005, 02:02 AM
Richard,

Surely you must be kidding! There are many who firmly believe that "blue and yellow DO make green", and at least one is represented right here in this thread.

Personally, I go along with the concept that blue and yellow DON'T make green, because cyan and yellow make green.

When you mix blue paint and yellow paint, then green "happens", because blue paint and yellow paint both reflect green, but the colors which are not reflected by both blue and yellow paint are weakened. Basically what is happening is "green and green makes green"; the actual blue and yellow components of blue and yellow paint just get in the way, so to speak.

Of course, up in the stratosphere of ideal primaries and secondaries, cyan and yellow produce green, but blue and yellow produce black.

In spite of the title, Wilcox's book has been widely accepted by WC folks.

Patrick1
05-13-2005, 02:25 AM
When you mix blue paint and yellow paint, then green "happens", because blue paint and yellow paint both reflect green, but the colors which are not reflected by both blue and yellow paint are weakened. Basically what is happening is "green and green makes green"; the actual blue and yellow components of blue and yellow paint just get in the way, so to speak.
Yes. To further clarify/crystallize the title Blue And Yellow Don't Make Green, the resulting green you get wasn't made...it didn't suddenly get created, rather it was always there in the blue and yellow you began with.

Richard Saylor
05-13-2005, 02:42 AM
Yes. To further clarify/crystallize the title Blue And Yellow Don't Make Green, the resulting green you get wasn't made...it didn't suddenly get created, rather it was always there in the blue and yellow you began with.
Exactly!

Patrick1
05-13-2005, 03:07 AM
I think what attracted me to the book to begin with was its title. My thinking was "of course Blue And Yellow Make Green", so I was drawn to it to see what's up with the crazy title. I had the inkling that maybe it would change my notions of color mixing that I was taught in grade school. And it did :)

FriendCarol
05-13-2005, 09:27 AM
I do understand about subtractive mixing. (After all, we all know -- don't we? -- that almost 100% of the time we're starting with white light on white surface!) Nevertheless, when I look at my painting (abstract) or my subject (representational), and say to myself, 'I need to make a green that [fill in the blank],' the next thing I do is look at my predetermined (for this painting) palette to review the yellows & blues available to 'make the green.' Sometimes I also look for a 'red' that might neutralize it a little; more usually burnt sienna -- more orange than red, but you know what I mean. (Although, my palette very often already includes Winsor green BS, which, oddly enough makes a great starting point for other greens. ;))

Anyway, we could adopt the convention of saying "I need to mix a green that..." but that would not alter how we think about the process at all. We might program ourselves into better remembering we're dealing with pigments instead of light, but we're still goal-oriented (most of us! -- and I hope that continues to be true!), whether we 'mix' or 'make' our colors. There's a lot to be said for the 'plain English' approach, not just in legal contracts but in other fields, too. Education, for example. :D

My point is, I have no plans, at present, to memorize which colors are 'already present' in various pigments, ready to be revealed if I just cancel out the other elements present in those pigments. Anyone want to try to convince me I should? Just tell me why. :)

Richard Saylor
05-13-2005, 08:14 PM
It's just a catchy book title, Carol.

There's nothing wrong with saying, "Blue and yellow make green," but perhaps if people (particularly teachers) had some notion of why blue and yellow "make" green, then they wouldn't come up with such ridiculous absurdities as "All colors can be mixed from red, blue, and yellow." As it is, there seems to be a heluva lot of superstition in the art world regarding color. My hat is off to Wilcox (and others, such as Nita Leland and Bruce MacEvoy) for doing what they can to clear the air.

FriendCarol
05-13-2005, 09:37 PM
grumble grumble I suppose you're right. This sort of thing just activates my long-standing dislike of rhetorician's tricks. Someone makes an outrageous statement as a 'hook' to make a point, and it just pushes my built-in "red alert -- misleading or dishonest statement!!!" button every time. :rolleyes:

Richard Saylor
05-14-2005, 02:02 PM
grumble grumble I suppose you're right. This sort of thing just activates my long-standing dislike of rhetorician's tricks. Someone makes an outrageous statement as a 'hook' to make a point, and it just pushes my built-in "red alert -- misleading or dishonest statement!!!" button every time. :rolleyes:
We'll have to excuse his rhetoric. After all, he is English. ;)

Einion
05-15-2005, 12:22 PM
We'll have to excuse his rhetoric. After all, he is English. ;)
Hey, I resemble that remark! ;) :D

Einion

drollere
05-16-2005, 05:23 PM
in my view the basic idea that a palette has to be judged in terms of the gamut it can reproduce is based on the idea that painting is the activity of "copying" colors from one medium or experience into another, which is simply not true. the human eye is quite good at implicitly adjusting for the gamut limitations across different media, which is why dull greens can work just fine in a landscape painting. the fundamental issues are *how* gamuts are mapped from one medium to another, and the kind of implied or symbolized lighting effect that the mapping should produce. we don't object at all to a black and white version of a photograph or painting, provided we only have a "black and white" purpose for the image.

however, if the judgment is based on color balance or color accuracy in relation to memory, process or physical comparison colors (for example, choosing inks to print a munsell color standard or a reasonable image of a chagall painting), or simply the metrosexual preference for high chroma in all things, including politics, then gamut is a big deal.

my specific objection to the split "primary" palette lies in the claim that it produces the widest gamut of any six paint palette, which is demonstrably false in any paint, dye or ink medium; and in the emphasis placed on "primary" colors, which essentially relies on 18th century color concepts and in any case does not explain the inclusion of an ultramarine blue and a scarlet red, which approximate the maxwell visual mixing primaries (excluding a bright blue green) but do not at all match subtractive primaries defined (as i prefer) as optimal color stimuli.

i have never seen the benefit of a "warm and cool" version of three "primary" colors, but as nether points out, your mileage may vary. (it seems to me that teaching "color theory" amounts to the farmer motivating the donkey -- the farmer has to try different sticks until the donkey gets the message.)

it seems to me more intuitive to start with a palette of red (magenta), orange (red orange), yellow, green, cyan and blue violet, which matches the spectral experience as a "color" range and allows any saturated color to be recognized *and* named as the mixture of any two adjacent paints: naming is mixing in a direct way ("yellow green" is a mixture of yellow and green, etc.) the only saturated color orphaned by this approach is purple.

black and white are introduced separately, via a value scale, then linked to paint mixtures through the painter's traditional notions of tints and shades.

it then is a matter of demonstration to introduce the peculiarities of specific "colors" in relation to each other: the saturation costs (dulling) produced by distant or opposite paint mixtures, the occurence of browns as unsaturated oranges but the lack of similar colors in blues and greens, the hue changes in yellow dulled by black, the relatively greater chroma reach possible with red or yellow pigments, and so on. chroma is then introduced as the problem of color recognition: dull colors are just harder to relate to the color circle. these are all color perception and color mixing quirks which are explicitly disguised by the geometrically ideal notion of three "primary" colors. it does not seem to me productive to erect a framework that you then have to qualify away.

these quirks also lead naturally to the ideas that "colors," as paints, are inherently quirky material substances, and that the color mixture you get depends on the specific paints you use. painters are quickly weaned off the idea of "color" as an abstraction or formulaic domain and on to the idea of "paints" as substances with many attributes, color just one of many. it also weans the painter away from the expectation that one can "predict" color mixtures from abstract principles: there is nothing whatsoever in "primary" color concepts that predicts the existence of brown colors as a nameable color category, prior to discovering them through paint mixtures. *all* color mixtures are fundamentally of this "discovered" nature, which is why painters become wedded so quickly to a relatively limited (usually 12 paints plus or minus 6) palette -- this is already 15 to 153 pair mixtures to explore!

this makes it perfectly understandable why the author of a "color theory" book would empirically print and compare many different color swatches using different mixtures of ink: seeing is the only kind of prediction you get in subtractive color mixing. as i explain elsewhere, it is perfectly possible "in theory" to get *any* color from the mixture of *any other* two colors in subtractive mixing, including an intense red from the mixture of two grays. this is completely the opposite of additive (visual) color mixing.

friendcarol's practical objection to the "science" under color phenomena is true for me as well, although i find myself weighing things such as lightfastness, tinting strength and particle size as much as i do color appearance. but the "science" is useful if it (1) dispels myths (such as the origin of "warm" color effects), (2) assists paint manipulation, or (3) guides your perception to look at or look for painting facts that would otherwise escape notice or explanation. thus, once you understand that warm colors 'advance' not because they are warm, but because they are light valued or highly saturated or both, then you are free to make cool colors advance if you want to, and to think about color design in a much more robust way.

the emphasis throughout is on painting as the manipulation of materials, not as the implementation of abstractions: painting is not a court of law, and it is not accounting. "limited" palettes should be defined in terms of painted results and not in terms of "primary" color abstractions. the less said of traditional "color theory" the better, and the less talking about "color" the better, since traditional "color theory" puts preconceptions in the way of perceptions, and talking puts debate in the way of making paintings.

WFMartin
05-16-2005, 11:39 PM
Blue and Yellow do not make green, and there are several ways to prove that.

Here is the simplest: Basically, there are 3 colors of light. they are red, green, and blue.

Anything (such as paint) that is blue (real blue) absorbs the red and green thirds of the spectrum of light, while it reflects only its own color--blue.

Anything (such as paint) that is yellow (and a primary, to boot), absorbs the blue third of the spectrum, while reflecting two thirds of the spectrum, red and green.

Now, logic simply dictates that if you mix one paint that absorbs the green and red thirds of the spectrum (blue), with another paint that absorbs the blue third of the spectrum (yellow), all three thirds of the specturm have been absorbed, leaving no light, black. I have never found a way of explaining it any more accurately or concisely than that.

The only reason under the sun that these tube (such as Fr. Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue) "blues" produce green when mixed with yellow is that those "blues" are honestly and truly exhibiting more characteristics of CYAN (a true primary), rather than they are that of BLUE. They are simply more cyan than they are blue, and that's why they produce green, (or NEAR GREEN).

It just doesn't get any simpler than that, I'm afraid. And, without elaborate lighting and projecting equipment, as I had available to me when I taught this concept in college, I can't explain it any simpler. But, you are certainly hereby allowed to believe whatever you choose to. :D :D I won't feel bad (because I'm used to it), nor will I debate it any further. Call it my "opinion" if that seems to help justify it.

