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Old 04-19-2019, 01:57 PM
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Color Mixing Work Flow

I consider myself pretty good at mixing colors, but I have been struggling a little bit lately, especially with getting good shadow colors that have some color in them without being either too black, too brown, too high or too low chroma, or too colorful Ė I want them just right, like Baby Bear! This has caused me to think a lot about color mixing work flow, and the number of colors on my palette. In other words, I have been looking to make some changes to my process on the theory that if I am not happy with the results I am achieving then it doesnít make sense to keep doing the same thing over and over again.

I have watched Mark Carderís videos on mixing with a limited palette of Cadmium Yellow, Pyrrole Rubine Red, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber and White, plus, only when needed to hit high chroma notes, Cadmium Orange, Pthalo Blue and Manganese Violet. I generally use a more extensive palette consisting of Cadmium Yellow Light, Indian Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red Light, Quinacridone Magenta, Dioxazine Purple, Ultramarine Blue, Pthalo Blue (Green Shade), Phtalo Green (Yellow Shade), Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Black and White (14 colors), plus sometimes Red Oxide.

If I want to mix a green, for example, I usually start with my Pthalo Green and then adjust from there (lighter, darker, more blue, more yellow, less or more chroma). In other words, I generally pick a color whose hue is closest to my target color, and go from there, without any set rules about how to darken, lighten or adjust chroma. Sometimes I darken with black, or raw umber, or burnt umber, or purple, sometimes with a complement or near complement, sometimes I dull with grey, sometimes I dull a red with red oxide, etc.

Carderís method is to start by mixing yellow and blue, adjust the value first (use yellow to increase the value of Yellows, Reds and Oranges; use white to increase the value of greens, blues and purples; use brown to lower the value of yellows, reds and oranges, and use blue to lower the value of greens, blues and purples), and then adjust chroma and hue as needed, while constantly readjusting the value after each step as needed. He dulls chroma by adding a complement to the mix.

I tried his method out the other night, but with my more extensive palette, and liked it. So, I started with whatever color was closest to my target color, adjusted for value after each step by lightening with either white or Cadmium Yellow Light, darkening with either Ultramarine Blue or Burnt Umber, adjusting hue by adding either Cadmium Yellow Light, Pthalo Blue, Cadmium Red Light or Quinacridone Magenta, and using a complement to dull chroma. If I wanted to dull a blue, for example, then instead of mixing yellow and red into it, I simply mixed some Cadmium Orange into it. I found this worked very well.

I could equally well see using Pthalo Blue (Cyan), Quinacridone Magenta (Magenta) and Cadmium Yellow Light (Yellow) to make the hue adjustments and Cadmium Yellow Light, White, Pthalo Blue and Burnt Umber to make the value adjustments. Any thoughts on this? To me, which blue and whether to use red, magenta or both is potato-potahto.

I am curious about how others go about mixing color. What is your starting point? Where in the process do you start adjusting for value? When making adjustments, are all the colors on your palette considered possible additions to the mix, or only a few, and if only a few, which ones?

I know someone is going to say that a limited palette is more economical and promotes color harmony. Iíve never understood these claims. To me, if I am using 3 tablespoons of paint, the cost will be the same whether the 3 tablespoons come out of 1 tube, 2 tubes, 3 tubes or whatever. And, if I have a green in my painting, I donít see what difference it makes to color harmony how I mixed the green, i.e., with only a blue and a yellow, or with a green and a yellow, for example.

What I am trying to figure out is whether a limited palette of 5 colors is simpler, or more complex than my 14 colors, in terms of getting to my desired color most efficiently and accurately. I am also interested in any comments about Carder's approach to work flow. It seems very practical to me, and my first experiment with it was positive.

Many thanks for your thoughts. All views are welcome. By the way, not sure it matters, but I paint with acrylics, and am trying to achieve realistic colors in some paintings, and realistic colors with a tasteful addition of pop in selected parts of the painting in other paintings.
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Last edited by DMSS : 04-19-2019 at 02:02 PM.
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Old 04-19-2019, 04:20 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Work Flow

Quote:
Originally Posted by DMSS
I generally use a more extensive palette consisting of Cadmium Yellow Light, Indian Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red Light, Quinacridone Magenta, Dioxazine Purple, Ultramarine Blue, Pthalo Blue (Green Shade), Phtalo Green (Yellow Shade), Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Black and White (14 colors), plus sometimes Red Oxide.
That's very similar to my full palette - though I rarely (if ever) would use all these colors in a single painting. How did you come to choose these ones?

