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Old 05-07-2019, 03:50 PM
DamenFaltor DamenFaltor is offline
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Question Beginner Color - how do you know?

It seems like such a magical ability; to sit down at an empty palette and a blank canvas, and know which colors to use.

Along my journey of self teaching how to paint with oils (which is the first type of Art I have ever really done), I have discovered much about color. Things like color is made up of attributes, like hue, value, and chroma. This only served to make color choice seem even more magical, because now there were more options.

Then I found the color wheel, and learned about Color theory - primary, secondary, tertiary. I learned about the colors opposite of each other, that when mixed, neutralize each other (or turn each other more gray). I learned that some colors are warm, some colors are cool. But again, this only continued to elevate those who can choose from these options to Wizard status.

My current attempts to select correctly have proven to be comical at best, embarrassing at worst. Let's say you wanted to paint a grassy meadow in mid-summer. To me, that grass could be eleventy billion different shades of green. I could start with sap green, mix some titanium white and get a lighter green, or mix in some Ivory Black to get a darker green. Not so bad.... we can work with that.... but then there are the neutral colors of green (and those can be lightened and darkened) and there are the yellow-greens, and the blue-greens. I don't really know when a blue-green would need to be used in a meadow instead of a yellow-green, but it happens. Even when painting from a reference photo, this seems like some kind of special magic power you guys are born with.

I wish to learn this magic, so I ask, when you first started with painting, how did you teach yourself to pick colors correctly? How did you learn which colors worked together to create the illusion of 3D with shadow and distance? Was it simply years of trial and error until you could just feel it?

Thank you in advance for reading this wall of text, I appreciate it. This has vexed me for a long time, and it's not getting better... yet
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Old 05-07-2019, 04:37 PM
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sykirobme sykirobme is offline
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

When painting a scene, you'll see a riot of colors. The key is to simplify, find the "average" green in your meadow and then add some of the more vivid highlight colors as accents. Find masses for the shadows. Actually, it's all about identifying masses of distinct color. This can be difficult, and I'm still learning how to do it well, myself.

To determine how to mix colors you see, you need to learn your way around your palette. Try a limited selection of colors, and make swatches of mixed color. Try a "split primary" palette (a warm and a cool each of Red, Yellow and Blue) with white. Let's say you go with:

Alizarin Crimson Hue (heresy, I know, but real Alizarin is a fugitive color)
Cadmium Red Deep
Cadmium Yellow Light
Cadmium Yellow Deep
Cerulean Blue
Ultramarine Blue

For each of these colors, do a "chart" of swatches. So, for Alizarin, you'll first do a swatch of pure Alizarin, then next to that do Alizarin mixed with a bit of Cad Red Deep, then Alizarin with a bit of Cad Yellow Light, etc. Each mix should have Alizarin as the dominant color (I do about a 2:1 ratio). For each mix as well as the pure color, you'll also want to mix varying amounts of white to make a five step value scale.

The result will look something like this.

You can make this even simpler by choosing a single of each primary + white. Anders Zorn famously used white with Cad Red Light, Yellow Ocher and Lamp Black to paint rich portraits.

Last edited by sykirobme : 05-07-2019 at 04:48 PM.
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Old 05-07-2019, 04:46 PM
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llawrence llawrence is offline
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

Don't begin with an unlimited palette. It's confusing at first, for some of the reasons you mentioned. Start simple, and add paints as you learn.

Start with monochrome: white and a single dark color. Black, burnt umber, ultramarine, prussian blue, anything sufficiently dark. You can also do a pickout technique with a dark transparent paint, using no white paint but wiping away to the canvas/panel for lights (my first oil paintings were done like this). And don't forget good old drawing! Work in values only.

Then two colors plus black and white. Complements work well, one that's traditionally been done in watercolor is burnt sienna and ultramarine. You can simplify the separation of warm and cool this way. The Zorn palette—black, white, vermilion and yellow ochre—is another choice, excellent for figures and portraits. Cools are gotten with grays mixed from the black and white.

Then three primaries plus white and black. CMY paints will offer the widest gamut, but they certainly don't have to be those. You could start with that Zorn palette and just add a blue, say ultramarine.

Then a secondary palette: cyan, magenta, yellow, red or orange, blue or violet, green, plus black and white.

Finally an unlimited palette with that bewildering array of choices available to you... perhaps no longer quite so bewildering.

