• Seana Mallen

No More MUD!!

Everything you ever wanted to know about Colour Theory, but were afraid to ask..


In class today, Fran asked a short question about colour, and we jumped down a rabbit hole of colour for about 45 minutes, and I gave you a whistle-stop tour of MYABSOLUTE ESSENTIALS of Colour theory...

  1. Draw two "pies", and in the first, paint the primary colours of Yellow, Red and Blue. Of course there are many yellows, reds, and blues. If you were using Winsor Newton paints, their primaries are Winsor Yellow, Permanent Rose, and Winsor Blue (green shade).

  2. Hold your head very still, and focus on the dot in the middle of the circle of three colours for about a minute. Ghostly haloes will start to appear!

  3. Shift you gaze to the dot in the centre of the other white "pie".Magically, the complimentary colours of the primaries will gently appear for a few seconds. These are the secondary colours of Purple, Green and Orange.

In the back of your eye, there are thousands of "cones" that perceive coloured light, but only in three colours. All colour mixing happens in our brains. By holding your head very still, you exhausted the cones that perceive red, so that when you shifted your gaze to the white circle, your yellow and blue receptor cones filled in and mixed together to create green. Cool, right? similarly where Blue was, you would perceive a combination of red and yellow, which is orange, and where yellow was, your eye combines blue and red to make purple. This is a MASSIVELY SIMPLIFIED and not entirely scientific explanation, but it suits our purposes.


We created a loose colour wheel by mixing yellow with red to make orange, yellow with blue to make green and blue with red to make purple, and put those mixes into the second "pie" where we perceived them...


COMPLIMENTARY PAIRS are 1 primary and a mixture of the other two primaries:

red and green

yellow and purple

blue and orange

Side by side they can be eye dazzling and brighten one another.

Mixed together, they create greys and browns.

If your colours are getting muddy, you are almost certainly mixing complementaries.

Complementaries are OPPOSITE one another on the colour wheel.





The mixes of complementaries can create beautiful and nuanced neutral colours.

I love using Frnch Ultramarie (blue) with Burnt Sienna (an orange-y brown) to make skies...


Oops. half of that is upside down... What was I thinking???


In this one, I wet the paper with a light wash of raw Sienna, which can add warmth at the horizon and in the clouds. this is a CLASSIC SKY COLOUR COMBO: raw Sienna wash over the whole sky, then work wet-in-wet with French ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. Try it!!



Complimentary colours dull and darken one another.

The orange on the left is only painted with an orange from my palette and blue. The blue mixed with the orange has created both the shadow on the orange , and the cast shadow. it feels very natural and subtle.

The orange on the right has a "HARMONIOUS" colour, that is a colour which is adjacent on the colour wheel, to darken the shadow on the orange.. This has kept the colours bright and clean. The cast shadow is pure blue. The compliments of orange and blue next to each other are very bright. I added a light blue background to further intensify the brightness of the orange.


Neither of these is right or wrong. they are just different approaches that create different moods and effects.


SO, the ESSENTIAL TRUTHS YOU MUST KNOW!!!


COMPLIMENTARY COLOURS:

Side by side they enhance each other.

Mixed together, they dull and darken each other.


HARMONIOUS COLOURS are just that, and blended together make clean bright colours.

Now go paint your world with confidence in glorious colours and have fun!

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