Quote:
If I want to mix a green, for example, I usually start with my Pthalo Green and then adjust from there (lighter, darker, more blue, more yellow, less or more chroma). In other words, I generally pick a color whose hue is closest to my target color, and go from there, without any set rules about how to darken, lighten or adjust chroma. Sometimes I darken with black, or raw umber, or burnt umber, or purple, sometimes with a complement or near complement, sometimes I dull with grey, sometimes I dull a red with red oxide, etc.

Carderís method is to start by mixing yellow and blue, adjust the value first (use yellow to increase the value of Yellows, Reds and Oranges; use white to increase the value of greens, blues and purples; use brown to lower the value of yellows, reds and oranges, and use blue to lower the value of greens, blues and purples), and then adjust chroma and hue as needed, while constantly readjusting the value after each step as needed. He dulls chroma by adding a complement to the mix.
Your method and Carder's are equally valid. If your target color is high chroma, you might prefer to start with a tube color that is close to it, then make adjustments. For lower-chroma target colors, the 'mixing from primaries' approach offers a faster way to make large color adjustments.

Using those prescribed colors to lighten and darken may often work well, but there will be some exceptions, it really depends on the particular color and lighting as well as your personal color taste. For example, adding only yellow to lighten a red might get a result that is too orangy - a visual 50/50 mix of white and yellow might be a better default. You often have to play around a bit to find what works. I personally find Dioxazine Purple works surprisingly well to darken most colors without greying them too much...this gives a different look/feel than using black or complements or Burnt Umber.

Quote:
I could equally well see using Pthalo Blue (Cyan), Quinacridone Magenta (Magenta) and Cadmium Yellow Light (Yellow) to make the hue adjustments and Cadmium Yellow Light, White, Pthalo Blue and Burnt Umber to make the value adjustments. Any thoughts on this? To me, which blue and whether to use red, magenta or both is potato-potahto.
I'd avoid using Phthalo Blue like the plague unless it's necessary. Does it give you unwanted green-ness when you use it to darken? I'd much rather use Ultramarine Blue or PB60.

Quote:
I know someone is going to say that a limited palette is more economical and promotes color harmony. Iíve never understood these claims. To me, if I am using 3 tablespoons of paint, the cost will be the same whether the 3 tablespoons come out of 1 tube, 2 tubes, 3 tubes or whatever. And, if I have a green in my painting, I donít see what difference it makes to color harmony how I mixed the green, i.e., with only a blue and a yellow, or with a green and a yellow, for example.

What I am trying to figure out is whether a limited palette of 5 colors is simpler, or more complex than my 14 colors, in terms of getting to my desired color most efficiently and accurately.
The only way to save money is to use cheaper paints, and use less paint . Using fewer colors promotes color harmony by limiting the maximum gamut possible; this reduces (but doesn't eliminate) the likelihood of using clashing colors that don't fit in with each other. If your palette limits you from reaching the highest chroma colors in the reference scene, that isn't always a bad thing. Partly due to the phenomenon of simultaneous contrast, you often need far less chroma than you'd think by looking at the reference. But nothing wrong with using high chroma if done judiciously...how high you go in chroma is at your discretion. Getting the values right, otoh, is far more important...at least for realism.

I personally find a 5-color palette (which includes a dark brown) far easier to manage than a full palette. IMO, not having to fight so much to achieve color cohesion is a bigger benefit than maximum gamut potential, especially in acrylics.
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Old 04-19-2019, 05:15 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Work Flow

Patrick:
Your point about not necessarily needing the maximum gamut is well taken. I also don't use all of those colors in a given painting. To answer your question, I arrived at my usual palette by (1) limiting myself to single pigment paints, (2) reading books like Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green (even though I gather that the science is not correctly explained) and Color Choices by Steven Quiller, (3) I basically have a split primary plus secondary colors palette, or you could see it as a CMYK palette plus a bunch of other colors, (4); experience, such as I find Yellow Ochre and the umbers to be really useful, and (5) I've read blog posts by Will Kemp, and lots of wetcanvas color mixing threads.
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Old 04-19-2019, 05:17 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Work Flow

Patrick:
So, what five colors do you usually use? And, yes , Mark Carder does advise that sometimes you lighten by mixing both yellow and white into the mix.
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Old 04-19-2019, 06:20 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Work Flow

The following is incorrect. I adjusted hue with Ultramarine Blue, not Pthalo Blue:

"I tried his method out the other night, but with my more extensive palette, and liked it. So, I started with whatever color was closest to my target color, adjusted for value after each step by lightening with either white or Cadmium Yellow Light, darkening with either Ultramarine Blue or Burnt Umber, adjusting hue by adding either Cadmium Yellow Light, Pthalo Blue, Cadmium Red Light or Quinacridone Magenta, and using a complement to dull chroma. If I wanted to dull a blue, for example, then instead of mixing yellow and red into it, I simply mixed some Cadmium Orange into it. I found this worked very well."

