Artist's HandbookOf Materials And Techniques
by Ralph Mayer
Is a reference that I find to be indispensable. I keep mine on
my bookshelf, and believe that every artist should have a copy
Elements of Color
An excellent analysis of the properties and psychology of color.
Rex Vicat Cole
The Practice and Theory of Perspective As Applied to Pictures
With a Section Dealing With Its Application to Architecture
Painting Tips from the Artist
Tips to help you with your paintings
A Color Wheel Variation
Just about everyone who paints has some exposure to the color
wheel. It is a handy device for understanding the relationship
of hues, grays and tints, and it can be as simple or as
complicated as one can imagine. Basically the old color wheel
had the three primaries (red, yellow, and blue) placed 120
degrees apart on a circle. Between each primary color is placed
the three secondary colors (orange, green and purple), mixed
from the primaries. From there, color theorists have introduced
tints, and grays, developing principles of saturation, value,
is very interesting, and a good study of those devices can
really help you to understand color. However, I like to start
with a modification of the basic wheel. The first principle is
to understand that colors can be divided into cool and warm.
Generally, cool colors are the blues, greens and violets, while
the warm colors are the yellows, oranges and reds. However, if
you have experimented with color mixing, you have probably
noticed that there can be cool and warm hues with in a given
primary. An example would be Alizarin Crimson (cool) and cadmium
Red Light (warm). Cool and warm are relative descriptions,
because Alizarin Crimson would still be warm as compared to any
Being aware of these relationships, I like to include on my
palette two of each of the primaries - one cool and one warm.
Therefore my color wheel will be something like this: Lemon
Yellow (cool), Cadmium Yellow Medium (warm), Cadmium Red Light
(warm), Alizarin Crimson (cool), Ultramarine Blue (warm),
Phthaolcyanine Blue (I consider cool compared to Ultramarine).
Some may argue my analysis, but the main issue is the
relationships that exist.
If you notice, my placements of these colors are such that any
specific color is more closely related to the colors adjacent,
than to any of the others. To see how this works, lay out this
color wheel with paint, and taking a little of the Cadmium
Yellow Medium and the Cadmium Red light, mix an orange. Notice
how brilliant and intense the mixture is? You have just mixed
two warm primaries. Now, for the sake of comparison, mix a
little of the Lemon Yellow with some of the Alizarin Crimson. Do
you see what happened? Alizarin Crimson has a bluish quality to
it, while the Lemon Yellow leans toward the green (a blue
component of the yellow). In essence, you are mixing the three
primaries, and you get a grayed or muddied result.
Well, maybe there are times when that is exactly what you want.
Isn't it nice, though, to be able to get the color you want
without resorting to trial and error? Now, go ahead and do the
same thing using the other colors to mix a couple of greens, and
a couple of purples. If you learn nothing else from this, I hope
you are better able to select, organize and group your paints in
a way that gives you the greatest range of possible color
combinations, with the fewest actual tubes of paint. It will not
only save you money and grief, but will help your paintings to
be more harmonious as well.
Although a watercolorist, her discussion of color is applicable
to oils and acrylics as well.