With each stage you teach yourself more about color and more about mixing. Feel comfortable with one before going on to the next. If you do it this way, it'll keep you busy for a while.
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Old 05-07-2019, 05:13 PM
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WFMartin WFMartin is offline
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

Choices of "ingredient colors" are much easier to make when the initial number of choices is relatively small. When you place a small, carefully-selected, array of tubed colors on your palette, and use only those from which to choose when mixing colors for the scene you wish to paint, life becomes a great deal easier when the goal is to match your paint colors to those of the reference from which you are painting.

Start with these colors:

Burnt Umber
Ultramarine Blue
Permanent Alizarin Crimson
Cadmium Yellow Light
White (Titanium White is fine)

With very few exceptions, most colors of landscapes (and some still-lifes) can be created by mixing combinations of these colors with each other.

When you know that the color you wish to create can be mixed with the palette of colors, your choice then becomes quite easy. And, you then become more confident in your ability to create the color you desire.

Is the color you wish to paint an "Orange"? Then, mix the Permanent Alizarin Crimson with Cadmium Yellow Light. Is your mixture too light, compared to that of your reference? Then add either White, or Yellow, or both, to your mixture to match that color. Is your mixture too dark, compared to that of your reference? Then, add either Brown (Burnt Umber), or Ultramarine Blue, or both, to match the color of your reference.

Once you have created a color mixture, take a brush (not a palette knife) and smear a bit of your color right onto the color area of the photo that you wish to match. Protect your photo with a clear plastic sheath, and smear the paint right on it. Wipe it off when you are finished.

The choices of these colors becomes quite logical, and second-nature, once you have done it a few times, like 5 or 6. It does really NOT require a lifetime of "experience", or "skill". It is a simple, straightforward operation, and it can be learned!

That's all there really is to knowing how to select, and to mix colors to match a reference.

Oh,........and, if I were a beginner, I most definitely WOULD use a reference photo to begin my journey down the color-mixing road. It's very difficult to "invent" the appropriate colors for, say, a field of grass, or weeds, or a tree trunk, without having something as a guide to which you can match your paint mixtures.
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Last edited by WFMartin : 05-07-2019 at 05:19 PM.
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Old 05-07-2019, 07:42 PM
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ElleAmde ElleAmde is offline
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DamenFaltor
I wish to learn this magic, so I ask, when you first started with painting, how did you teach yourself to pick colors correctly?
Magic is in the Intuition area. Therefore, always start with violet.



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Last edited by ElleAmde : 05-07-2019 at 07:55 PM.
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Old 05-07-2019, 08:01 PM
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Pinguino Pinguino is offline
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

Design first. Color later.
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Old 05-07-2019, 11:20 PM
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

Values trump color.
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Old 05-08-2019, 04:18 AM
Richard P Richard P is offline
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

Have a look at this video from Mark Carder which explains colour mixing using the colours that WFMartin recommended:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeyYXMl934g
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Old 05-08-2019, 06:35 AM
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Gigalot Gigalot is offline
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

Quin Magenta
Cadmium Red
Prussian Blue
Bismuth Yellow
Mars Black
Gold Ochre
Titanium White
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Old 05-08-2019, 08:49 AM
DamenFaltor DamenFaltor is offline
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

You guys are AWESOME! Thank you for helping to demystify this. I have a lot of ideas now - which sparked more questions, of course, but hey that is how we learn, right?

I'm seeing a lot of folks say to start with just a monochrome scale and learn to get the values right first and foremost, and then to slowly start introducing a limited set of colors in until I start to get the feel for them. This sounds like the best way to go.

Pinguino, you said to design first - can you elaborate more on what design means? I come from a technical engineering background, so design in my world means to plan, diagram, layout and create workflow. Is that a similar idea in the painting world?
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Old 05-08-2019, 10:03 AM
tiago.dagostini tiago.dagostini is online now
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DamenFaltor
It seems like such a magical ability; to sit down at an empty palette and a blank canvas, and know which colors to use.

Along my journey of self teaching how to paint with oils (which is the first type of Art I have ever really done), I have discovered much about color. Things like color is made up of attributes, like hue, value, and chroma. This only served to make color choice seem even more magical, because now there were more options.

Then I found the color wheel, and learned about Color theory - primary, secondary, tertiary. I learned about the colors opposite of each other, that when mixed, neutralize each other (or turn each other more gray). I learned that some colors are warm, some colors are cool. But again, this only continued to elevate those who can choose from these options to Wizard status.

My current attempts to select correctly have proven to be comical at best, embarrassing at worst. Let's say you wanted to paint a grassy meadow in mid-summer. To me, that grass could be eleventy billion different shades of green. I could start with sap green, mix some titanium white and get a lighter green, or mix in some Ivory Black to get a darker green. Not so bad.... we can work with that.... but then there are the neutral colors of green (and those can be lightened and darkened) and there are the yellow-greens, and the blue-greens. I don't really know when a blue-green would need to be used in a meadow instead of a yellow-green, but it happens. Even when painting from a reference photo, this seems like some kind of special magic power you guys are born with.

