View Full Version : I need help in chosing colours?

08-12-2002, 06:44 PM

I am new to the forum. I had no art training, but love to draw and paint. I bought a small beginners set of Finity acrylic paints. According to the Finity colour Chart they sell 72 colours. My set consists of the following: (I numbered the colour chart and the colours I have are numbered accordingly.)

6. Cadmium Yellow Medium
7. Azo Yellow Medium
21. Naphthol Red Medium
23. Permanent Alizarin Crimson
28. Ultramarine Blue
33. Cerulean Blue Hue
36. Phthalo Green Blue shade
54. Burnt Siena
59. Raw Umber
64. Mars Black
66. Titanium White

I have no idea which of those colours are warm and which are cold. I tried to find books with that information, but couldn't find any in this small town. Can someone please help me out here? (Suggestion ... Devide my colours from above into two lists (warm and cold) and just type the numbers.)

Another question ...
Which will you chose if you want one warm and one cold of red/blue/yellow as well as one of each of green and earthy tones.

The whole range ...
1. Lemon Yellow
2. Cadmium Lemon
3. Bismuth Yellow
4. Cadmium Yellow Light
5. Transparent Yellow
6. Cadmium Yellow Medium
7. Azo Yellow Medium
8. Cadmium Yellow Deep
9. Diarylide Yellow
10. Cadmium Orange
11. Benzimidazolone Orange
12. Perinone Orange
13. Cadmium Red Light
14. Pyrrole Red Light
15. Cadmium Red Medium
16. Naphithol Red Light
17. Pyrrole Red
18. Cadmium Red Deep
19. Quinacridone Red
20. Perylene Red
21. Naphthol Red Medium
22. Permanent Rose
23. Permanent Alizarin Crimson
24. Quinacridone Magenta
25. Benzimidazolone Maroon
26. Dioxazine purple
27. Indanthrene Blue
28. Ultramarine blue
29. Cobalt Deep Blue
30. Phthalo Blue Red Shade
31. Phthalo Bue Green Shade
32. Cerulean Blue
33. Cerulean Blue Hue
34. Cobalt Turquoise
35. Phthalo Turquoise
36. Phthalo Green Blue Shade
37. Phthalo Green Yellow Shade
38. Emerald Green
39. Cobalt Green light
40. Cobalt Green Deep
41. Cromium Oxcide Green
42. Hookers Green
43. Permanent Sap Green
44. Olive Green
45. Buff Titanium
46. Naples Yellow
47. Naples Yellow Deep
48. Mars Yellow
49. Yellow Ochre
50. Raw Sienna
51. Quinacridone Gold
52. Gold Ochre
53. Mars Orange
54. Burnt Siena
55. Red Iron Oxide
56. Mars Violet
57. Mars Violet Deep
58. Quinacridone Burnt Orange
59. Raw umber
60. Davy's Gray
61. Graphite Grey
62. Payne's Gray
63. Ivory Black
64. Mars Black
65. Mixing White
66. Titanium White
67. Irridescent White
68. Silver
69. Dark Silver
70. Gold
71. Renaissance Gold
72. Antique Gold

Help would be very much appreciated. :)

Many thanks.

Lady Carol
08-12-2002, 11:12 PM
I recommend the book "Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green" by Michael Wilcox. He goes into the fundamentals of mixing colors with demonstrations etc. This book will most likely be found on Amazon.
Meanwhile, here are a few to get you going

Warm colors:
Cadmium Red
French Ultramarine
Cadmium Yellow

Cool Colors:
Alizarin Crimson
Cerulean Blue
Lemon Yellow


08-13-2002, 04:30 AM
Many thanks Carol:)

08-13-2002, 09:00 PM
It looks like you already have a plan, wanting cool and warm versions of red, yellow, and blue on your pallet. I have seen the book "Exploring Color" by Nita Leland recommended by other wet canvas members and it is a good book on colors and color mixing.
If you go to the website www.nitaleland.com/articles.htm
and look at the article "Split-Primary Color Mixing" under "Color"
you will see a brief description of why it is so important to know when to use a warm or cool primary when mixing secondary colors. I found this information really cleared up some frustrations I had in the past trying to mix non-muddy colors. Of course there are times when you want a nice brown/olive green or a murky purple. Then you know how to break the "rules" and get those colors too. But only when you want them!

Drew Davis
08-13-2002, 11:06 PM
www.handprint.com has a great section on color theory. The site is intended for watercolors, but almost all of it applies just as well to oils.

"Warm" and "cold" are subjective terms, and relative. Warm colors are the red, orange, yellow ones. Cool colors are the green, blue, purple ones. It's a matter of taste when greens stop being "warm" and start being "cold", as well as when those magnetas and violets start being "cold" as well. The "warmest" color is also subjective, but most people put it somewhere between the orangey reds and deep (orangey) yellows. Same with "cold", where I'd put the coldest color somewhere in the cobalt blue to ultramarine part of the spectrum.

