Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Monday Night Watercolor Homework: Color Mixing Without a Net

In class we talked a little about true beginners not being burdened with bad habits. For those of you with some experience with watercolor, I’m afraid it’s too late. You’re all doomed to keep making the same mistakes.

Just kidding.

Let’s start with color mixing. First of all it’s not true that you need lots of tubes of subtly different colors to make accurate copies of whatever you want to include in your paintings. Red, yellow and blue can do it all. Theoretically.

If our language had only 6 names for colors – red, yellow, blue, green, orange and violet – what would you call this color? No fair combining names, like greenish orange. Pick just one of the six.
It has to be green, right? It’s a complicated color, for sure, and you might wish we had “grey” as an option, but green is the color that dominates the mix. 

See if you can match this color using just one red, one yellow, and one blue. Try starting by mixing a green, since that’s the dominant color. Mix a little blue and yellow together. I’m guessing the green that results doesn’t look close to what we’re aiming for. Too intensely GREEN, like the one below, right? How can you dull it down?  

Try a little bit of red (the compliment). A really little bit, and maybe some more water if it looks too dark. Is green still dominant? If not, how can you nudge it back toward our target color? It either needs some more blue, or yellow, or red, or a combination of them. That’s the whole story. To get the color you’ve got to look more like the one you want, add some red, some yellow, or some blue. No recipes needed.
Once you get it in the ballpark, try it again with a different red, yellow and blue. There are many ways to make a reasonable duplicate of any color. Develop the habit of looking first for the dominant color, then adjust that with additions of what you think is missing. If your mix is too intense, add a little of the compliment to dull it down.

Look in a magazine for patches of solid color that are at least one inch square. Cut them out and stick them to white paper. Using just the primary red, yellow and blue, make a near enough match of each one and paint a patch of it beside the pasted on square. Make a note of which colors you used. Try to match it with different component colors.

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