View Full Version : Making Lighter colors

Phyllis Rennie
06-01-2000, 08:30 PM
Anyone have suggestions as to which colors work well to lighten colors without the "chalkiness" of white? My whites seem ok up close but, when viewed from 18-20 feet away, sort of jump off the canvas. Phyl

06-03-2000, 12:40 AM
Phyllis, try lightening by adding very small amounts of the colors complimentary color (the color that falls directly across from it on the color wheel) start with very small amounts of complimentary color though! Works for me. I usually use this to make things recede in landscapes. Cheryl

06-03-2000, 08:45 PM
Hi, Phyllis. Here is another idea for lightening a color that will still keep the color bright for you. To lighten a color without any chalkiness, take a look at the color wheel. Add the next lighter color on the color wheel to your paint. For example: If you want to lighten green without the chalkiness of white, the next lighter color on the color wheel is yellow. Add yellow to your green and it will become lighter without becoming chalky. You can even add a TOUCH of white to lighten it further and it will become lighter and cooler, but not chalky (provided that you do not add too much white) By adding different lighter members of the yellow family to your green, you can alter the green to being bright or dull depending on what you are looking for. The same idea applies to any color. Lighten your reds first with orange, then yellow. Your reds will become lighter and still retain their intensity. If you still wish to add a touch of white to lighten the red further, it will be cooler in temperature, but will still not have any chalkiness to it (provided that you do not add too much white.) I hope this helps you a little. Have fun experimenting, Karen


Drew Davis
06-04-2000, 09:00 PM
Analogous colors (marching step by step around the color wheel) are useful. Also, you can try using a pigment in the same color family that's just naturally of lighter value. Cerulean is lighter than phthalo, for example. You might find some of the less usual pigments handy for that purpose. Read the label, though; there's no point in buying a paint that's light only because they pre-mixed some titanium dioxide into it!

A similar question arises when you want to darken light colors like yellow, where those earth tones come in handy.

06-05-2000, 06:57 PM
If you need a really light color, you should start with white and add the color into it.

You must remember that pigments are different from light.

If you are painting the hair of a redheaded person for instance...You may use a very dark color such as burnt umber for where this persons hair is in deep shadow.

If you simply added white to it, you would not get the color you were trying for.

Burnt Umber is an orange. Darker than what we may think of as orange (like the skin of a tangerine), but it is still a form of orange.

Going back to our example of a redheaded person, when this persons hair was being hit by the light you would need a lighter form of orange, NOT a lighter form of burnt umber.

There are only 6 colors we have to work with, and in this case you are using orange for a redhead. Think only in terms of variations of orange, do not think "burnt umber"

Colors are always in a family, never by themselves

I cover this whole topic in my e-booklet "The Secret of Mixing Color"

Which is available free as a bonus to my e-book,

Why Some People Paint Well And Other People Don't"

Ethan Semmel
Oil Painting Techniques and Oil Painting Supplies http://www.esartstudio.com

Phyllis Rennie
06-05-2000, 07:37 PM
Thanks, I see a few ideas here that I have already used and a few more that I'll certainly try. Phyl

06-06-2000, 09:40 AM
Painting is often a paradox....and I've learned to think of contrasts and opposites. If the lights are a problem, for example, I'll ask what I can do about the darks or surrounding colors.

To make something greener...how about surrounding color to make what green I have up there stand out? When you look at my plein airs up close..you'll see all kinds of colors painted in all over, and maintaining a rythym distributed throughout the picture. At first glance you might think it haphazard but the truth is...the blue looks bluer because of the orange glow on the upper pine trees, but the pines stand out because of the blue of the sky, etc., and I work that way throughout the whole picture- mindful of how colors constantly are responding to each other.


06-06-2000, 01:07 PM
Etan, welcome to WetCanvas! Larry, 'haphazard' has never come to mind when i've viewed your work! http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif I'm glad that there are people here that know so much about color! Thanks for the info. Cheryl

06-10-2000, 04:26 PM
add a bit of raw sienna to your mix. warms everthing up,,,,doesn't really change a color,,,,doesn't overpower,,,,gets rid of chalkiness,,,,unifies your palette,,,,gets rid of ants and other pesky picnic insects,,,,and has floride to help build strong teeth.....{M}

Phyllis Rennie
06-11-2000, 06:25 PM
{M}, what color do you suggest for getting rid of mice in the attic?

06-12-2000, 01:08 PM
Originally posted by Phyllis Rennie:
{M}, what color do you suggest for getting rid of mice in the attic?

White lead.

06-16-2000, 04:41 PM
Iseiler answered half of what I was going to say, that being that the darks need to be dark enough. If any color added to my brightest bright takes away from the value too much, then my darks aren't dark enough (oldest alchemy in the book). Secondly, I try to use, as a coloring agent to the highlight, a color of extremely high chroma and tinting power, e.g. vermilion (as opposed to Chinese Vermilion), chrome yellow, alizarin crimson, etc. Be careful, however, since suddenly adding different colors can easily disharmonize the piece. The safest and most effective technique is simply to key down the painting until your brightest brights are allowed to have color, even using your normal palette.

09-07-2001, 10:54 PM

Another thing that I have found is that I get that chalky look when I use to much turpentine.

If your paintings lack the richness that you are looking for, maybe choosing a lighter color to begin with would help stop you from using too much white to get where you want to go.

Sometimes you do want just tints of colors to create that soft pastel look ... I call them baby colors....if that is the case, then white is your answer. I think the darker colors end up looking chalky much quicker when you try to lighten using white.

Hope you don't mind this very late answer, but it's always fun to explore and learn more about color.

Phyllis Rennie
09-08-2001, 09:02 PM
Oh my! Talk about diggin up the past--I'd forgotten all about this question!

You all must have had some influence on me--haven't really been struggling with this particular problem lately.

09-09-2001, 04:18 PM
Yes, I did bring up the past.... LOL... I was looking for something else using the serach engine and found this thread. I thought it was quite interesting and I, like you, certainly have had this very problem at times with my paintings.

I thought that it was worthy of being pulled back to the top so that some of the newer members could see what we covered and learned.

I agree, you don't have this problem any longer. Your paintings are vibrant and full of life..... no chalk problem at all, aren't you glad. :)