When you're talking about a "split primary" palette, one which has two yellows, two reds, and two blues, you generally want a good distance in hue between the two similar colors. One of them will be "warmer" than the other. Even though you have two bluish colors, one of them will be further around the color wheel toward slightly warmer colors, such as green or red.

Get out your paints, and make some squares of your reds, yellows, and blues, side by side. Look at them, and see which ones seem warmer or colder to you. I'll bet that you find, say, cerulean blue hue warmer (more green) than ultramarine, or the napthol red warmer (more orange) than the alizarin, or the cad yellow medium warmer (more orange) than the azo yellow.

"Ultramarine" can be tricky. That one pigment can take on a lot of colors, from a purplish blue through purple even to a reddish violet. Manufacturers will usually start calling it "ultramarine violet" or even "ultramarine red". "French ultramarine" generally is made to have a warmer, reddish, undertone, while the masstone is still very bluish. But my mental image of "ultramarine" is a deep, slightly purplish blue.

The only reason the distinction is important is that the farther apart hues are around the color wheel, the more neutral (grayer) they get in mixtures, until you reach the complementary color. When people say "don't cross the primaries" or "don't mix a warm with a cool", they're really just saying "use the the two closest hues you have" on either side of the desired color, to minimize these saturation costs in the mixture. There's no other magic to it than that.

I think the logical conclusion of the "split primary" system is a "secondary" palette with one yellow, magenta, and cyan, and one orange, green, and purple, in any event. That minimizes your saturation costs all around the wheel when limited to just six base colors. The reason the split primary system works pretty well is that it suffers its highest saturation costs in the violets and greens, just where you don't usually find highly saturated colors in nature, while putting more emphasis on the yellows through reds, and blues, where it's much easier to find natural examples of relatively saturated color.

08-14-2002, 04:23 PM
Hi :)

Thank you for taking the time to write me such helpful replies. It is much appreciated. The link was also very useful.

I wonder if I was asleep all my life. Since I found this forum and started painting, life is so wonderful. :clap:


08-14-2002, 05:52 PM
Hi Rey,

Azo Yellow Medium (green-yellow)
Permanent Alizarin Crimson (violet-red)
Ultramarine (violet-blue)
Mars Black
Titanium White

Cadmium Yellow Medium (orange-yellow)
Naphthol Red Medium (orange-red)
Cerulean Blue Hue (green-blue)
Burnt Sienna
Raw Umber

As I've said elsewhere it's probably better to think in terms of a colour's true nature (which colour it is biased towards if any) rather than the cool/warm idea since some colours are hard to break down in this way - all blues are cool for instance and which of green or violet (both cool colours) is warmer is a judgement call, so whether or not a green- or violet-blue is warm or cool is debatable.

The best six primaries to have in my opinion (by best I mean the most versatile colours for mixes) are:
Phthalo Blue Green Shade - transparent, green-biased blue, very dark in masstone and with a lovely bright cyan undercolour. Makes very clean tints with white. Very high tinting strength. Makes the highest-chroma mixed greens of any blue (with Lemon Yellow, PY3, for example).
Ultramarine - the most violet-biased blue, moderately opaque but luminous when glazed. Fairly dark in masstone and dries very dark, can look almost black. Tints are relatively dull.

Cadmium Red Medium or Light - high-chroma, opaque, orange-red. Best red for mixing clean oranges.
A much better warm red than Naphthol Red Medium, both in mixing and opacity terms, but if you don't need opaque mixes much you won't miss it a great deal.
Permanent Rose or Quinacridone Magenta - clean, transparent red-violets. The rose is lighter in value and probably has the edge in versatility but the magenta will mix slightly better violets if you need them.
Since you already have Permanent Alizarin Crimson you probably won't need another cool red unless you have a specific need for very bright mixed violets.

Lemon Yellow - (used to be Azo Yellow Light) a bright, clean, green-yellow. Quite transparent. Mixes very bright greens with Phthalo Blue GS.
Azo Yellow Medium should work more than adequately as your cool yellow and is slightly more opaque; if you add Phthalo Green BS (see below) you won't need to be able to mix brighter greens from yellow and blue.
Cadmium Yellow Light - one of the highest-chroma yellows. Opaque. Mixes superb oranges with cadmium red but still makes quite bright greens with Phthalo Blue GS.

Phthalo Green Blue Shade - hands-down the best single green. In common with the blue members of the family very transparent and very high in tinting strength, also dark in masstone but still has a clean, bright undercolour.