Bill

Einion
05-17-2005, 09:55 AM
my specific objection to the split "primary" palette lies in the claim that it produces the widest gamut of any six paint palette, which is demonstrably false in any paint, dye or ink medium...
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Aug-2003/3842-thumbsup.gif

it seems to me more intuitive to start with a palette of red (magenta), orange (red orange), yellow, green, cyan and blue violet, which matches the spectral experience as a "color" range and allows any saturated color to be recognized *and* named as the mixture of any two adjacent paints: naming is mixing in a direct way ("yellow green" is a mixture of yellow and green, etc.) the only saturated color orphaned by this approach is purple.
Yes, this is one of the prime explanations that overcame my ingrained preference for a split-primary palette.

it then is a matter of demonstration to introduce the peculiarities of specific "colors" in relation to each other: the saturation costs (dulling) produced by distant or opposite paint mixtures, the occurence of browns as unsaturated oranges but the lack of similar colors in blues and greens, the hue changes in yellow dulled by black, the relatively greater chroma reach possible with red or yellow pigments, and so on. chroma is then introduced as the problem of color recognition: dull colors are just harder to relate to the color circle.
Related to the point of the perception of dull yellows as greenish (particularly in certain contexts) have you ever done measurements of black/yellow mixtures? I'm curious how curved the mixing lines are if you have any data, as it's difficult to quantify only by eye.

it also weans the painter away from the expectation that one can "predict" color mixtures from abstract principles: there is nothing whatsoever in "primary" color concepts that predicts the existence of brown colors as a nameable color category, prior to discovering them through paint mixtures. *all* color mixtures are fundamentally of this "discovered" nature, which is why painters become wedded so quickly to a relatively limited (usually 12 paints plus or minus 6) palette -- this is already 15 to 153 pair mixtures to explore!
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Aug-2003/3842-thumbsup.gif http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Aug-2003/3842-thumbsup.gif

but the "science" is useful if it... guides your perception to look at or look for painting facts that would otherwise escape notice or explanation. thus, once you understand that warm colors 'advance' not because they are warm, but because they are light valued or highly saturated or both, then you are free to make cool colors advance if you want to, and to think about color design in a much more robust way.
Another excellent point.


Blue and Yellow do not make green, and there are several ways to prove that.
Is this some definition of the word prove that I was not previously aware of Bill? :D

Here is the simplest: Basically, there are 3 colors of light. they are red, green, and blue.
There are better ways of describing this IMO, it is our vision that determines this element of the phenomenon but this is separate (and after the fact) to what is happening inside the paint film, which is what should be first considered. It's only after subtractive effects have taken place that the light reaches the eye, then we talk about what it is we see - much simpler to separate the two in terms of thinking about this I think.

Anything (such as paint) that is blue (real blue) absorbs the red and green thirds of the spectrum of light, while it reflects only its own color--blue.
Only in theory, obviously not in practice - it serves no purpose to point out an abstract theoretical point like this when it so clearly doesn't bear on real-world paint examples. We know there is significant green reflectance from blue pigments and that's where the practical effect comes from - this is a much better way of thinking about it, being much easier for people to grasp in my experience.

The only reason under the sun that these tube (such as Fr. Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue) "blues" produce green when mixed with yellow is that those "blues" are honestly and truly exhibiting more characteristics of CYAN (a true primary), rather than they are that of BLUE. They are simply more cyan than they are blue, and that's why they produce green, (or NEAR GREEN).
You may find it convenient to think this way but as I've said to you in the past I don't think the explanation is easy to adopt for others (even those with a long association with CMYK!) and there are many better examples that more clearly illustrate the difficulty in using distance from imaginary subtractive primaries as a basis for imagining anything useful in practice, excepting process printing of course.

Einion

WFMartin
05-17-2005, 06:38 PM
I truly know when I'm outnumbered. And.......I'm outnumbered! :D

Everone needs to believe in SOMETHING! I believe I'll have a beer! :D

You can believe that blue and yellow make green. :wink2:

Cheers! :wave:

Bill

drollere
05-22-2005, 01:04 AM
Blue and Yellow do not make green, and there are several ways to prove that.

Here is the simplest: Basically, there are 3 colors of light. they are red, green, and blue.

Anything (such as paint) that is blue (real blue) absorbs the red and green thirds of the spectrum of light, while it reflects only its own color--blue. Anything (such as paint) that is yellow (and a primary, to boot), absorbs the blue third of the spectrum, while reflecting two thirds of the spectrum, red and green.

Now, logic simply dictates that if you mix one paint that absorbs the green and red thirds of the spectrum (blue), with another paint that absorbs the blue third of the spectrum (yellow), all three thirds of the specturm have been absorbed, leaving no light, black. ... The only reason [that] "blues" produce green when mixed with yellow is that those "blues" are honestly and truly exhibiting more characteristics of CYAN (a true primary), rather than they are that of BLUE. They are simply more cyan than they are blue, and that's why they produce green, (or NEAR GREEN).
this relies somewhat on the traditional account of "primary" color mixing, so it is worth deconstructing the points of omission or misunderstanding to clarify the problems.

the basic account of subtractive mixture is right: the absorbance of one paint reduces (subtracts) reflectance from the other, and the light predominantly reflected by a two paint mixture is the light reflected by *both* paints separately.

there are precise ways to state this process, but wfmartin uses the traditional calculus of three LIGHT "primaries" -- red, green, and blue -- and the traditional definition of each PAINT "primary" as a paint that reflects two light primaries while absorbing the third:

magenta: +R-G+B
cyan: -R+G+B
yellow: +R+G-B

so in a cyan and yellow mixture, we'd get:
cyan+yellow = -R+G+B + +R+G-B
= (-R+R) + (+G+G) + (+B-B)
= 2G
"in theory" anyway.

let's tinker a little. we can also name the colors of paints that reflect only *one* light primary:
red = +R-G-B
green = -R+G-B
blue violet = -R-G+B
and as these paints have no reflectance in common we'd conclude that the mixture of any two of these paints produces black ... and yet:
red+blue = +R-G-B + -R-G+B
= (+R-R) + (-G-G) + (+B-B)
= -2G
which is an odd definition for black!

the first thing this exercise shows us is that there is some kind of problem with the "calculus" as stated. of course we can futz around with algebraic definitions of "absorb" or "reflect" to get the calculus to work better. but we have uncovered the very loose linkage between verbal concepts, logic and the facts of color perception that infects the whole domain of "color theory".

a simple example: what name do you choose for the *color* of the "+B" LIGHT "primary"? this ought to be the same color as a paint reflecting only that "primary": -R-G+B. unfortunately, any paint, dye or transmission filter with that profile appears to most people to be a blue violet or even a purple -- that is, the blue contains a distinct amount of perceptual red, so most people would be reluctant to call it a blue.

what does this prove? just that we don't use the color term "blue" to describe the "primaries" blue violet or cyan. but that just means, "color theory" is haggling over a pun! we could say "blue violet and yellow don't make green," which is accurate but won't sell as many books. we could say "the color you mix with yellow to get green isn't a color you'd call blue right off the bat!" but, well ... don't go there.

by this time we begin to understand how "color theory" works by obscuring the basic situation with misleading logic or omitted facts, so that it can sell us on its solution: the "primary" colors myth. but "primary" colors turn out to be just as misleading as the paradoxes used to justify them.

for starters, newton was right when he called each "color" of light primitive or primary in its own right, concluding that there are as many light primaries as there are visibly different spectral hues. why do we perceive otherwise? well, the spectral smearing caused by glass refraction reduces the apparent spectral hues to half a dozen, and in rainbows the smearing caused by raindrops of various sizes and spherical aberration reduces the hues to three or four. but this is poor justification for a simple, three "primary" lights version of things -- those are facts relevant to optics or ophthalmology, not proof for three "primary" kinds of light.

what about the response of color sensitive cones in our retina? not much help there, either. the "red" sensitive cone is actually tuned to respond most strongly to a "greenish yellow" wavelength, and responds equally strongly to "red" and "green" light. oops! the *sensation* red is produced by the *relative response* among all three cones, as a kind of nerve calculation done on all the available light. it is not a "kind" of light stimulating a "kind" of cone to produce a "kind" of color in the mind. that's how color was explained in the 18th century!

it gets worse. take for example the ideal magenta "primary," +R-G+B. it turns out that a pigment with that reflectance is not chemically feasible (though we can do better with a fluorescing dye or pigment, hence holbein's "opera"). but the worse problem is that we can't *see* that reflectance profile at all, even if we had the perfect pigment or dye to create it! why not? because nearly all the "red" and "blue" wavelengths of light also stimulate the "green" sensitive cones in our retina, because of the way our retinal cells are organized. it is *physiologically* impossible for us to see a pure magenta reflectance, no matter what kind of stimulation you use. "color theory" logic happily adds and subtracts quantities of light, without considering whether it is *light we can perceive*. (this kind of imprecision gets you a color wheel instead of a gamut.)

or take the ideal "primary" yellow. now the problem is luminance relative to illuminance (or white luminance). yellow is not a luminance invariant color like green or blue, it is a color sensation that occurs only in situations of high surface reflectance. if we lower the reflectance of yellow (for example, by mixing it with a bit of black, or by mixing it from orange and yellow green), what we get is green gold, or ochre, or umberish gray. we get the same effect by dimming a yellow area surrounded by a bright white area (relative luminance again). this is a peculiarity of all long wavelength hues -- reds, oranges and yellows -- that do *not* stimulate the "blue" sensitive cone -- they turn tan, brown, maroon, etc. in effect, you can't mix a yellow from orange and green for the same reason you can't mix white from one gray and another gray. but i've never seen a "color theory" text warn the reader:

"hey! relative luminance matters with those yellows, but don't worry about it with those colors that you wouldn't call blue right off the bat or those magentas that you can't see anyway!"

these nuances of vision matter a lot to color mixing, color design and so forth. they really do. but they get completely lost or muddled or flat out denied by the simple logic of "color theory." that ought to be sufficient reason for artists to think about color in a more pragmatic way.

why they don't is simple -- the facts are too damn complicated! tell me a story instead!

yes, but color vision is complicated in the same way life is complicated. you can believe a simple story about color, or about life, but then you have dozens of exceptions and contradictions to deal with that often make mastering color or life harder, not easier, than it should be.

my point here is that "primary" color theory, as stated, won't withstand *factual* scrutiny -- and neither will limited palettes built upon it.

