Basic Color Theory

The following information is intended as a basic understanding of color for the painter, general crafter or for the photographer.

Basic Color Wheel

Primary Colors – Red, Yellow and Blue are the basics of  color mixing. They can not be made on their own, but in theory you can make all the other colors on the color wheel

Secondary Colors – Violet, Green, and Orange are the colors that are created secondly by mixing the primary colors together.

Examples of  – Subtractive Color Theory  / Additive Color Theory

Subtractive Color – if you add its three primaries (Red, Green, Blue), the end result is white.

Additive Color – when the primaries cyan, magenta and yellow are mixed the end result is black. This is the color theory we are using here.

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Color Schemes


ComplementaryColors are opposite each other on the color wheel. For instance the compliment of Blue is Orange, the compliment of Red is Green etc.

Split Complementary is made by using a color and the two colors next to its compliment. Such as by using Red, and then using Yellow and Blue.

Triadic Color Schemes are made by any three colors that appear an equal distant from each other on the color wheel, such as Red, Yellow, and Blue.

Analogous Color Scheme is made by colors next to each other on the color wheel.

Monochromatic Color Scheme is made from one color or hue with multiple values and intensities.


Warm colors are colors that represent a feeling of warmth or heat such as Red, Orange, and Yellow.

Cool Colors are colors that represent a feeling of coolness and chill, such as blue, blue green and violet.

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Value Scale the amount of light and dark that is shown. The less value the lighter it is.

Contrast is the difference in values. The strongest contrast can be seen by placing the two extremes next to each other. When two lesser extremes are next to each other they are said to have low contrast. The closer they are in value, the lower they are in contrast.

Tints are created by adding White to a value. In the case of hand-coloring a print the white would generally be added by using the paper and having a transparent color wash.


Tones are created by adding Black to a value. In the case of hand-coloring the artist will either add a bit of black to the color or use the existing shades of grey already in the image.

mediumsMediums used with oils modify the character of the paint.  I personally like to not have my paint dry too quickly, unless it is an underpainting, and with a medium I have more control over this factor. I prefer to work wet-in-wet whether I return to the canvas an hour later or twenty-four.

Linseed Oil – Made from the flax plant it is the binder used in most oil paints.  There are a number of different types due to consistency, color and drying time.

  • Refined – An all purpose medium.
  • Cold Pressed – Dries a little faster than refined and is considered to be of better quality than Refined.
  • Stand Oil – Thicker with a slower dry time, to touch in one week.
  • Sun Thickened – Syrupy version thickened by leaving a slightly open container of Linseed Oil in the sun (Is actually a bit more complicated than that, but for our purposes here….)

Safflower Oil – Dries faster than Poppyseed Oil but similar characteristics.

Walnut Oil – A thin oil it makes the paint more fluid.  Dries in 4-5 days.  It also yellows less than Linseed Oil

Turpentine – Can be mixed 50/50 with Linseed Oil for a medium. Use an artist grade quality and not household.  Can be purchased in low-odor varieties.

There are a number of other mediums for oil paint, enough for a book. It is all a matter of personal choice.  The point is this is another area that an artist can gain control.

Painting In Oil – Part One

I am working on a new series of portraits for January.

The process I am use is to create a monochromatic underpainting before applying the identifiable skin tones. The work is from photo references, due to time and space restraints.

Recent oil painting progress…

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The underpainting was created using burnt umber and mineral spirits.

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Once the underpainting is dry to the touch I can begin putting other colors onto the canvas.

joeoneasel

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Final painting 12X16″ Oil on Canvas – “Joe #2”

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