I use and like quite a few but the most useful are probably Burnt Umber and Red Iron Oxide I prefer the second over Burnt Sienna because it is so opaque but since you already have this you might not have a need for another red-brown. A workable substitute for Burnt Umber can also be mixed from it if you want, adding Mars Black and maybe a touch of Naphthol Red.
You might also like to have one of the yellow earths, Yellow Ochre, Gold Ochre or Mars Yellow depending on which colour you prefer, there is not a great deal of difference between them in use. Many people like one as an easier starting point for subdued greens and fleshtones for example.

I also highly recommend Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green, well worth reading.

Hope it helps,

P.S. Good post Drew!

08-16-2002, 10:10 AM
Thank you so much for the reply Einion. Very helpful and it must have taken you so long to type !! :)

Do you have any ideas on the greens of landscapes. I just did my first painting outdoors, but really struggled with the greens.


08-16-2002, 05:40 PM
I want to thank each and every one that anwered the quetion on warm and cool colors . I have noted or printed each answers and am sure it will help. I will also look for the book and sites you've mentioned. :)

08-16-2002, 06:21 PM
And would you please! write a book so I can buy it!!! But until then, how about a demo on color-bias?


08-17-2002, 12:09 AM
You're welcome Rey, glad to be of help.

Greens are a tricky colour to get a handle on for a number of reasons for painters, much of it having to do with the human eye's sensitivity to this part of the spectrum. As much as possible I mix my own as those in nature are rarely very bright, except for things like spring grass in direct sunlight. Given the two blues you have now, let's look at the mixes you can get from them. Cerulean Blue Hue will mix fairly good greens while Ultramarine, because it leans in the opposite direction (towards violet, away from green) will mix dull greens. In some circumstances you need the former, in others you actually will need the latter.

So, the basic two-colour greens you mix are:
Azo Yellow Medium + Cerulean Blue Hue
Cadmium Yellow Medium + Cerulean Blue Hue
Medium- to light-valued greens of fairly high chroma.

Azo Yellow Medium + Ultramarine
Cadmium Yellow Medium + Ultramarine
These will mix a full range of fairly low-chroma greens.

And not to forget yellow and black also mix to a dull olive so:
Azo Yellow Medium + Mars Black
Cadmium Yellow Medium + Mars Black
Light- through to dark-valued greens of very low chroma.

All of these can of course be modified with white, which will make them slightly cooler in addition to lightening. Small additions of one of the two reds or Burnt Sienna will mix neutral halftones for these, then adding black to this will make the basic shadow colour, perhaps with a touch of additional blue.

I'm not sure of the exact hue of W&N's Cerulean Blue Hue, but if it's close enough to their real pigment both Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber will mix colours that are just green, essentially greenish greys. While not much use for most foliage in landscape they are worth knowing about for certain leaf colours, especially when lightened with white, plus maybe for distant scrub brush in arid regions.

If you add one of the yellow earths and phthalo blue and/or green this will open up the range of greens you will be able to mix, in the same manner as above. You can also use phthalo green to increase the chroma of any of your mixed greens; so if a colour above is close but a little dull, a touch of the green will pump up the chroma, followed by maybe a touch more yellow and/or another colour. This is one of the basic routines for exploring colour mixes. And of course you could start with phthalo green as the base and work down from that.


08-17-2002, 12:16 AM
Hiya Mark, thank you. Seriously, all one needs to know about colour-bias theory is contained in Wilcox's book, after all that's where I learned it! After you get an appreciation for the principle, it's simply a matter of utilising it in practice. And although further research has shown that there are some minor flaws in the explanations of the underlying technicalities, it works in practice which is the important thing. One of its great strengths is that you can use it to figure out the holes in your palette, if any, and buy colours you might have a need for. For instance you might realise you don't have a red that's violet enough and that's why you have had trouble mixing violets, or no yellow capable of mixing good oranges etc.

As for cerulean blue listed as warm, having to divide the list into two categories I couldn't put both blues under cool (although I considered it) and green-blues are warmer than violet-blues to me. But again, all blues are cool, this is just when judged relatively and is subjective.

As for doing a demo, I can't really see myself doing one unless it was to explain a specific colour issue that someone was curious about or I wanted to highlight myself. The main problem is the huge amount of ground that has to be covered, not least in the number of starting colours. This isn't so much of a problem with the text but it would be terribly dull without examples and they use a huge amount of paint and even more time. If you have something in particular you want clarification on, post it here and I'll do my best to help if someone else can't.


08-17-2002, 07:28 AM
Einion ... you need another medal. :D

Thanks, thanks, thanks !!!


08-17-2002, 12:29 PM
Einion, since you are getting a lot of questions here, I have one. I see you are in Ireland but I don't recognise the flag. Where is that from?

08-17-2002, 01:28 PM
Originally posted by Rey
Einion ... you need another medal.

Hear Hear!

The Wilcox book is on hold at the library.

A big thank you!