The work we will be doing is also called “subtractive color theory” because we are subtracting wavelengths. In theory, if we piled on all the pigments, we would end up with black, which is the subtraction of light.
Subtractive color theory is used for printing as well; however, the pigments they use are yellow, cyan, magenta, and black (CYMK) to create all the printed materials in the world!
Let’s do a little playing with the Virtual Color Palette, okay?
First, let’s build the printing primaries: yellow, cyan and magenta, and then mix them together.
Second, let’s build the regular primaries: yellow, red, and blue and then mix them together.
Let’s do them with the Virtual color palette and then with our pencils. Sound okay?
For Prismacolor colored pencils, you can use Canary Yellow, Process Red and True Blue to mimic the printing primaries. Can anyone help who uses a different brand? Please post them here.
Regular primaries – let’s go to our colored pencils and come up with what we feel are those three colors. Please keep track of the pencils you use in each swatch, so you can share your “formula”. When should we do “Show and Tell”?
WetCanvas Virtual Palette:
Access the WCVP, by going to the “Tools” dropdown list at the top of the screen. Choose “Virtual Palette” from the dropdown choices. Then, under the “Color Tools” frame on the left, click on “Load Virtual Palette”.
We’re going to define 5 custom colors—the printing primaries of Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow, then the more familiar primaries of yellow, red, and blue. The printing color of yellow and the familiar primary yellow remain the same, so we only have to define 5 colors.
Go to the second line and after “Define Custom Color”, enter “CMYK Yellow” in the box. Leave “Tinting Strength” at “Normal” in all definitions. Go to the next line.
In “c:” put 0.0. In “m:” put 0.0. In “y:” put 1.0. In “k:” put .0. The decimal points matter.
Make sense? This translates into these proportions: cyan 0%, magenta 0%, yellow 100%, black 0%. Now press the button that says “Save Custom Color.”
Move down to the “Mixing Area”, click on the drop down box next to “Base Color”. Go all the way to the very end. You should see a list of YOUR custom colors! How cool is that?
Repeat the process for cyan and magenta. Here are the formulae:
Cyan: c:=1.0, m:=0.0, y=0.0, k=0.0
Magenta: c:=0.0, m=1.0, y=0.0, k=0.0
Check your color by going to the “Mixing Area” and choosing “CMYK Cyan” from the list of custom colors. Press the “Process Mixture” button and check out the color at the bottom in the “Results of Mixing Operation” area. Do the same for each of your two other printing primaries.
Now, start to mix them together. Choose your “base color”, then “mix with” one of the other two printing primaries. Don’t forget to tell the Virtual Palette how much color you want to add.
Check out the results! You’ll also see those colors mixed with black and white at the bottom of your screen.
Ready for the “subtractive primaries”? Here are your formulas:
Yellow: c=0.0, m=0.0, y=1.0, k=0.0 You already have this one all set up.
Red: c=0.0, m=1.0, y=1.0, k=0.0
Blue: c=1.0 m=1.0, y=0.0, k=0.0
Mix them together for some real fun! If you’re feeling really frisky, click on the “Show Complements” button on the right hand side.
Below is a screen shot of the cyan that I was able to mix--what a cool tool!
Okay, your assignment, if you want to do it, is to recreate these colors with your pencils. Either print out your colors from the WCVP, or refer to the colors you have mixed on your screen as a guide.
I highly recommend doing your exercises on the same quality
paper that you use for your artwork. If you pause to think about it a moment, it will make sense. Cheap paper simply doesn’t grip your color the same way as your artist grade materials. Make tiny swatches and blow them up in your photo-editing software. Get ready to share!
I'll post my homework after this.
Future topics (if you want to):
Matching secondary colors to your colored pencils
Drawing a “value wheel” with only black & white
Colorful grays/browns with complements
Intense vs. dull wheel—create using a complement
Pick a color and do the following:
identify the complement,
same hue&intensity/opposite value,
same hue&value/opposite intensity,
Emotional content of color
Do you have a color signature
Please feel free to suggest areas you'd
like to explore--let's have some fun!