WFMartin
05-22-2005, 07:58 PM
this relies somewhat on the traditional account of "primary" color mixing, so it is worth deconstructing the points of omission or misunderstanding to clarify the problems.

the basic account of subtractive mixture is right: the absorbance of one paint reduces (subtracts) reflectance from the other, and the light predominantly reflected by a two paint mixture is the light reflected by *both* paints separately.

there are precise ways to state this process, but wfmartin uses the traditional calculus of three LIGHT "primaries" -- red, green, and blue -- and the traditional definition of each PAINT "primary" as a paint that reflects two light primaries while absorbing the third:

magenta: +R-G+B
cyan: -R+G+B
yellow: +R+G-B

so in a cyan and yellow mixture, we'd get:
cyan+yellow = -R+G+B + +R+G-B
= (-R+R) + (+G+G) + (+B-B)
= 2G
"in theory" anyway.

let's tinker a little. we can also name the colors of paints that reflect only *one* light primary:
red = +R-G-B
green = -R+G-B
blue violet = -R-G+B
and as these paints have no reflectance in common we'd conclude that the mixture of any two of these paints produces black ... and yet:
red+blue = +R-G-B + -R-G+B
= (+R-R) + (-G-G) + (+B-B)
= -2G
which is an odd definition for black!

the first thing this exercise shows us is that there is some kind of problem with the "calculus" as stated. of course we can futz around with algebraic definitions of "absorb" or "reflect" to get the calculus to work better. but we have uncovered the very loose linkage between verbal concepts, logic and the facts of color perception that infects the whole domain of "color theory".

a simple example: what name do you choose for the *color* of the "+B" LIGHT "primary"? this ought to be the same color as a paint reflecting only that "primary": -R-G+B. unfortunately, any paint, dye or transmission filter with that profile appears to most people to be a blue violet or even a purple -- that is, the blue contains a distinct amount of perceptual red, so most people would be reluctant to call it a blue.

what does this prove? just that we don't use the color term "blue" to describe the "primaries" blue violet or cyan. but that just means, "color theory" is haggling over a pun! we could say "blue violet and yellow don't make green," which is accurate but won't sell as many books. we could say "the color you mix with yellow to get green isn't a color you'd call blue right off the bat!" but, well ... don't go there.

by this time we begin to understand how "color theory" works by obscuring the basic situation with misleading logic or omitted facts, so that it can sell us on its solution: the "primary" colors myth. but "primary" colors turn out to be just as misleading as the paradoxes used to justify them.

for starters, newton was right when he called each "color" of light primitive or primary in its own right, concluding that there are as many light primaries as there are visibly different spectral hues. why do we perceive otherwise? well, the spectral smearing caused by glass refraction reduces the apparent spectral hues to half a dozen, and in rainbows the smearing caused by raindrops of various sizes and spherical aberration reduces the hues to three or four. but this is poor justification for a simple, three "primary" lights version of things -- those are facts relevant to optics or ophthalmology, not proof for three "primary" kinds of light.

what about the response of color sensitive cones in our retina? not much help there, either. the "red" sensitive cone is actually tuned to respond most strongly to a "greenish yellow" wavelength, and responds equally strongly to "red" and "green" light. oops! the *sensation* red is produced by the *relative response* among all three cones, as a kind of nerve calculation done on all the available light. it is not a "kind" of light stimulating a "kind" of cone to produce a "kind" of color in the mind. that's how color was explained in the 18th century!

it gets worse. take for example the ideal magenta "primary," +R-G+B. it turns out that a pigment with that reflectance is not chemically feasible (though we can do better with a fluorescing dye or pigment, hence holbein's "opera"). but the worse problem is that we can't *see* that reflectance profile at all, even if we had the perfect pigment or dye to create it! why not? because nearly all the "red" and "blue" wavelengths of light also stimulate the "green" sensitive cones in our retina, because of the way our retinal cells are organized. it is *physiologically* impossible for us to see a pure magenta reflectance, no matter what kind of stimulation you use. "color theory" logic happily adds and subtracts quantities of light, without considering whether it is *light we can perceive*. (this kind of imprecision gets you a color wheel instead of a gamut.)

or take the ideal "primary" yellow. now the problem is luminance relative to illuminance (or white luminance). yellow is not a luminance invariant color like green or blue, it is a color sensation that occurs only in situations of high surface reflectance. if we lower the reflectance of yellow (for example, by mixing it with a bit of black, or by mixing it from orange and yellow green), what we get is green gold, or ochre, or umberish gray. we get the same effect by dimming a yellow area surrounded by a bright white area (relative luminance again). this is a peculiarity of all long wavelength hues -- reds, oranges and yellows -- that do *not* stimulate the "blue" sensitive cone -- they turn tan, brown, maroon, etc. in effect, you can't mix a yellow from orange and green for the same reason you can't mix white from one gray and another gray. but i've never seen a "color theory" text warn the reader:

"hey! relative luminance matters with those yellows, but don't worry about it with those colors that you wouldn't call blue right off the bat or those magentas that you can't see anyway!"

these nuances of vision matter a lot to color mixing, color design and so forth. they really do. but they get completely lost or muddled or flat out denied by the simple logic of "color theory." that ought to be sufficient reason for artists to think about color in a more pragmatic way.

why they don't is simple -- the facts are too damn complicated! tell me a story instead!

yes, but color vision is complicated in the same way life is complicated. you can believe a simple story about color, or about life, but then you have dozens of exceptions and contradictions to deal with that often make mastering color or life harder, not easier, than it should be.

my point here is that "primary" color theory, as stated, won't withstand *factual* scrutiny -- and neither will limited palettes built upon it.

drollere,

I was just going to calmly back out of this discussion, trying not to incur the wrath of those who disagree with me--and there are many, I know.

However, let me point out just a couple of statements you made--one which can easily be refuted, and the other which actually supports one of those points which I am often attempting to make.

First, the "easily refuted" one: The conclusion at which your "calculus" method arrives, has as its answer, TWO subtractions. This concept may hold water in algeba (or calculus), where negative numbers are valid and useful, but not when dealing with colors of spectral light. Once a color of the spectrum has been absorbed (or "subtracted" as you'd rather term it), it cannot be doubly subtracted. Once it's already gone, it's simply gone. It cannot be "doubly gone", as you seem to feel. Whether it involves one or two colors having the same subtracting capability is quite irrelevant. Giving it a "double whammy" in the subtracing calculation doesn't change the initial effect one bit. The same is true in the "reflectance" characteristic.
I find that idea to be a bit amusing, actually.

The statement that you made which actually supports one of my contentions is the following:
a simple example: what name do you choose for the *color* of the "+B" LIGHT "primary"? this ought to be the same color as a paint reflecting only that "primary": -R-G+B. unfortunately, any paint, dye or transmission filter with that profile appears to most people to be a blue violet or even a purple -- that is, the blue contains a distinct amount of perceptual red, so most people would be reluctant to call it a blue.

This is so very, very correct! Pure semantics! I have been contending for years that artists invariably call pigment colors whatever they choose to call them, regardless of their actual characteristics in terms of light colors absorbed (subtracted) and reflected. That at which you point as being "blue-violet", "purple", or whatever you may choose to call it IS BLUE, my friend! That's one thing that seems to cause this entire business of understanding the behavior of color to seem so doggoned difficult. But, it's really NOT. It ain't calculus, it ain't algebra, and it ain't even brain surgery. I would give anything to invite you to a 1 hour session in one of my classes or seminars (which I don't do, any more), just to see if you didn't gather some useful and practical information from it.

In the color separation field, a blue filter is used in making the yellow plate for color process printing, because blue is the complement of yellow. A blue filter is used inside that most technical of color separating devices, a scanner, because blue is the complement of yellow. A blue filter is used inside the optics of a color analyzing machine, a densitometer, because blue is the complement of yellow.

Now, some day, when curiosity gets the better of you, go to a camera shop, and ask to look at this filter that is considered by Eastman Kodak, and the scientific world to be "BLUE"--a Kodak Wratten Filter #47. You'll undoubtedly take a look at it, and call it "purple"! Then, ask to look at a Kodak Wratten Filter #47B. Being a more "narrow band" filter, it spectrally represents an even BETTER example of "true" blue. You, or other artists, would be likely to call it even MORE "purple". However, the scientific community (not just Kodak, the litho trade, nor me, for that matter) considers this color to be "BLUE". But, you or other artists certainly have my permission to call it "purple", if you'd like. LOL

So, you are absolutely correct on this one. As I so often state, calling blue by a different name doesn't make it behave any different than blue. One could call it Frank or George, and it would still behave as blue, I'm afraid, whether either you or I would prefer it to, or not.

I'm not going to refute your discussion regarding yellows, retinal responses, luminances, etc., but these were a couple that I just could not let go by. I thank you very much for supporting my conviction on that business about the blue. I appreciate it!

Have a good day.

Bill

FriendCarol
05-22-2005, 09:02 PM
Well, Bill, if you liked that post, you may love this one:
http://wetcanvas.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3549729&postcount=43
It's in the 'Lock on Light Key' thread. I wish I could figure out what the setup was (1 light, 1 filter at a time? Bunches of lights & filters? 1 light but multiple filters?) -- but drollere somehow found your complementary shadows. Somewhere.

Only, I can't figure out how/where they are. Maybe you can interprete, so we don't have to wait a week? :D

P.S. Quakers aren't really into 'wrath.' You're safe from me, anyway. :p

jdadson
05-22-2005, 09:03 PM
The handprint pages have a chart that shows frequency response charts for each of the R, G, and B cones. I forget what the charts are called. (In my line of business, they would be called a transfer functions, but optics scientists call them something else.) The R cone peaks in the red-orange range of the rainbow. Very interestingly, it has a second smaller peak (mode) at the other end of the visible spectrum in the range we call violet. I believe that's the reason blues that are "bluer than blue" (violet) look purplish. Violet rainbow light stimulates both the B and R cones, just as if you had mixed light from the blue range of the visible spectrum with a little red light from the other end.

WFMartin
05-22-2005, 10:41 PM
Well, Bill, if you liked that post, you may love this one:
http://wetcanvas.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3549729&postcount=43
It's in the 'Lock on Light Key' thread. I wish I could figure out what the setup was (1 light, 1 filter at a time? Bunches of lights & filters? 1 light but multiple filters?) -- but drollere somehow found your complementary shadows. Somewhere.

Only, I can't figure out how/where they are. Maybe you can interprete, so we don't have to wait a week? :D

P.S. Quakers aren't really into 'wrath.' You're safe from me, anyway. :p


FriendCarol,

I'm not sure to what that statement is referring. I believe that it dealt with some photo that was published (perhaps the thing with the 3 lights and the pyramid of white in the center, and whoever published that example, I remember saying "YES" to myself, because I was in complete agreement with its premise.

This statement for which you have given the link is rather out of context, so I'm not sure whether I agree or not, because I'm not sure to what it refers.

Actually, I don't wish to incur the "wrath" of ANYONE. LOL :D

Bill

WFMartin
05-23-2005, 12:08 AM
Gosh,

Based upon something I read by somebody who questions whether drollere is truly Bruce McEvoy from Handprint, I went and looked up Handprint's "teachings" regarding primary colors.

