Base Colour, Local Colour, and Complimentary Shadows (EDIT: +PS question)
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Thread: Base Colour, Local Colour, and Complimentary Shadows (EDIT: +PS question)

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    Base Colour, Local Colour, and Complimentary Shadows (EDIT: +PS question)

    Hello everyone. I have a few questions because colour theory is being a bitch to me (again).

    1. It has come to my attention that base colour and local colour might be two different terms but nobody I've asked has defined them crystal clear and the internet hasn't come up with it either. Can somebody please explain the two terms if I am correct in stating that base and local colour are two different things (I'm not even sure if this is true)? Let's say I am starting to colour a piece and putting the first layer of colour down. Which one do I use: local colour or base colour? Again, I am completely assuming base and local colour are two different things and I'm not just hearing things.

    2. I'm wondering if complimentary shadows have a logical or scientific explanation to its application. I'm not the type of guy who would apply things just because I'm told to and, in this case, I haven't had anybody who would explain complimentary shadows to me other than "DO IT". Just to be clear, it's the idea that one should mix the complimentary colour of the lights (or local colour? Base colour? I'm confused about this as well) in order to paint the shadows.

    Thank you in advance.

    EDIT: One more but unrelated question. I really like to fineline/"ink" things on Photoshop but I dislike it when I can't see the cursor whenever I try to do things really fine. Is there a method to make it so perhaps the drawing cursor can be seen while I'm doing really fine lines? (without zooming in)

    Last edited by Alex Chow; February 14th, 2009 at 06:03 PM.
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    I think this first question is more complicated than most people realize because there's so many different approaches to how you start out. There's different types of techniques and so there's different ways of starting. For direct painting, your trying to get the local tone and local color mixed and applied in the right spot the first time (See Richard Shmids book). Then there's approaches where your building your painting up in layers such as Andrew Loomis's "soft approach" (Creative Illustration - Andrew Loomis). You can be more focused on getting the tone right and then adjusting the color with glazes later. Even from John Singer Sargent's notes (from James Gurney's recent blog) "7. You begin with the middle tones and work up from it . . . so that you deal last with your lightest lights and darkest darks, you avoid false accents."

    So your base color might be the color you want in the final version, or it could just be a complementary color that get's partially covered and visually combines to make another color.

    The local color is the main color of the object (somebody correct me if I'm wrong here). When you see charts pointing out the area that shows the local color of the ball or whatever, I think that's where it get's confusing. The color of an object will change under different lighting. So under a bright yellow light, a white dress will be painted yellow, but will appear white compared to it's surroundings that are also affected by the yellow light.


    Question 2, sounds like your talking about the "warm and cool" color concept. The reason shadows outside appear very blue, is because of the sky color. You have two light sources, the sun and then the ambient sky. The sun is generally a warmer light and the sky is a cooler blue light. Light bounces everywhere, so the ambient sky light is reflected light bouncing in the shadows. The shadows will take on the color of the sky light.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bowlin View Post
    The local color is the main color of the object (somebody correct me if I'm wrong here). When you see charts pointing out the area that shows the local color of the ball or whatever, I think that's where it get's confusing. The color of an object will change under different lighting. So under a bright yellow light, a white dress will be painted yellow, but will appear white compared to it's surroundings that are also affected by the yellow light.
    Do you happen to have a diagram of the ball or a link to it? I don't think I've seen it before. Thanks in advance.

    Question 2, sounds like your talking about the "warm and cool" color concept. The reason shadows outside appear very blue, is because of the sky color. You have two light sources, the sun and then the ambient sky. The sun is generally a warmer light and the sky is a cooler blue light. Light bounces everywhere, so the ambient sky light is reflected light bouncing in the shadows. The shadows will take on the color of the sky light.
    Yeah, I made a thread about this specific situation before and it's been cleared up. I think I should have said "complementary shading" or something.

    Basically, it sparked up months ago when I asked daestwen about colours, in the Toronto sketchmeet, and she showed me a red ketchup squeezer (or whatever you call it). The yellowish incandescent light made the squeezer orangish on the lights but the real shocker for me was that the squeezer's shades moves towards a dark purple, as if blue was mixed into the shades.

    Many artists and DVD have told me that shades rarely ever stay the same hue as the local colour or the lights. For the sake of discussion, assuming there's a situation where there's no ambience or any other light sources, is this supposed to happen inherently (the shift from red to purple when it enters shade), or are shades ultimately predetermined by everything around it? For ex

    Let's say the latter is true, in that same situation with no ambience of any other light sources, would the shades end up just being a darker red?

    Damn my curious mind. I apologize for making this confusing but the shading of an object (done properly) is something I haven't grasped yet. I'll put a few diagrams in a few hours if it's still confusing you guys.

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    Yes you are correct, in a completely colorless lighting situation you will find it will just change in value and saturation, rather than having a shift in hue.

    I think that the link that you are missing is colour relativity, where a colour appears to be a different colour because of its surroundings.
    Another thing that happens is visual colour mixing (i dont know its exact term), When you look at 2 colours with different hues but the same value they will seem to blend with one another, this is also a big reason for colour relativity.

    When you look at a really really red sun set, look at the shadows, they appear to be very blue.
    Now this is just my amateur understanding but what you are seeing isn't the shadows being blue, instead they just happen to be cooler than the red of the sky, the human brain is just interpreting the cooler colours as being blues and purples.

    Stop thinking of colour temperature as a constant, as temperature is a very dynamic thing. It is all relative to each other.

    Its probably easier to think of colour when you realize that the eyes and brain are a very complex interpreter for the world around us, the brain is constantly running white balance checks, leveling out the values, and hundreds of other little things, all because there is too much information to be displayed in a single image. Oh the wonders of our brain!
    Overall, stop trying to analyze everything in art as a constant, as nothing in nature is, it is instead a dynamic system that changes according to its application.

    Anyways hope i managed to add a little bit of info to that brain o' yours.

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    Local color is the inherent color of an object, irrespective of lighting conditions. Base color doesn't have a strict definition, people generally use it for the average color that highlights and shadows are added too. It could be the local color, but not necessarily, depending on lighting conditions.
    The shift in color from light to shadow can have two causes, and is often a combination of both. First, if the light source is strongly colored, the shadows, which are less chromatic, will appear to take on the color of the compliment of the light source due to simultaneous contrast. Secondly, the ambient light or secondary light sources in a scene are often a different color than the main light, and they are what effect the color of the shadows. Muzzoid's example of blue shadows at sunset is a case of the second condition, as Bowlin already pointed out. Those shadows really are blue, because they're illuminated by the blue of the sky.

    Edit: You do know about briggsy's thread and site, right?

    Last edited by Elwell; February 15th, 2009 at 12:08 PM.

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    I was thinking of Andrew Loomis's stuff like his cubes in "Creative Illustration" and Biggy's "Deminsions of color" site.

    Edit: Ah, didn't see Elwell's post there. Good stuff.

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    Wow! The questions have been answered quite in-depth and I have no more questions to branch off them.

    Thanks everyone. This is excellent.

    The Photoshop question is still up for grabs but it's not nearly as important as the colour ones.

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    You can change how the cursor is displayed in your Photoshop preferences. Play around with the different options and see which one works best for you.


    Tristan Elwell
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