View Full Version : need help about colours... thnak you

12-01-1999, 11:24 PM
First I wish to express my gratitude to Bruin70 for his answers to my posts (I appreciate a lot your helpfulness and your support.)
Since I saw Milt's ladies I have great reverence for your words and your advice.

I'm trying to establish a limited palette to my seascapes, but I don't understand anything about warm and cold and that colour stuff. My intuition chose the follow ones.

What do you people think?
I don't like to deal with many colours because I get confused and as I don't understand colour theory I think I can easily achieve some "unity" mixing just a few. The overall result pleases me, but if I can make some improvement it will be welcome.

I used to use the yellow ochre instead of the oxide yellow but the ochre is
Missing in the local store.
I'm using Talens Rembrandt Artist watercolours.

12-02-1999, 12:25 AM
thanks for the kind words, W. to add breadth to your palette, consider another warm or two. all the colors on your palette is cool except the yellow. warmth will give your paintings life...your choice....milt

"he who thinks he know all and knows nothing is king in a kingdom of one,,,,,or a critic" - the kobe

Drew Davis
12-02-1999, 01:11 AM
William, you do good work. I'd say you understand color better than you think you do. Knowledge is easy to gain, skill much harder, and talent is a gift, so the hard part is already behind you. No need to be intimidated by some jargon.

You've got the most important phrase in color harmony already in your post: "The overall result pleases me". That's as neat a definition as anything in the "What Do You Know About Art" thread we had here a while back.

That said, I suppose I can progress to the mere words, and put some of those theoretical terms to what you already chose.

You've got a red, yellow, and blue, the three primaries. (Why three? Human color vision relies on three kinds of light-sensitive cells in the eye. Why those three and not any three? The frequencies that those cells are sensitive to. And yes, it's really a little more complicated than that, but the point is the primaries aren't arbitrary or accidental.) Given those, you can mix nearly any color you like, limited only in the intensity of some of them. So while you don't have a lot of tubes out, the images you create aren't necessarily all that limited. It does, as you say, help avoid confusion to have fewer choices. All three are transparent (see how the pencil lines show through), and it's the more opaque colors that tend rapidly to mud in watercolor mixes. So you're should be in good shape for mixing with those choices.

You've also got three fairly neutral colors. Perfectly neutral is no color (or "hue", to be more precise) at all, like black, white, or grey, but people usually use the term more broadly, to include those colors that show some hue, but aren't quite as intense as others. In artist-speak, neutrals are sometimes called "greys", which don't have to be purely neutral or grey. Some people even call them all "browns", though to my mind that word only fits the neutral reds, oranges, and yellows.

Sepia is a very neutral orange, indigo a neutral blue, and the neutral tint almost completely balanced. Put a touch of the cobalt in the neutral tint, and watch it get indigo-ish. Mix an orange from the yellow and alizarin, and then make a row of as many colors as you can between just that orange and the cobalt. How close do you get to the sepia? Is the closest point at one end of the row, or near the middle?

Orange and blue are complements, which mean they cancel each other out to neutral. You should be able to mix the sepia and indigo to even more neutral colors. You'll notice, though, you can't get them to be bright, like the cobalt. You can only go downward in intensity from what you start with, which is why the really intense pigments are so valuable to artists.

People usually arrange colors in the color wheel to show that relationship of complementary colors, keeping them across the wheel from each other, with neutral in the middle.

Temperature, warm and cold, is a relative term, just like "neutral", without real absolutes. How do the colors make you feel? Which ones strike you as warmth, or coolth? Most people would say that the yellow is very warm, and the blue cool. The alizarin is a bit warmer than cobalt, but it's still pretty cool, one of the coolest reds there is. It gets more challenging comparing colors close to each other. One red can be warmer or cooler than another red, even as they're both warm compared to blue. It's all relative. Looking at the neutrals, I'd say indigo feels coldest, and sepia warmer. What do you think? If you were trying to convey "warmth", which colors would you choose?

As for improvements: I like your selection. I probably wouldn't have quite so many neutrals. But it's convenient not to have to mix everything from scratch, and handy when it comes to making darks. Some pictures might call for a warmer red (in which case you might not use the alizarin at all, keeping with the simplicity). Some might call for a brighter yellow, but not many. Take those six, and see what you can do. (I look forward to seeing the results, certainly.)

I will add that there are reasons other than just color to choose a paint, especially in watercolor. You've probably noticed that the paints have other characteristics, like how transparent they are, how grainy or sedimentary they are in the hollows of the paper, or how hard they are to lift back off the white of the paper. Those sorts of characteristics can be reasons to use a particular pigment, or to have several very similar hues, as well as just the color itself. But I've gone on long enough.