I couldn't believe what I read! If this is truly Bruce's beliefs, and drollere is truly Bruce, I can't possibly remain in this discussion. Sorry folks, but I've been teaching the successful application of primary colors, and their behavior, for nearly 40 years, and I'm not about to be persuaded by folks who believe that which is stated in the following comments (a copy from Handprint): (I respectfully find this to be truly incredible.)


drug of choice to combat those headachy symptoms of color complexity and substance uncertainty has been the "primary" color scheme. Ah ... what relief! Three paints are all you need to mix any hue. Three "colors" are all you need to talk about any color design problem. Three "essences" are all you need to symbolize any abstract color meaning. In fact, the painter's three "primary" colors play such an important role in color mixing systems, and in the dogmas of artist's "color theory," that it seems surprising to ask, "do primary colors exist"? Even more surprising to learn that the answer is — no!

Many artists have developed a dogmatic attachment to the concept of "primary" colors and the whole framework of color wheel mixing that goes with it. This page examines the history of this idea, from ancient color theories to modern colorimetry, to demonstrate that "primary" colors are only useful fictions.

That is, so called "primary" colors are either imaginary sensations you can never experience — colors you can't see — and so aren't really "colors" at all), or they are visible colors that cannot mix all other colors, and so aren't really "primary," but just one paint choice among many.

I shall have no more to say, I'm afraid. This speaks for itself, I think.

Bill

FriendCarol
05-23-2005, 01:15 AM
Well, Bill (WFMartin), I for one will miss your input.

There's another page on the same site that I've been struggling with for awhile. That page has far more technical information, and explains more clearly why the author believes there is no physical or biological basis for what is popularly referred to as 'color theory.'

I suspect there actually is a biological basis for at least some aspects of 'color theory,' but that it is masked by the limited sample size used by investigators -- and by the fact that possibly only 32% (so far as is known) of the population are capable subjects! In an e-mail, I did suggest that a more correct investigation might use the 'expert interview' protocol, rather than measuring 'normal' perceptions across the general population given these facts, but it's been hard to raise the issue appropriately here. This is an artists' site, this forum is probably the most technically oriented on the site (apart from the computer/technology forum, anyway) -- and even here we have a great deal of difficulty communicating clearly with one another about the most basic facts about color.

Anyway, I posed the question (re biological basis for color discrimination/possible 'primary' colors psychologically or mentally) in my last post in the value vs. color/gender thread. But I recognize few folks in an artists' site are competent to evaluate scientific (or statistical or social-scientific) research. You were one of the exceptions. :D So I'll miss your input in this very difficult argument, but I do understand.

Fwiw, I value technical information; I particularly value the few people who seek it out and try to make it accessible for the wider audience to whom it is relevant. Carl Sagan and James Gleick were/are exceptional -- not surprisingly, most do not have their gift! Sagan came from the scientific community, and Gleick ('Chaos Theory') was/is a science reporter, but they shared an ability to cross the boundaries that separate the ordinary educated person from those who use or develop highly specialized technical information.

Artists have a lot to learn. But then, in the fractured world we've inherited since the 'Academy' was split into separate 'disciplines,' we all have a lot to learn from one another. It requires extraordinary patience, as well as openness and extraordinary dedication, merely for us to communicate with one another -- let alone share what we know across these technical and other boundaries.

Most of the problem is that we use the same words -- but 'plain English' words quickly become jargon with different meanings in different fields. You proved that again yourself, tonight, when you shared your own technical discipline's meaning for the word 'blue!' In fact, you recognized that 'blue' has a meaning in your own discipline which it has neither in plain English, nor for most artists. Personally, I intend to continue trying to make sense of this whole color thing (at least until the whole forum gets 'locked!' :D).

bigflea
05-23-2005, 10:37 AM
Bill,
Thanks for pointing out the problem of interpretation in the handprint document, which is especially glaring in the quote you provided. In looking through that site, I have found other examples of what seems, to me, to be interpretive rhetoric. Not being a scientist or technician, I cannot debate the science, but can only wonder at the way it may be used to justify or rationalize an opinion or interpretation. While these may be interesting, it remains to fathom what purpose is served in terms of the use of color in artwork.
ken

WFMartin
05-23-2005, 01:28 PM
FriendCarol,

Oh, I'm not going to exodus the "theory" forum--just this thread. I'm not going away "mad", but I have difficulty in responding to claims such as those I mentioned, here. I am rather speechless, as a result, and without my usual mechanical, and scientific devices to prove that which I say, could not do that to the satisfaction of most artists.

As I mentioned, I've made a career of not only teaching, but also using, in practical application, the principles of color behavior, being so heavily cast into doubt, on this thread. I have managed to answer (satisfactorily, I think) nearly every question asked of me by college level students, I have applied the behavior of primary pigments in my everyday workplace--a lithographic color separation and printing plant, I have given seminars and lectures, armed with as many pieces of optical and hard-copy proof of statements that I made, to convince even the most skeptical of those who may have had doubts or disagreed with my premises, at the onset of the seminar/discussion.

I sincerely wish I could offer my "course" to any of you who truly wish to learn more regarding the behavior of color, but having only a "writing" forum such as this, it is extrememly difficult. The idea that a knowledge of color bahavior (notice I tend to avoid the term, "theory") is either incapable of being taught, or is unworthy of being taught, or cannot speed and assist an artist in their ability to effectively predict the resulting color, from a mix of two or three other colors, is certainly questionable, to put it as kindly as I can

I'll sit back and lurk on this one, for awhile, I believe, and I won't interfere with those who wish to present their points further. :D

Cheers, and have a good art day!

Bill

Richard Saylor
05-23-2005, 03:59 PM
Okay, Bill, here in a nutshell is the understanding that (I believe) most of us have about color theory in theory and practice as it relates to the three primaries. I expect you to tune out as soon as you hit something with which you disagree, but that's okay. We all have our prejudices.

The three subtractive primaries are magenta (additive mixture of red and blue light), cyan (additive mixture of green and blue light), and yellow (additive mixture of red and green light). The primaries combine subtractively to give the three secondaries red = yellow + magenta, blue = cyan + magenta, and green = cyan + yellow. And so on and so forth it goes with nary a hitch.

Now in order to apply this to painting with a 3-color primary palette, we need to find yellow, cyan, and magenta pigments.

According to the definition, the yellow pigment should reflect equal amounts of green and red, but no blue. We look high and low, but we can't find a pigment which reflects no blue at all, so we compromise with a pretty good approximation, azo yellow or some such.

The situation is even worse when it comes to cyan. According to the definition it should reflect equal amounts of blue and green, but no red. Alas, all the cyan candidates seem to reflect red. The best pigment in this regard is probably pthalo blue gs. It looks nothing like cyan, but it will have to do.

The same old story is repeated in our quest for a magenta pigment. Suppose we settle on quinacridone magenta. It reflects a little more red than blue, and it does reflect a little green, but it's the closest thing we can find.

Now, because these "primary" pigments fail to conform to the definitions of the ideal primary colors, they don't mix quite the same way as their ideal counterparts. For example, according to theory, magenta and yellow mixed in the right proportions should give a brilliant eye-popping red. So we mix quinacridone magenta and azo yellow, and no matter how hard we try, the best we can do is a moderate red and some interesting oranges.

What to do about red? Well, what most people seem to do is cheat. The color wheel suggests that quinacridone rose should make better reds than quinacridone magenta, so we adopt quinacridone rose as our magenta, even though it even further deviates from the ideal magenta. Now we get brighter reds, but out purples aren't as good as they were with the quinacridone magenta. So we rationalize: purple isn't as important as red.

See what's happening? Similar scenarios will play out all around the color circle. Our "primary" pigments are nice colors, they combine to give a fairly extensive gamut, but they are not the primary colors of our original color theory, and therefore it is not at all realistic to expect their gamut to include all colors. Pthalo green bs will always be more intense than any mixture of azo yellow and pthalo blue gs. Ultramarine blue will be more intense than pthalo blue gs and quinacridone rose.

I'm tired of writing.

WFMartin
05-23-2005, 06:00 PM
Richard,

For what it's worth, I agree with every word you uttered in this post. Truer words were never spoken! To believe that today’s pigment primaries are ideal, in terms of their behavior would be bordering on insanity on my part. (On the other hand, some lithographic inks have come shockingly close to that goal.)

What I don't agree with is the attitude of others, that because pigments can't possibly, ever, even in million years, reach the quality of that of the primaries of light (red, green, and blue), and their counterparts in pigments (cyan, magenta, and yellow), that the concept shouldn't even be taught.

The idea that the primaries of pigment are "pure fiction", as has been suggested, in this thread, or that there can be no level of "prediction" regarding the mixing of colors of paint, because the primary colors of pigment are simply a "figment of our imagination" or that they are "incapable of even being seen, detected, or noticed", lies beyond my comprehension.

It lies beyond my comprehension simply because I have been using light, pigment primaries, and equipment, to analyze color behavior, teach color behavior, apply color behavior to effective use, and, yes, even to PREDICT the behavior of the primaries of pigment in mixing situations for many years. Not only can it be taught and understood, but it can be truly applied as well, not only in the printing trade, at which some may scoff, but in the use of every "pigment" situation I've ever encountered--acrylics, oils, watercolors.

I honestly feel that the actual simplicity of it all is looked upon by some artists as not being difficult enough to be able to create some sort of a "mystique" surrounding the use of color. The "keeping of the 'secret'" seems to be viewed by some artists as being something appropriate to do. Those of us who love to teach it, and by so doing, put it in easily understandable terms and simple calculations for clear understanding, are viewed as being "too simplistic" or "not paying your dues", and of offering "false" and "fictional" information simply because if it were picked up, and easily understood (as it inevitably can be) by those desiring to paint good pictures, it would, in some way, seem to refute the attitudes of those who follow the "old school" ideas of apprenticeship. The attitude that knowledge of color behavior is “too complex for the average person to understand it” does not fit into my agenda.

The simple, useful, understandable, predictable, applicable knowledge of pigment primaries and their behavior is quite capable of being taught and of being understood. And, an hour and a half is about all it needs to take--not a lifetime of discouraging trial-and-error-attempts, paying your dues, throwing away paintings of disappointing color, and practice, practice, practice, without ever first learning just what concepts should be practiced.

One does not need to learn the idiosyncracies, quirks, and characteristics of 5 million separate tubes of colored paint in order to predict the results of a mix--3 will do quite nicely (or 6, if ya' REALLY want to get "complicated"!)

Just my feeling, as an ex-(and current) teacher. :D

Bill

jdadson
05-23-2005, 06:14 PM
Stick around, Mr. Martin. Have a jolly good argument if you like, but stick around. Hang tough.

To me, the handprint pages have the ring of truth. There are parts that seem a little confrontational, but you know what? -- I find that refreshing in this, the Sensitive Decade.

