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Thread: Color me bad

  1. #1
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    Color me bad

    Okay,

    Anybody have any good references that they like for learning how to match colors. I've been working on some oil paintings lately, and for some reason, my techniques for matching colors is haphazard... at best. I eventually get the correct color after a lot of experimentation.

    So, looking for some good references to speed up the time to mix the correct color. Note: As a habit, I tend to use various grays to currently tint or shade the tube color.

    Dougie
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    Hmmm... is this for generally choosing colours, choosing shadow/light colours or actually mixing the colours from the tubes?
    I don't know how much these might help you on this or if I understood right, but there are places like COLOURlovers http://www.colourlovers.com/ which can help on choosing palettes which may help on choosing oil colours too... maybe.
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    This would be for the actual mixing of the colors. I don't have a problem (in my mind, of course) of getting the values done correctly. It's the actual mixing of the colors. This could be due to also seeing the colors correctly.

    I know that, several times, someone will say: Okay, the reason that your color is off is because there's a slight hint of pink in that cloud. Do you see it? I'm like: "No.. sorry, don't see any pink that you are talking about". Or is someone mentions that, you could add a bit of orange to shift the color slightly towards the reddish hue... don't see it.

    Dougie
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    James Gurney's Color and Light comes to mind. I bought the book two months ago, but I don't have the time to read it carefully and practice. But this is an awesome book that will teach you to look for colors that you normally ignore. There here are a lot of things explained, you know, sometimes the light is warm and orange, but the shadows are blue and cold... This book has become something like standard for learning color and light and a lot of teachers recommend. It has very high reviews on every site and I just can't wait for the summer to read it carefully. Right now, even if I'm just walking or waiting for the train, I still analyze the colors and try to think what colors I would use to paint what I see. This book helped open my eyes. I definitely recommend it and it sounds just like what you need. For $16 on Amazon this a must buy without a second thought.

    Edit: I'm actually not sure what you want It's not a book about mixing colors, even if there is some info. It's about choosing them, choosing the right color for the right situation, idea, feeling you want to convey and so on. For example choosing the right colors so that the viewer can say "ah... this is a morning scene, and this is an afternoon scene...". But as I said I got a bit confused and I'm not sure I understand your question.
    Last edited by Vari; May 3rd, 2011 at 11:21 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Hoppes View Post
    This would be for the actual mixing of the colors. I don't have a problem (in my mind, of course) of getting the values done correctly. It's the actual mixing of the colors.
    How to precisely and perfectly mix and match any color, every time:
    Determine the value of the target color.
    Determine the hue of the target color.
    Find the color on your palette that most closely resembles the target hue, and bring it to the target value, lightening with white or darkening with a darker color of the same hue family.
    If the hue is off (and it probably will be), mix a color of the hue it needs to move towards of the same value.
    If the target color is less chromatic than a full-strength hue (and it usually will be), mix a gray of the same value.
    Use those two or three mixtures to mix your target color.
    The basic principle is that you get much more control bringing all your components to the same value first.

    Tristan Elwell
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    Color mixing is tricky. First, you have to be able to relatively accurately describe the color you are seeing to yourself. This is tricky without a good conceptualization of color, and something that many people lack. Second, you have to understand how to reach that color with paint. This is tricky because pigments are complicated and only follow very general principles when intermixed. It's good to learn these general principles, but then you need experience to understand how each pigment you are using will stray from these guidelines. Third, you have to understand what to do if the range of colors in the subject exceed the range of colors in your paints. This one won't always happen, but can cause all sorts of trouble if you don't recognize this is what's happening.

    You may find that you are lacking the ability to describe a color to yourself- especially certain "muddy" colors and warm colors in the shadows. A good way to conceptualize color is to break it down as Hue, Value, and Chroma. Most people are familiar with hue & value, but the concept of chroma (or saturation) is trickier. Try huevaluechroma.com for a very thorough (albeit somewhat overwhelming) intro.

    Elwell has excellent advice on how to mix a color- I would recommend the same method. I would also recommend checking out the first two sections ("Saturaion Costs" and "The Color Wheel Fallacy") on this page over at Handprint.com. Similar to huevaluechroma.com it is a bit intense, but it is the best practical description of color mixing I have found.