Sorry about that.
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Old 04-19-2019, 06:25 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Work Flow

As an absolute minimal palette, I like these 4:

-Titanium White
-transparent middle yellow (PY73 is ideal but there is a lot of latitude in hue preference)
-transparent slightly to moderately-blueish red (Naphthol Red PR112 or PR170, PR264, Quinacridone PR209 or PV19 Red/Rose)
-Ultramarine, or Prussian Blue (I love Anthraquinone/Indanthrone but it's less versatile than those two)

Almost as essential, 2 more:

-Burnt Umber or an alternative dark brown, perferably transparent (Golden's 'Transparent Brown' or Van Dyke Brown, Liquitex's 'Transparent Raw Umber' or Benzimidazolone Brown PBr25). Browns can be mixed but it's tedious to constantly mix from ryb. A touch of this brown into yellow will get more or less a Yellow Ochre color, which is also important.
-green I like student-grade Phthalo Green to keep tinting strength down as much as possible (student grade Phthalo Green is usually/always Blue Shade). Viridian/Hue is an alternative if you don't need quite the darkness/value range.
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Old 04-19-2019, 07:24 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Work Flow

Once, when I was mixing colors, I realized that I had actually been following most of Mark Carder's recommendations for mixing for quite some time. It just took Mark Carder to organize the method into a precise explanation for doing so.

His suggestions as follows for lightening, or darkening a color work quite well, actually.

To darken a color, use either Blue, or Brown, or both.

To lighten a color, use either White, or Yellow, or both.

Those two suggestions would help a LOT of beginning painters very well for mixing colors, I think.
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Old 04-21-2019, 11:25 AM
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Re: Color Mixing Work Flow

Paul Foxton has several useful YouTube videos on color and shading of an object.

Dr. Briggs also addressed this;
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show....php?t=1442433
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Old 04-21-2019, 11:37 AM
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Re: Color Mixing Work Flow

Thank you, Ted. A timely post as I just took a break for lunch, and I am frustrated by my inability to mix gradations from full light to shadow on two oranges. Maybe the thread you linked to will help me regroup.
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Old 04-21-2019, 06:57 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Work Flow

David - doing shadows/gradations on oranges can be tricky, although not as vexing as yellows. If the color you mixed looks wrong on the palette, it might still be the right color once it's on the canvas, in the context of the surrounding colors, and the context of 3-dimensional form.

Regular Burnt Sienna, without any white added (or a mixed color more or less like that) might be just the ticket (at least the base shadow color - before accounting for reflected light). Friendly tip: using the color picker tool in Photoshop (or some similar app) is invaluable to learning to see color.
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Old 04-21-2019, 07:40 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Work Flow

Quote:
Originally Posted by DMSS
I generally pick a color whose hue is closest to my target color, and go from there, without any set rules about how to darken, lighten or adjust chroma. Sometimes I darken with black, or raw umber, or burnt umber, or purple, sometimes with a complement or near complement, sometimes I dull with grey, sometimes I dull a red with red oxide, etc.
Pretty much the same. I try to make myself follow a pattern at leastómix the correct hue first, then the correct value, finally the correct saturationóto try to separate out the three dimensions from each other. But how I accomplish those things doesn't matter to me, as long as I get there in the end.

Quote:
I know someone is going to say that a limited palette is more economical and promotes color harmony. Iíve never understood these claims. To me, if I am using 3 tablespoons of paint, the cost will be the same whether the 3 tablespoons come out of 1 tube, 2 tubes, 3 tubes or whatever.
It's less expensive for people who are just starting out. My starving students appreciate being able to purchase a set of 5 paints rather than a complete color range of tubes.
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Old 04-22-2019, 12:57 AM
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Re: Color Mixing Work Flow

I've read that an oil painting is 1/3 to 1/2 white paint ...so using a good studio (student) quality Titanium White could save a lot of money in the long run. Unless you're a devotee of flake white... Personally I'm conflicted on that one.

Studio-grade Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber can form a strong foundation for studies and and underpainting, ...even when en plein air. The Burnt Sienna/UB for mid-grays, and the Burnt Umber/UB for darks and black. Why use tons of expensive, pure pigment high-chroma paint to desaturate even-more expensive, pure pigment high-chroma paint? And transparency isn't a major issue when working alla prima.

This painting season I'm planning on experimenting with starting close to the Munsell neutrals backbone and concentrate on correct values, ..and then work outwards towards higher chroma when necessary. Much of Nature is relatively low-chroma, with mid to high-chroma accents. I'm primarily a watercolorist, but I think that oils would be a better media for this experiment, it's easier to see and control the value and chroma in oils.
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