Concerning the assertion that any three "primary" colors would necessarily be fictional... The way I read it, and I could be wrong, the handprint argument is not simply that existing pigments are inadequate. Rather it is that no conceivable set of three colors could possibly satisfy the criteria given for being "primary."

drollere
05-23-2005, 08:09 PM
Oh, I'm not going to exodus the "theory" forum--just this thread. I'm not going away "mad", but I have difficulty in responding to claims such as those I mentioned, here. I am rather speechless, as a result, and without my usual mechanical, and scientific devices to prove that which I say, could not do that to the satisfaction of most artists.
i'm glad that i can make an attempt to reinvigorate wfmartin's speech before my weekly absence. i very much enjoy his contributions.

the post that seemed to shock him is, in fact, bland fact. there are two kinds of "primaries" -- those you use as paints, dyes, phosphors, inks, filters, powders, etc., and those used to calculate color appearances in colorimetry.

the "primaries" in paints or inks are just whatever paints or inks you want to use. granted, some choices of paints or inks can give you a larger range of color mixtures than others, but then a larger choice of inks or paints can usually also do the same. it's not an issue of color or color vision, but of economics, efficiencies, and customer satisfaction with the end result.

the "primaries" used in colorimetry are imaginary because they have a chroma that is too intense to be visible to the eye, or they have zero luminance (they reflect zero light, so would appear completely black), or both. this doesn't matter, because they are like the "X" and "Y" axis in a cartesian plot. nobody asks, "gee, where does "X" point to?" because the axis is imaginary, it doesn't point anywhere. nobody asks "what does a colorimetric primary look like?" because it doesn't look like anything -- it's imaginary.

now, there is a large middle ground of "color" that might be "the colors i can see" or "the colors of light" or "the colors i actually mix when i mix paints", but in all these cases the concept of a "primary" color is either inconsistent or illogical.

i pointed out, for example, that "red" as a color depends on *all* the colors in a spectral reflectance or emission profile, and that it depends on the response of *all three* cones to the light, as well as on our interpretation of the surrounding color context, the total level of illumination, the color of the illumination, the adaptation state of our color vision to the level and color of the illumination, the *contrast* in luminance between the color and its surround (too much contrast, and the red will turn brown), our adaptation to the color of the surround (simultaneous color contrast), our understanding of the physical shape of the surface we are looking at, the direction of illumination, and so forth; and based on our memory or expectation of what color the surface should appear to be.

and i am not just shucking corn here, the most advanced color appearance models we have actually insert numbers (usually three numbers) for most all of those specific contingent facts in order to get a reasonably accurate description of what the color actually probably *looks like*.

i had a rapture moment on this topic when i looked out my window one morning and saw a huge, fiery red orange box sitting in my meadow. how did that get there? it was actually the chocolate brown construction box used to store tools for my studio construction -- with a precisely aligned shaft of morning sunlight falling directly on it. so much for "real" colors!

now my question is pretty basic: where, in all that, is the *primary* color? where specifically is the "primary" yellow? in the light, the cones, the contrasts, the adaptation, the cognitive discounting and memory color -- where does it exist? as far as i can tell, the answer is either everywhere or nowhere, and that puts the problem as i see it in a nutshell: "primary" colors are simply ideas with no place to call home.

*of course* you can still mix most hues with certain paints, but the explanation is simply found in multiplying the reflectance profiles. it has nothing to do with a "primary" outside the profiles. the "primary" is a story made up to try to explain, simply and badly, what most reflectance profiles usually do. in theory, however, it is possible to mix that bright red from one gray transmission filter and another gray transmission filter -- it all depends on the materials you use.

"primary" colors can explain color mixing, provided you severely limit the materials you are willing to talk about. but that's basically saying you're back in the realm of material paints or inks. and while everyone knows that you can't mix a pyrrole orange color, or an ultrmarine blue color, or a phthalo green color, from the CYMK palette, or any other three "primary" palette, those haven't entered the three "primary" pantheon. "yellow is a primary because it can't be mixed from other colors." -- "really? what about ultramarine blue?" -- "oh, go away."

finally, wfmartin, you are right that two negatives is a silly way to define subtractive mixture. but that was my point. i was doing a literalminded calculus to show that, taken literally, the "primary" color mixture story fails. you would, rightly, demand an improvement. but the point is that the improvement would also fail, for different reasons. we could do more improvements, maybe we would get the the kubelka munk method for predicting subtractive mixtures. but that method would fail, for example, if we wanted to predict watercolor mixtures.

this is the elusive quality of "primary" color theory that i really want to bring out. it is always just out of reach. it is always sorta there but not really there. the more you refine your definition of it by trying to explain actual color mixing, the more it retreats into new complications. and this is exactly what we'd expect from ideas that have no place to call home.

drollere
05-23-2005, 08:43 PM
The idea that the primaries of pigment are "pure fiction", as has been suggested, in this thread, or that there can be no level of "prediction" regarding the mixing of colors of paint, because the primary colors of pigment are simply a "figment of our imagination" or that they are "incapable of even being seen, detected, or noticed", lies beyond my comprehension.

It lies beyond my comprehension simply because I have been using light, pigment primaries, and equipment, to analyze color behavior, teach color behavior, apply color behavior to effective use, and, yes, even to PREDICT the behavior of the primaries of pigment in mixing situations for many years. Not only can it be taught and understood, but it can be truly applied as well, not only in the printing trade, at which some may scoff, but in the use of every "pigment" situation I've ever encountered--acrylics, oils, watercolors.

I honestly feel that the actual simplicity of it all is looked upon by some artists as not being difficult enough to be able to create some sort of a "mystique" surrounding the use of color. The "keeping of the 'secret'" seems to be viewed by some artists as being something appropriate to do. Those of us who love to teach it, and by so doing, put it in easily understandable terms and simple calculations for clear understanding, are viewed as being "too simplistic" or "not paying your dues", and of offering "false" and "fictional" information simply because if it were picked up, and easily understood (as it inevitably can be) by those desiring to paint good pictures, it would, in some way, seem to refute the attitudes of those who follow the "old school" ideas of apprenticeship. The attitude that knowledge of color behavior is “too complex for the average person to understand it” does not fit into my agenda.
these are fair points but an inaccurate characterization of my views, if i can add some clarification.

first off, it would be utterly presumptuous for me to suggest wfmartin hasn't paid his dues or is too simplistic. but i didn't say that. i don't know whether wfmartin actually makes paintings by relying on "color theory" rather than long experience with paints, but i would suggest that no one could ever make paintings like he can, if their entire knowledge was limited to color theory principles. my post was about ideas, not about people.

i didn't say that color behavior "is too complex for the average person to understand." i said, and believe, that *is* messy and complex, like most things in life, and that there are two approaches to messy and complex things: go slowly and pay attention, or summarize as a simple rule. the nuance i see is that attention or rules work better in different situations, but my experience is that crafts skills depend foremost on paying attention.

my gripe with color theory is that it puts the rules out as fact. THERE ARE three "primary" colors, paints DO MIX in this or that way, orange IS the mixture of yellow and red, and so on. it's my belief that the facts that matter, in painting at least, are experienced -- paints do quirky things and there it is. what's regrettable is that painters end up with the concept that our paints are not "perfect." "yea, it's a dull orange, but, you know, your magenta isn't perfect." why even go there?

i agree with the idea that we can define *ideal* primaries -- they are the optimal color stimuli that maximize both lightness *and* chroma. optimal color stimuli are simply surfaces that reflect either 100% or 0% of light at all wavelengths, and a profile that changes from 100% to 0% reflectance no more than twice. their spectral reflectance profiles look like cliffs, or skyscrapers -- one or two big blocks of light.

ok, so if you go to the brown university applets on color vision, and draw the optimal reflectance profile for a magenta, and look at the cone responses that result, you see -- a substantial bump in the response of the "green" cone. that is, we "see" green light even where there is none! this happens because of the way our eyes are built, and it happens even with an "ideal" magenta.

the point is -- any "ideal" primary can't get past the quirks of our retina. and that is the problem with any "ideal" anything in color theory -- it is just not dealing with the real world. we have real eyes, real response systems, real pigments, real images, and all that doesn't fit easily into a simple summary statement.

as for mystique, i can understand if i appear to go too far the other way. my real sentiment is in the paint and the paper. love that, use what you've got, don't think of it as imperfect or standing in some shadowy relation to an ideal-- think of your materials as being intensely charged with character, potential, magic, personality -- complexity, if you want. pay attention and go slowly. look at how things behave. don't push logical prejudices on what you see, but use the simple stories as a guiding framework so that you can keep your bearings in the middle of all the perceptual richness. that's my mystique if it is one. see you next weekend.

WFMartin
05-27-2005, 08:59 PM
As I have mentioned many times, before, I'd certainly be the first to admit that pigment "primaries" are certainly less that "ideal", in terms of colors of light being absorbed and reflected. There is certainly no disagreement on that point from me.

The primaries of pigments are impure, and they are simply impure because they are either largely or minimally contaminated with each other. That very premise still supports the concept of the existence of three pigment primaries.

What keeps the cyan pigment from being true, scientific "cyan" in its nature? The slight contamination of a tad of magenta, and a tad of yellow, both of which tend to skew the cyan either toward the hue of blue or toward the hue of green, depending upon which contamination is stronger. The other, then, contributes toward its grayness or decreased saturation.

The same can be said of the contamination of true, scientific magenta with the two other primaries of yellow and cyan.

And, of course, the same point can be made regarding the contamination of true, scientific yellow with the other two primaries of magenta and cyan.

But, simply because ink, dye, and paint manufacturers cannot physically provide primary pigments with the ideal attributes which they deserve, doesn't mean that we should not still attempt to learn how they behave, whether in an ideal pigment, or in a not so ideal a pigment. This understanding is what leads us to the ability to make better, more accurate, and faster choices, when required to mix colors together to achieve other colors. The understanding of color primaries is essential for a more practical application of color mixing.

The primaries still behave the same, and they are quite predictable, once you understand the concept, as well as their failings, whether mixed together in a less-than-ideal pigment, or separate, as in an "ideal" situation (which I do agree, does not, as yet, exist in pigments). With a reasonable amount of understanding, an artist does not have to become so involved with a "pay your dues" or a "practice, practice, practice" concept either of which may lead to many years of experience-gathering, rather than a few hours of instruction, leading to a sound understanding of the three primary concept.

That's my only true point and goal, regarding the understanding of primary colors.

Bill

FriendCarol
05-27-2005, 10:24 PM
Well, I'm sort of chuckling quietly to myself over here in my strange little corner of the world. Can't help it; I'm just amused, again.

I don't agree, Bill (WFMartin), that there are Platonic ideals of primary pigments. But I think I also disagree with drollere (not absolutely sure yet; afaic, the valid scientific evidence has not yet been obtained; there has been improper measurement warning bells blaring in all directions!) -- that the concept of primaries has no 'proper home.'

One thing that amuses me so much is that it was in fact the handprint.com site which saved me those years of experience. :) Really, Bill, if you had taught me yourself, perhaps my understanding might have gone more quickly, but it's hard to believe I could now 'know more' about color mixing. (And what I know I learned almost entirely from reading that site. And I do generalize, and use rules that so far work, at least among my palette of 21 pigments/tubes.)