I wish to learn this magic, so I ask, when you first started with painting, how did you teach yourself to pick colors correctly? How did you learn which colors worked together to create the illusion of 3D with shadow and distance? Was it simply years of trial and error until you could just feel it?

Thank you in advance for reading this wall of text, I appreciate it. This has vexed me for a long time, and it's not getting better... yet




it is easier to learn with a very simple and limited palette. Build one and focus on 2things.. getting the VALUE right and the temperature (it gets weird to have red shades and blue fire:P).


Learn to get to that point before you want to go ahead.. at least that is how I see it.
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Old 05-08-2019, 02:03 PM
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Pinguino Pinguino is offline
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DamenFaltor
Pinguino, you said to design first - can you elaborate more on what design means? ...
With the possible exception of the "Abstract Expressionism" school of art, painters began with sketches (pencil or ink). Not merely outlines. You can find the extensive works of many famous artists online, and note that they typically began with sketched studies of what they were trying to do. The studies might be limited to a single thing, such as the expression on a face. Eventually the sketches gelled into a plan of the final composed work, which might have had values indicated in sketch before they were in paint. Final color came last, since color is usually the easiest thing to adjust if it's not right the first time.

Design involves choosing what you will show, and choosing what you will not show. For example, many new painters seem to like green, because it's all around in a landscape. But nature isn't as green as you might think! Also, foliage often gets its interest from fine details that you could not render with a brush. In this case, you would have the convey foliage by masses of light and dark, and modulations of color. And, if your scene contains uninteresting elements, you will choose to eliminate them.

You can paint values then colorize them, or prepare properly-valued paint mixtures on your palette then apply them directly. The technique is up to you. I don't have the skill to get proper values (or color) directly by mixing on the canvas; I have to first create close-enough mixes on the palette, then later correct them on the canvas.

There are exceptions; AFAIK Van Gogh apparently "thought in color" directly.

One of the Wet Canvas regulars (handle is "DCam") often exhibits work here (oil painting forum), along with its sketch to near-engineering standards. Have a look. But that's not necessary for everyone; it might work for you, given what you wrote above.

Many American newspapers carry a comic strip named Zits. Often, its Sunday strip begins with the artist's preliminary sketch of one of the characters.

A design (sketch) does not need to meet engineering standards. For example, many old-school cartoons (original Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc.) were hand-drawn and intentionally distorted features and placement, for effect. Modern CGI cartoons may have technically accurate motion and perspective, but that doesn't necessarily make them more interesting. In other words, the degree of accuracy depends on what you are trying to do.

Last edited by Pinguino : 05-08-2019 at 02:15 PM.
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Old 05-08-2019, 08:49 PM
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Ted Bunker Ted Bunker is offline
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

Stefan Baumann has a number of YouTube talks were he discusses composition and "design". He's a firm proponent of "eye magnets", the Golden Mean, and of leading the eye. "We don't paint things, we paint effects" is one of his common exhortations to his students.

Just ignore the pirate get-ups....
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Last edited by Ted Bunker : 05-08-2019 at 08:52 PM.
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Old 05-14-2019, 02:36 AM
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WFMartin WFMartin is offline
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

Gosh, I made a colossal mistake in what I said, and nobody caught it.

First, .....If your color mix is too light, then add either Brown, or Ultramarine Blue, or both (to darken it).

If your color mix is too dark, then add either White, or Yellow, or both (to lighten it).

Sorry about making such an erroneous statement previously.
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Old 05-15-2019, 10:50 PM
BlackHand BlackHand is offline
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Re: Beginner Color - how do you know?

everything in your question can be mastered by mastering two skills:

1. color matching (look at the photo or scene)

2. color mixing, paint mixing (make the paint to match the color you see in the photo)

but that does nothing to explain why an artist might select something other than the color observed in the photo. that can be a much more in depth topic. it is also worth noting that staring into the sun is not something that can be reproduced with selecting a hue and value from a tube of paint. fluorescent colors convert ultra-violet light energy into visible light energy thus increasing brightness beyond the limits of the daylight being observed. an artist with mastery and understanding of many things is not limited to painting only what is actually observed. they can do anything they desire for any reason. colored light and the illusion of darkness can drastically change the actual colors of paint used to imply the perception of natural spaces, lights, scenes, objects etc..don't worry about this at first. it is right there in the books you will read when you become an advanced student of oil colors.
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