    Sometimes you actually can't mix a color that you see, simply because the range of colors we can see is much larger than the range available in paints. Sometimes you can solve the problem by adding a new pigment to your palette, but often it's simply impossible to hit a given color under certain lighting conditions with paint. Understanding what to do if the range of colors in your subject is too large for your paints is complicated- the general idea is that you may need to shift the colors in your painting to compensate and create "relative" color effects. However, this is a larger discussion, and in the beginning I would recommend simply to learn to recognize this problem and avoid it if it can't be solved by adding a new paint to your palette- at least until you are more comfortable with color mixing in general.
    Last edited by dose; May 3rd, 2011 at 12:17 PM.
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  10. #7
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    Thanks everybody! Very helpful. Elwell... I'll try out that step-by-step method. I usually get the base color right, but it's the tinting/shading of it that screws me up.
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    Thanks everybody! Very helpful. Elwell... I'll try out that step-by-step method. I usually get the base color right, but it's the tinting/shading of it that screws me up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Hoppes View Post
    Thanks everybody! Very helpful. Elwell... I'll try out that step-by-step method. I usually get the base color right, but it's the tinting/shading of it that screws me up.
    OK, another tip:
    Don't think in terms of one base mixture that you darken and lighten, but a series of separate mixes for each large color area (maybe shadow, halftone, and two or three variations in the light, plus reflected light and highlight).
    Plane change = value change, value change = color change.

    Tristan Elwell
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    Boy, again team Elwell/Dose nails it! Leaving me with little to contribute. Dougie I'm assuming this is for plein air? Or is it more for your still lifes, or both? Not that it matters much but my question is what is your current palette?

    Do you ever use a "color finder"? If not make one really easy and keep it in your gear.

    Also my general advice is to avoid the use of the grays to tint...it really kills color, imho. Plus it doesn't let you mix an interesting variety of color based on complements. Another tip is don't shoot for one big puddle of homogenous color, go for an accurate base puddle and modify the edges (I often modify three "corners") a bit - toward warmer, cooler and less chroma toward the bottom. Most passages in nature are made of such subtle variations that these slightly different colors, as long as they are in the same value, can add a nice bit of variety. The additional advantage is you'll have a wider range and begin to discover what the "actual" color of the passage is.

    Another good way to "see" color is to take your eyes just a bit out of focus...takes some practice but it is sort of like squinting to see value. You can also turn your head completely upside down which will really amaze you...color looks quite different - hard to describe - not really different but more clear? IDK why exactly but I have a pet theory. It is sort of like looking at a composition in the mirror.

    An interesting tidbit I picked up somewhere is that you can't see some of these colors until you've mixed them. I think that holds true and relates to dose's observations on pigment vs. reality.

    Anyway, I hope some of that helps. I definitely second Jim's book "Color and Light" if you don't have it already. And of course look at as many paintings as you can in galleries and museum shows. I mean, how far are you from the National Gallery?
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    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
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    @OmenSpirits... I guess you got my reference, eh? :-))))) Sorry.. I'm a product of bad 80's music.

    @jeff: this is for both plein-air and still life. Right now, for color, I 1) hold up my paint tube against the color (I mix and tube a lot of my own paints) or I have a white business card with a hole punched throught it. I was taught to use greys using various mixtures of titanium white/ivory black since my instructor, who learned from Frank Mason, was taught that way.

    @ElWell: one of the major areas that I use greys are for the edges of my spheres, etc. It helps push the edges towards the back. This is especially important since the core shadow doesn't reach the edge of there sphere (which causes it to flatten the image). So, my current method is to do the pure color towards the edge, then add some grey to round out the edge, and then add reflected colors into the core shadows.

    I also have Gurney's book... just haven't had time to actually getting around to reading it. I'll have to make sure that I take a look at it again.

    Dougie
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    Yes, edge planes tend to be slightly more neutral on matte and nap (fuzzy/hairy) surfaces. On glossy or metallic surfaces they take on the color of the surroundings.

    Tristan Elwell
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