It's also funny because I actually used gouache (irregularly) for close to 40 years -- and remained completely puzzled and annoyed by the idiosyncratic behavior of the pigments! I literally never learned a thing experientially, for all my playing with the colored water. It annoyed me to no end that I had 3 different blues (translating from the German to the best of my limited ability, I think I have cobalt, Prussian, and ultramarine, as well as my fave turquoise), yet I could never get the sky right. :rolleyes: Every time I ran into the fact that the cobalt was closest to the sky color I wanted but not smooth enough, I simply grew annoyed all over again. :rolleyes: In fact, until I read the handprint site I don't think I even started to notice that it was always cobalt I wanted for the color, and that that color always granulated (or perhaps flocculated). Instead I assumed I must be mixing it badly, using the wrong brush, using the wrong paper, maybe the humidity was bad that day -- just somehow I must be doing it wrong! (In short, I assumed pigments were all the same sort of thing. I really did; they were Platonic ideals for me, which nevertheless mysteriously didn't work properly in my hands.) :D

When I read the handprint site, for the first time I began to understand my experiences with those pigments. It's such a delicious irony that the author of that site apparently believes my utterly worthless investment of so much time should have been of more value than my reading! :D (Granted, I did learn to use a brush. I've even developed a 'style,' for what that's worth. But I never learned anything at all -- nothing -- about the idiosyncracies of pigments, or about mixing colors.)

Even drollere is willing to admit (however carefully, holding the concepts at arm's length with quotation marks!) that we seem to share fairly distinct concepts of red, blue, and yellow. A relatively small range of these hues somehow seem special to us, among all the possible shades of reds, blues, and yellows. I think there is quite likely a 'psychological' or perhaps biological basis for 'primary' color. With a small sample size, however -- and that sample distributed across the entire human population, rather than querying those best equipped biologically to discern these colors -- we're not likely to identify it.

So, it seems to me that our little band of variously equipped adventurers has now finally gathered at the tavern, under the sign of the colorwheel, here in Color Theory/Mixing land. (Richard! You integrate color differences?!? Who knew??) Let the adventure begin! (I know these things always seem to begin with a battle, but we've had that part already.) Now, who's got the tattered map pointing to our first destination? Einion? Patrick -- you're our Guide, right? Where were we headed, anyway, when we somehow ended up here? :p

Richard Saylor
05-27-2005, 11:33 PM
.....(Richard! You integrate color differences?!? Who knew??).....
I'm a mathematician. Ph.D., Rice University, 1966.

WFMartin
05-27-2005, 11:57 PM
The knowledge of the pigment "primaries", even though they may not exist in the thoughts of some artists, assist me in nearly every move I make while painting with either watercolors or oils.

For example, nearly every time I consciously reach for a dab of Raw Umber, instead of Burnt Umber, I am mentally calculating just how much more yellow, and less magenta is contained in it than in that of Burnt Umber.

When I reach for a bit of Cadmium Red Deep, I not only assess how much more yellow it contains than, perhaps Rose Madder or Alizarin Crimson, but also how much cyan it contains, as a graying component.

Cadmium Yellow Deep has more magenta in it, than does Cadmium Yellow Light, or Hansa Yellow.

These considerations all rely upon an understanding of the primary colors of pigment--cyan, magenta, and yellow. The point is, an artist does not have to literally paint with nothing but cyan, magenta, and yellow in order to utilize the knowledge of them, and to be able to apply in the course of everyday painting situations. Notice, please, that I have not made these decisions based on any colors other than those of the pigment primaries, cyan, magenta, and yellow. It is the colors of cyan, magenta, and yellow contained in every color of paint that one lifts on a brush that are important to understand--not the literal pigments of cyan, magenta, and yellow.

There are also attributes exhibited by pigments in watercolors, as FriendCarol mentioned, such as granulation, flocculation, etc., but also in oils, such as the phenomenon known as overtones, a condition in which a color literally changes its hue when mixed with white paint. Cadmium Orange swings toward red, as it gets mixed with progressively more white, for example. That is an overtone.
Another attribute among both watercolors and oils, of course, is that of opacity.

But, these attributes don't shoot the entire knowledge of color behavior full of holes. Primaries are still primaries. These are simply a couple of idiosyncracies of PIGMENT that can be taught, and learned. And, once more, it needn't involve a lifetime of trial and error experimentation, with mistakes by the dozens, in order to be aware of them. You could count these anomalies on one hand.

Bill

Richard Saylor
05-28-2005, 04:00 AM
(Richard! You integrate color differences?!? Who knew??)

Good grief! I just now got it. LOL! :o

FriendCarol
05-28-2005, 07:47 AM
Well, I thought about saying 'integrate over color differences,' but what would have been the fun in that? :D

Okay, drollere. I think I see where we are now. It's a place I've been before, actually. In fact, I believe I was actually asked to leave one class (or one session of one class) in grad school because of my inconvenient pursuit of this same question on a different topic. (Of course the request was indirectly phrased, however! :D )

As scientists, or even statisticians, we become aware of issues of reliability and validity in our measurements (or definitions) of basic concepts. Reliability is relatively easy to deal with. Validity turns out to be amazingly difficult. If the scientist is of a philosophical turn of mind, the presentation of 'objective definition' leads only to more questions.

For all the rest of the artists here, we're already talking about 'objective definitions' of color -- even if you don't recognize that term: It's what Bill (WFMartin) wants his colorimeter for, it's the 'amount of reflectance' (of whatever hues) to which others have referred. It's the 3 numbers in whatever (CIELAB? Munsell?) system we adopted... But all these 'systems of measuring color using instruments' still are themselves made up of (or defined by) lower-level words. This holds true even if those words have been themselves defined.

So, how do we really, really know what the words mean? Well, I puzzled over this in grad school for a couple days, and finally decided the answer had to do with consensus. We sort of agree to use the words in a particular way -- an informed agreement by 'educated' and interested parties, the best agreement we can reach given the imperfect state of our knowledge -- but it's just agreement. Consensus.

Unknown to me, simmering below the pleasant surface of our faculty there had been a huge fuss over this very issue, just prior to my arrival. When, in our initial course on 'theory construction,' a professor was finally ready to offer me his condescending definition of the definition of a word (a few days after I'd raised the question), I casually deflected his (worthless/circular) definition of definitions with my independently reached observation about consensus. Ooops! Turned out 'consensus' was the answer offered by the opposing faculty camp (with which, purely by coincidence, I had been 'hanging out').

The problem in general is akin to Russell's setting out to prove 2+2=4 (or 1+1=2 or whatever) -- and discovering it can't be proven. In principle (apparently!).

Do primary colors exist? Who knows? (Does a tree exist? Who knows? :D) Can we speak meaningfully of primary colors? YES. Are they useful constructs, for the mixing of colors, evaluation of palettes, etc.? Yes.

Them's my answers. Waiting to hear where everyone else wants to start from. (I'm pretty sure I know where Bill -- WFMartin -- is standing right now: probably ready to invite us to walk into the nearest tree and find out just how imaginary that construct is! :D)

Patrick1
05-28-2005, 10:07 AM
What keeps the cyan pigment from being true, scientific "cyan" in its nature? The slight contamination of a tad of magenta, and a tad of yellow, both of which tend to skew the cyan either toward the hue of blue or toward the hue of green, depending upon which contamination is stronger. The other, then, contributes toward its grayness or decreased saturation.

The same can be said of the contamination of true, scientific magenta with the two other primaries of yellow and cyan.

And, of course, the same point can be made regarding the contamination of true, scientific yellow with the other two primaries of magenta and cyan.

Bill, an observation: it looks like you generally conceptualize colors as a mixture of the three primaries. I just think of any color/pigment as it's own entity. When I think of Quinacridone Rose, I don't think of it as Quincridone Magenta + a bit of Azo Yellow, I just think of it as Quinacridone Rose...and I have a mental picture of approximately where it sits on a color mixing wheel and use that as a rough guide to how it'll mix with other pigments.

WFMartin
05-28-2005, 03:55 PM
Bill, an observation: it looks like you generally conceptualize colors as a mixture of the three primaries. I just think of any color/pigment as it's own entity. When I think of Quinacridone Rose, I don't think of it as Quincridone Magenta + a bit of Azo Yellow, I just think of it as Quinacridone Rose...and I have a mental picture of approximately where it sits on a color mixing wheel and use that as a rough guide to how it'll mix with other pigments.

You are quite correct in assessing my approach to using the cyan, magenta, and yellow primaries of pigment, when mixing paints.

I hardly ever pick up a paint color on my brush without mentally assessing its individual content of c, m, and y. I don't view any tube color as an "entity" unto itself, but only as what approximate combination of c, m, and y that it contains.

The "location" of each color on a wheel is so ingrained in me after dealing with placing analyzed colors on a blank shell of a color wheel for nearly 40 years, that I can fairly well assess the RELATIVE positions of colors, compared to other colors of the same approximate hue, but I do that purely on the basis of hue and grayness of colors, and with an understanding that it is the reflectances of red, green, and blue light, in the form of cyan, magenta, and yellow primaries of pigments.

Please realize that it's ALL a pure "guess", without an instrument with which to analyze the color in question, in a precise way. In my case, it is perhaps a calculated guess, but a "guess", nevertheless.

And, you are very correct in stating that I don't often look at a color as though it contains cyan, magenta or yellow PIGMENT--but only cyan, magenta, and yellow COLOR. For example, raw sienna may not literally have primary pigments of cyan, magenta, and yellow contained within it (after all, it is a single-pigment paint, is it not?), but it most definitely has cyan, magenta, and yellow COLORS emanating from it, in various degrees.

So, this is how I do it, for whatever that's worth. Since the main topic of this thread is that of a "limited palette", I can't conceive of a better use of the knowledge of primary pigments, than when selecting and using a limited palette. As they say, "knowledge is power", and I cannot give any better example of that than in the use of such knowledge when selecting, mixing and applying of paint in a creative art endeavor. It pays off for me, daily, and I feel that it should for others, as well.

Bill

jdadson
05-29-2005, 09:09 PM
... raw sienna may not literally have primary pigments of cyan, magenta, and yellow contained within it (after all, it is a single-pigment paint, is it not?), but it most definitely has cyan, magenta, and yellow COLORS emanating from it, in various degrees.


I don't understand. Color is a phenomenon of the brain. Magenta in particular exists only in our mammalian brains. We see magenta when both our R cones and B cones get exited while the G cones don't. There is no single wavelength of light that will do that. We see magenta when our eyes are struck by wavelengths of light from the ends of the visible spectrum but not the middle. There are an infinity of combinations that will make us see precisely the same magenta. In what sense does magenta emanate from raw sienna?

