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A Little Color Theory

Color Wheel, Complementary Colors, and Values

A color wheel is made up of three primary colors (red, yellow, blue) and three secondary colors (the colors mixed from the primary colors).  You can learn a lot about color by mixing your own color wheels and experimenting with different choices of primary colors.

Complementary colors are the pairs of colors that are opposite each other in a color wheel.  They have a special relationship with each other and often work well together in a painting.

Black has the widest value range, so we use the white-to-black value scale  to explore values in all colors.  Values play a very important role in the compositional success of a painting.

Click on images to enlarge.

A. Color Wheel.JPG

B. Color Wheel with complements mixed in center.JPG

Color Wheel
Here is a color wheelt that shows the three primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and their secondary colors (purple, green, and orange), which are made from mixing the primary colors.   

Because of the variety of pigments available, we have the choice of many different primary colors.   In this wheel, the pigments used are arylide yellow (PY3), permanent rose (PV19) and ultramarine blue (PB29).

Color Wheel with complements mixed together in center
Complementary colors are pairs of colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.  They have a special relationship with each other...they often work well together, and a complement can also be a good choice to dull down a color--for example add a little green to dull down a red.   

When complements are mixed more equally, they give a wonderful range of neutral brown & gray colors.

C. Another Color Wheel Option.JPG

D. Another Color Wheel Option.JPG

Another Color Wheel Option
This color wheel uses prussian blue (PB27), arylide yellow (PY3), and permanent red deep (PR254/PV19)

Again the complements are mixed together in the center.
 

Another Color Wheel Option
You can experiment with all kinds of color wheels.  This one uses a cerulean blue (PB35) for blue, a raw sienna (PBr7) for yellow, and a burnt sienna (PBr.7) for red.

Again the complements are mixed together in the center.

E. Value strip.JPG

 

E. Value strip
The value of a color is how light or dark it is, compared to white to black scale.  It is important to understand the vital role that values play in a painting--they are the bones of a composition.  

It helps to make a value strip of five values (like the example above), going from white to black, and then punch a hole in each strip.   You can then use this as a tool to help determine values of what you are painting.  Move these strips over a color in order to match the punched hole value with the proper strip...it helps to squint your eyes.  The strip where the "hole" seems to disappear indicates the color's value.  In the example above, the value strip was placed on top of a white sheet of paper--so the left-most hole disappears. If it was on a black sheet of paper, the rightmost hole would disappear.

 


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                    Copyright 2006-2012   by Julie A. Eastman.  All rights reserved.