WFMartin
05-29-2005, 11:52 PM
I don't understand. Color is a phenomenon of the brain. Magenta in particular exists only in our mammalian brains. We see magenta when both our R cones and B cones get exited while the G cones don't. There is no single wavelength of light that will do that. We see magenta when our eyes are struck by wavelengths of light from the ends of the visible spectrum but not the middle. There are an infinity of combinations that will make us see precisely the same magenta. In what sense does magenta emanate from raw sienna?

Oh, wow. Don't get me started. ;) Ah, yes....."magenta". The one color that truly does not exist in the spectrum.

Now, please understand: I said, "the spectrum". The reason that it does not exist in the visible spectrum is simply that it is composed of the two wavelengths that are located at the extreme opposite ends of the visible spectrum (a rainbow, etc.)--Blue and Red, as you say.

Since there is no overlap or joining of red and blue in the physical spectrum, the specific color, "magenta", simply cannot exist IN THE SPECTRUM.

Does this mean that the color, "magenta", does not exist? Of course not. It exists on every artist's palette, and in the fountain of every printing press and in the reservoir of every inkjet printer in the world. It exists in every color "model" from a circle to a triangle, to the Munsell and CIE systems, etc. It just cannot physically exist in the SPECTRUM.

I am totally aware that I will inspire much disagreement with this idea, but just so this lil' ol' color "theorist" will have a tad bit of backup in my opinion, do yourself and me the favor, to Google, "Magenta in the spectrum", or, "Spectral Magenta", before offering all the old arguments and responses that I've already heard a couple of dozen times in my life, and you'll quickly find that the overwhelming opinion among a number of folks with many more credentials than I have, is that magenta does not exist in the spectrum. If I'm truly wrong in applying and teaching this concept for 40 years, then I honestly seem to be in fairly "good" company. :D

One of the attributes which truly makes pigment primaries unique, is that each one reflects TWO THIRDS of the spectrum of white light. Other colors simply do not hold that distinction. That's one attribute which makes them "primaries", and not "secondaries. Magenta has the even more unique characteristic of reflecting the two thirds that happen to be at the opposite ends of the spectrum--red and blue. One has the shortest wavelength of visible light, while the other has the longest. The color, magenta, is indeed, interesting, to say the least.

But, magenta being a primary such as it is, its color emanates from many tube colors of paint that you use, just as do cyan and yellow. Just because it is unique in that it is composed of the wavelengths of the opposite ends of the spectrum does not make it any less legitimate as a primary color. Primaries truly are unique, are they not?

The unique behavior of color primaries...........I LOVE IT!!

Bill

drollere
05-30-2005, 01:49 AM
i haven't seen anything posted to directly compromise my previous posts. instead, more "primary" incrimination is put forward.

pigments are not "less than ideal" because they contain an admixture of more than one kind of "primary" light. yellow is inherently a mixture of red and green light, so the mixture cannot "impurify" it; and any paint that reflected only "yellow" light would be so dark it would appear to be a dark raw umber.

the thing that makes pigments underperform is that they reflect *less* light than is possible, not too much of the wrong kind of light. and pigments mix dull or dark colors because they reflect too *narrow* a range of light, not too broad or impure a range of light.

the whole "wrong kind of light, imperfect, less than ideal" attitude toward pigments is completely irrelevant to explain any color mixing problem or any design issue. it is just one of many slogans used to buttress a "primary" color theory that is in desperate need of support.

sure, you can measure a "primary" color using a filter modulated spectrophotometer, but that doesn't mean what you measure is what is operative in a paint or in your visual system. in fact, an infinite number of different "primary" colors are possible in colorimetry, and all of them would be just as valid as the basis for colorimetric principles.

there is nothing to object to if one can use a "primary" color conception to choose between paints or to mix them to match a specific color. after all, the whole point is painting, not talking about color. the objection comes in treating "primary" colors as some ideal system that can explain the behavior of paints that at the same time can't rise to the perfection of the system that explains them.

"primary" colors as abstractions have no stable basis -- not in perception, not in substance mixtures, not in pigment chemistry. they explain substance mixtures so long as you are allowed to exclude all the substances they don't explain. a narrowpass blue and yellow filter do not mix subtractively to make green: they make black.

"primary" colors as paints or inks are just whatever you use to get the mixing results you want. nothing more. to say they are "imperfect" is beside the point, because if they *really* were imperfect (that is, unsatisfactory for the job at hand), then you would just use different paints or inks.

FriendCarol
05-30-2005, 03:02 AM
I'll try to make my response shorter in the morning. It always takes a long time to be briefer. :rolleyes:

WFMartin
05-30-2005, 02:54 PM
Well, drollere,

I've explained my view on the importance of the primaries of pigments to the very best of my ability. There's not much more that I could state here that would convince others who seem determined not to understand the concept of the importance of primary pigment colors, any better or more emphatically than I have, already.

I believe FriendCarol pointed out that she, at least, understood where I stand on the importance of conceptualizing, understanding, and applying the three primary colors of cyan magenta, and yellow pigments toward the accomplishment of art, in many mediums. Perhaps many others can understand my points, as well. I certainly hope so.

'Bout all I can say, I think. :D

Have a good day! Make art!

Bill

FriendCarol
05-30-2005, 03:23 PM
Well, I worked on my response, but the first part of it is posted over in the other 'limited palette' thread. It seems to me there is preliminary work to do before we can adequately address the issue of 'primary' colors. One such issue is whether there is inherent color.

Or, for that matter, whether there is color at all -- other than a mere epiphenoma arising in our brains. Jive, if there is no color, with what do you paint? And if there is merely a consensus about the (however arbitrary) relationship between what we see and what we paint onto the paper/canvas, might we not just as well assign these (what we see, and what we paint) phenomena (whether physical, optical, psychological, whatever) the word 'color?' (Otherwise, 'color' is presumably a nonsense term we might as well discard -- only to have everyone else snatch it out of the garbage pail straightaway and put it to this use anyway.)

jdadson
05-30-2005, 11:14 PM
Oh, wow. Don't get me started. ;)

I still don't know, in what sense does magenta "emanate" from burnt sienna?

jdadson
05-30-2005, 11:18 PM
Well, drollere,

I've explained my view on the importance of the primaries of pigments to the very best of my ability. There's not much more that I could state here that would convince others who seem determined not to understand the concept of the importance of primary pigment colors...

Bill

Bill, I don't think there is anyone here who is determined not to understand. The contention is from those who profess to understand very well indeed, but reject the concept's soundness nevertheless.

WFMartin
05-31-2005, 12:17 AM
Bill, I don't think there is anyone here who is determined not to understand. The contention is from those who profess to understand very well indeed, but reject the concept's soundness nevertheless.

Your point is well taken. There truly are many concepts whose "soundness" I also reject. :wink2: One of these is that pigment primaries are "fictitious" or "imaginary". :wink2: I, too, totally understand that concept." But, I certainly do reject it--and with a passion, I might add. :D

Oh, and to answer your question regarding "burnt sienna": Sometime, mix varying amounts of W&N Transparent Yellow, with W&N Permanent Rose, and Grumbacher Thalo Blue, with as much white as it may take, until you achieve a reasonable match of anybody's tubed "burnt sienna". It can be done!

Then realize that the W&N Transparent Yellow represents the primary color, "Yellow", the W&N Permanent Rose represents the primary color, "Magenta", and the Grumbacher Thalo Blue represents the primary color, "Cyan".

So, then ask yourself just how much relative amount of that Permanent Rose (Magenta) it took to produce that burnt sienna. Whatever your answer is, that's approximately how much "magenta" is emanating from "burnt sienna". Hope that answers your question.

Bill

FriendCarol
05-31-2005, 12:40 AM
1

jdadson
05-31-2005, 01:04 AM
Well, I worked on my response, but the first part of it is posted over in the other 'limited palette' thread. It seems to me there is preliminary work to do before we can adequately address the issue of 'primary' colors. One such issue is whether there is inherent color.

Or, for that matter, whether there is color at all -- other than a mere epiphenoma arising in our brains. Jive, if there is no color, with what do you paint? And if there is merely a consensus about the (however arbitrary) relationship between what we see and what we paint onto the paper/canvas, might we not just as well assign these (what we see, and what we paint) phenomena (whether physical, optical, psychological, whatever) the word 'color?' (Otherwise, 'color' is presumably a nonsense term we might as well discard -- only to have everyone else snatch it out of the garbage pail straightaway and put it to this use anyway.)

You sent me scurrying for the dictionary! Alas, I find no "epiphenoma." "Epiphenomena," yes, but it hardly fits. In any case...

Of course there is color. Colors, like thoughts, originate in our brains. There is no contradiction in that. Our perception of color is not nearly so direct a mapping of the stimuli as, for example, our perception of sound. Our ears have in them a device with many parts, each of which resonates at a narrow frequency band of alternating air pressure. Our eyes, by "pale" comparison, have merely three kinds of photon sensors that discriminate wave length. If we heard sounds the way we see colors, there would be no such things as chords and harmony. Our eyes map the infinite dimensional space of spectragraphs into only three dimensions. That's what all the fuss is about.

If there are but three dimensions, may we then choose three colors as a basis for all colors? ("Basis" in this sense is a mathematical term.) If our eyes were linear devices, and if color mixing were a linear (additive) function, the answer, mathematically, would be yes. But those criteria are not met. In order to be able to span (math-speak, again) the visible gamut, we would require "colors" that we cannot see nor realize physically. If we could choose a three-color basis, there would be an infinity of choices.

It was Issac Newton who first discovered that color is a purely subjective experience. "Color," he said, "belongs to the eye, and not to the object." I will never cease to be astonished by the intellectual accomplishments of that man. When he did his research into color, he had only recently taken the quite remarkable results of Johannes Koepler and turned them into a tidy list of principles based on measured observations. Those "laws" of motion serve us quite well to send space ships to Mars and whatnot. He could have been expected to assume color was a physical property, which could be codified as neatly as mass, acceleration, force, and motion. But instead he "saw the light", so to speak. He did so, although it would be hundreds of years before biologists figured out WHY color is so stubornly biological. He did fall into the "primary color" trap though. (He identified seven, I believe.) Koepler, on the other hand, labored most of his life under misconceptions, based on his concept of God the Perfect Geometer. He was able to throw off those prejudices only after a mighty struggle that pitted his beliefs against his observations. I find that heroic.

Let's fast-forward a few hundred years. To answer your question, what do I paint with? -- oil paints. When I paint, I expect or assume that others will experience something quite similar to what I do when they view the painting.

tk04
05-31-2005, 01:49 PM
Many years ago I followed a course in silk-painting - in means painting on the fabric silk. It's done by some specific floating colors that have to be fixated. I used colors what were recommended at the course. It must have been cyan, magenta and yellow - I didn't know at the time - I know for sure that the red wasn't highred because the only color I couldn't get with them was highred. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the same brand when I ran out of color. So I had to buy blue, red and yellow on my own - and it was such a disappointment. Learning some of the secrets behind color mixing the hard way, so to say.

Later on, I have never found any pigments in oil, or watercolors, that have as good mixing properties - by that I mean the range of colors it's possible to get - as this CMY pallette from silk-painting. That said, I don't think I have ever tried a pure CMY pallette in oil - if that exists - it's on my list of things to do when I get to it. I know I have tried a CMY-pallette with some gouache-colors, but I didn't like the result - can't remember why.

WFMartin
05-31-2005, 03:09 PM
Many years ago I followed a course in silk-painting - in means painting on the fabric silk. It's done by some specific floating colors that have to be fixated. I used colors what were recommended at the course. It must have been cyan, magenta and yellow - I didn't know at the time - I know for sure that the red wasn't highred because the only color I couldn't get with them was highred. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the same brand when I ran out of color. So I had to buy blue, red and yellow on my own - and it was such a disappointment. Learning some of the secrets behind color mixing the hard way, so to say.

Later on, I have never found any pigments in oil, or watercolors, that have as good mixing properties - by that I mean the range of colors it's possible to get - as this CMY pallette from silk-painting. That said, I don't think I have ever tried a pure CMY pallette in oil - if that exists - it's on my list of things to do when I get to it. I know I have tried a CMY-pallette with some gouache-colors, but I didn't like the result - can't remember why.


Karin,

It is truly gratifying to find someone who shares my enthusiasm for the primaries of cyan, magenta, and yellow--and from past experience, no less!!

The manufacturers of certain mediums have gone to greater lengths to attempt to achieve the most appropriate primaries of cyan, magenta, and yellow than have others. Lithographic printing ink manufacturers are one of them who have striven (strove, struv, strived??) LOL to achieve the purest, most accurate primaries possible, because their very livlihood depends upon the producing of the greatest gamut of colors possible, and to do so by using only 4 units on a 4-color printing press.

Makers of watercolor, oil paint, gouache, etc., appear to be less interested, simply because most artists are not limited by the number of cylinder units on a press, and can select, perhaps, as many as 15 colors from a palette of colors, without there being a particular financial impact. (No sense in manufacturing two primaries (yellow/magenta) that will mix to produce a pure red, for example, when there are already a dozen "reds" available in tubes.)

And, of course, if you watched me lay out a palette of colors for doing either an oil or a watercolor painting, you'd have a difficult time believing that I'm one of those who advocates the learning of the behavior of primaries, simply because I don't use them very often. Convenience colors, are certainly more convenient. And, I consider any tube color that is not a primary, to be a convenience color, whether it is a single pigment color or not.

It is certainly not practical to use only the primaries of cyan, magenta, and yellow, and I seldom advocate doing so. What I DO advocate and recommend is the understanding of how the primaries behave, both on their own, and in the creation of other colors, when mixed with each other. It takes a great deal of time to mix other colors, using only the primaries, but it is a great time-SAVER to understand how the cyan, magenta, and yellow colors within ANY tube color of paint (Raw Umber, Rose Madder, Cobalt Blue, Burnt Sienna, etc.), are contributing toward the overall color you are mixing from these tube colors.

Karin, if you do choose to work with cyan, magenta, and yellow with oil paints, my recommendation would be the following: YELLOW--Winsor & Newton Transparent Yellow 653; MAGENTA--Winsor & Newton Permanent Rose 502; CYAN--Grumbacher Thalo Blue.

These are extremely transparent colors, and mix to produce the most beautiful black imaginable. When middle and lighter color mixes are desired from these paints, one must use a sizable quantity of white. White is your friend, when dealing with such transparent paints. :D Just don't use as much when painting the darkest darks.

Bill

bigflea
05-31-2005, 04:53 PM
Bill,
your approach to learning and teaching the way both light and pigments behave is as clear as anything can be imo. same can be said for your responses to those challenges about the reliability of the information you are knowledgeable in.
ken

tk04
05-31-2005, 06:41 PM
Bill, thanks a lot for the CMY-pallette - and your explaination about using it. To have a more unlimited, workable primary pallette for outdoor use would be very handy. So I'm curious about this pallette. Colors are also a life-long learning-process, and a great pleasure too, and I'm sure the will be new things to discover if I try a CMY-pallette in oil.

What you say about the production of paint also makes sense. I had given up on understanding why it's so difficult to find a CMY-pallette in watercolor or oil, and just accepted it as a fact.

I find all your comments to color-mixing very valueable. I'm not into flattering, but you are giving out for free, first-class knowledge from a life-long experience. It's very - very - generous of you to share this knowledge in the way you do.

WFMartin
05-31-2005, 07:43 PM
Thank you, Karin and Ken,

That means a lot to me.

I never intend to put down those who feel that the pure, theoretical study of color is rather a waste, without being supported with some practical experience in the mixing of colors, as well. I simply feel that the knowledge of sound principles regarding the pigment primaries, both the theoretical primaries, as well as the available primaries in any medium, represents a much more rapid way to achieve results in the creating of fine art.

The carry-over of my knowledge from printing ink colors applied immediately to my work in oils and, later, to watercolors. I honestly didn't need to "re-learn" a thing about color behavior, when going to oil painting from printing inks. The basics are the same.

Granted, there are a few behavior anomalies, such as opacity, tinting strengths, overtones (colors mixed with white), and undertones (colors applied as a drawdown, over a white substrate), but these phenomena are minimal, and, actually, color behaves as it should, for the most part, in nearly any medium.

I have no axe to grind; I'm not selling any sort of a color wheel, or proprietary color mixing method; I don't claim to have any revolutionary way of creating paintings. I'm only advocating the use and practical application of color behavior that mother nature has already bestowed upon us.

Thanks for your comments. :)

Bill

billw
06-06-2005, 06:58 AM
Hello folks

It has been interesting reading the in depth debate expressed on the subject. Being a newbie painter I can not provide expert facts on the subject, however it appears to me that as in any other field language and word aplication generates most disagreements. This appears to be a human condition since all words are nothing but verbal labels to describe visual and or imagined images. Consequently the terms "limited palette " and "primary colors" appear to have different meanings to everyone.
Over use of terminology can limit visual expressiveness and cause color theory to be confusing. I guess that's why it is "art" or "theory".
I have been to handprint site and also school of color as well as some art courses in college and it appears to me that everyone has their own images of the world and attempts to find verbal sounds (words) to label them. Carry on.

Richard Saylor
06-06-2005, 10:05 PM
.....it appears to me that as in any other field language and word aplication generates most disagreements. This appears to be a human condition since all words are nothing but verbal labels to describe visual and or imagined images.
It's pathetic that people can't communicate worth a darn, ain't it?
Consequently the terms "limited palette " and "primary colors" appear to have different meanings to everyone.
On the surface that sounds like a really profound statement. However, as usual, good communication solves the problem. Example: "I paint with a limited palette consisting of three primaries. For my primaries I usually select quinacridone rose, pthalo blue, and hansa yellow med., somtimes substituting ultramarine blue for pthalo blue." See? There's no chance for misunderstanding unless some troublemaker is h3ll-bent on misunderstanding something.
Over use of terminology can limit visual expressiveness and cause color theory to be confusing.
Terms should always be defined as non-ambiguously as possible. If someone's exposition of color theory is truly confusing, then they are doing a sloppy job of communicating.
everyone has their own images of the world and attempts to find verbal sounds (words) to label them.
And if they can't relate to other people well enough to communicate those personal images effectively, then they need to try a little harder rather than sitting in a corner licking their wounds and whining that nobody understands them.

FriendCarol
06-06-2005, 10:36 PM
Terms should always be defined as non-ambiguously as possible.Except in the field of diplomacy. Don't suppose you're interested in it much, but Richard McKeon's work is outstanding in this area. Particularly in the realm of conflict resolution in a multi-cultural context, ambiguity can be extremely valuable. (Attempts to reach agreement should be restricted to behavior only -- no discussion of beliefs at all! :) )

Of course, I agree that where we're trying to communicate about color, precision and accuracy of language is valuable. So, with that somewhat awkward segue (sp?), I have a question for the color experts: I spilled some quinacridone red into my turquoise (phthalo blue RS & phthalo green BS) yesterday. All was well -- I loved the color... Well, strictly speaking I should not have used it, but I'll work it out... :D But today, my palette has an "interesting" mixture with tiny hard chunks -- apparently insoluble -- in it. I captured some on a toothpick.

What is that stuff?!? Any chemists in the crowd? :p

Any one of those three pigments in rinse water would normally just act as dyes -- no precipitation or sediment. The phthalo mix would not precipitate. Just curious, really.

LordScorpius
03-24-2007, 09:59 PM
I would say that HOPEFULLY, the traditions and values upon which we cling to can indeed be proven to have flaws lest we believe ourselves to be in a state of perfection now. If the Color Wheel has become a crutch in the path to evolution of skill, we should rejoice at its demise and usher in with hope, a new and better way.
Consider the moment when the Italian Renaissance began. The contraversy, the rage, the Chaos... must we always meet our future with such distain? Two hundred years before Michelangelo and Leo did there thing, there was a quiet, then unrecognized revolution of Art in Germany (The praying hands piece). Unsung and ignored, it became an opportunity missed to change the world. The crashing down of walls in Britian setup by the supreme Socialist effort of the Royal Art College by J.M.W. Turner. Were it not for him, it is highly unlikely that Watercolor would be today considered a serious Art. Likewise Vermeer in Holland is just recently becoming of fame as the Father of Western Ultra Realism.
The same lesson repeats itself once too many times for us all. Therefore, I am embracing, hopefully that this School of thought, "Blue and Yellow..." is the new apex in Art's evolution. Bravo Mr. Wilcox!! Success to you!

Richard Saylor
03-24-2007, 11:54 PM
...The same lesson repeats itself once too many times for us all. Therefore, I am embracing, hopefully that this School of thought, "Blue and Yellow..." is the new apex in Art's evolution. Bravo Mr. Wilcox!! Success to you!I hate to rain on your parade, Lord, but Mr. Wilcox is not a revolutionary. I once asked him why his web site gives the impression that he has created an entirely new, radical approach to color, when, in fact, his methods are fairly conventional. He responded that he didn't know that it gave that impression. Since he's English, he can be forgiven for that remark, I think. :angel:

Richard

catjo
03-27-2007, 10:00 PM
great advice. this is an amazing site

65dos
03-29-2007, 01:04 PM
"My first add on is naples Yel.light, because it lets me lighten a color and keep it warm since white tends to cool as it lightens."

Naples is fantastic for warming the lights. I gladly use it as a crutch.