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Thread: Trying to learn color

  1. #1
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    Trying to learn color

    I've been reading on the website huevaluechroma, but most of the information isn't getting through to me. I just try to read each section as carefully as I can to get the most out of it. I find that he explains things with a lot of science behind it and it's frustrating to not being able to understand what is trying to be explained. I haven't gotten through my first read through yet (around section 6 as of now), but is there a resource on learning color that's easier to chew?
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    Theory is helpful since the topic can be overwhelming but as soon as you get some theory its good to compare what you think you know to life. If you use traditional paints I rcommend getting outside and seeing how color behaves in nature and practice translating that to canvas. Nothing will teach you more about color than looking at the real thing.
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    I'm struggling with the same thing and in addition to doing lots of life studies I highly recommend "Color and Light" by James Gurney. It breaks the topic down into understandable bits so that you can tackle this beast one step at a time. I still have a looong way to go, but this book really helps me get it


    Check these out too:
    Rotor - GoGoJoJo

    "Limited drawing skills are OK if they are offset by a fearless commitment to putting images on paper."

    "I mean, What is a chair? It's an anti-gravity device." Glen Keane

    "The difficult part is continuously realizing when you've stopped enjoying the process, and re-aligning yourself. It's kind of like meditation/being an art ninja..." ceddo
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    I have yet to do any outside life painting, because I usually settle down for a cruddy still life setup or a reference photo. Even then I usually get discouraged simply because I find myself at a lost on how to mix what color to get this color.

    @dpaint - I'll most definitely try to get out and paint something from life. What would you suggest be a good starter?

    @Kjesta - I'll definitely check out that book. David's stuff (huevaluechroma) confuses me a lot unfortunately. I went there because I saw a lot of conceptart members mentioning it.
    Last edited by lazymember; June 27th, 2011 at 07:08 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Nothing will teach you more about color than looking at the real thing.
    Quoted for emphasis.

    Color theory is great, when you want to discuss color or teach it. But to be honest, in this case theory doesn't have much to do with application, at first anyway. When you're in the earlier learning stages you're better off just observing and trying to mix and match what you observe. Keeping your palette limited to primaries will help also. I generally use a set of warm primaries and cool primaries.
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    @JeffX99
    Yeah I'm still new to color in general. In fact I'm very intimidated by it. I was taught (taught used very loosely in this case) to paint by using only red, blue, yellow, black, and white. I take the limited palette to mind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Color theory is great, when you want to discuss color or teach it. But to be honest, in this case theory doesn't have much to do with application, at first anyway. When you're in the earlier learning stages you're better off just observing and trying to mix and match what you observe. Keeping your palette limited to primaries will help also. I generally use a set of warm primaries and cool primaries.
    I'm playing around with limited palettes right now, seeing that I find it quite easy to go off into too many directions (colour-wise) at once when painting so the picture ends up looking fractured. (I know, eloquence at this time of night isn't my strength.) Should I maybe stay away from them for now and just work with the primaries + b&w or is it something that can teach me from early on? (I guess my main problem is just mixing and matching colours with RL, but whatevs.)

    Nevermind, just gotta go to bed and then jump back into practising tomorrow.


    Check these out too:
    Rotor - GoGoJoJo

    "Limited drawing skills are OK if they are offset by a fearless commitment to putting images on paper."

    "I mean, What is a chair? It's an anti-gravity device." Glen Keane

    "The difficult part is continuously realizing when you've stopped enjoying the process, and re-aligning yourself. It's kind of like meditation/being an art ninja..." ceddo
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    Yeah, it takes just a lot of practice and observation from life before you start to gain some confidence with color - for me it was a couple years and say 400-500 paintings from life. And a helluvalot of reading, critique, discussion with friends, workshops, museum/gallery visits and other efforts. That was when I felt I had my first "toe-hold"...and stopped worrying about whether I would ever get it.

    So yeah Kjesta, keep it limited for now, and I wouldn't use black either - depending on your subject matter of course - most landscape really doesn't need a black in there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lazymember View Post
    I have yet to do any outside life painting, because I usually settle down for a cruddy still life setup or a reference photo. Even then I usually get discouraged simply because I find myself at a lost on how to mix what color to get this color.
    Actually, still life setups are perfect for learning colour. Reference photos are not. But colour is something you learn by doing. You need no more than the primary colours, and black and white. With those you can mix up just about anything you need.

    It is in any event more important to get the tones right than the colours. The tones are what make a painting seem real and solid, even if your use of colour is quite arbitrary.
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    Theory and practice are both pretty ineffective when they part company.

    The best way to begin learning colour is to start with an extremely limited palette of just black and white. Make up a perfectly even grey scale and have it in front of you whenever you paint. Practice judging just which value from (say) 1 to 9 each major component of your subject needs to be. When you feel some confidence at value studies, practice selecting from your subject nine or fewer first-order components, and decide on what hue, value and chroma (not necessarily in absolute, Munsell units) that each of those basic components needs to be painted. Working like this can save you months of thrashing around aimlessly, but you'll still need to be patient!

    For anyone finding huevaluechroma too advanced, you should find it makes a lot more sense after reading James Gurney's Color and Light. Avoid like the plague anything more simplistic - there's a lot of wrong info out there! And please don't forget that I'm happy to answer any specific questions about huevaluechroma on my colour theory thread (link in signature).
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    Thanks folks, this thread is very encouraging to sucky little me, haha.

    I don't want to open a new thread so I'll just ask it here: I leafed through "Color and Light" again last night and got a bit caught up on p74/5, "Rethinking the color wheel". I get what he says and everything, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how exactly he mixed the chroma shifts in the hand-painted Yurmby wheel. I know there's different way of doing that - such as mixing complementary colours and using grey, at least that's how I explain it to myself.

    Is there some "official" way of how the chroma scales for those wheels are mixed? Messing around myself right now and, eh, yeah. I think it'll need a lot more messing around before it looks anything like JGurney's.


    Check these out too:
    Rotor - GoGoJoJo

    "Limited drawing skills are OK if they are offset by a fearless commitment to putting images on paper."

    "I mean, What is a chair? It's an anti-gravity device." Glen Keane

    "The difficult part is continuously realizing when you've stopped enjoying the process, and re-aligning yourself. It's kind of like meditation/being an art ninja..." ceddo
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    Kjesta, for any problem like this, just think of which direction you need to go in colour space. In this example he seems to be mixing all of his strong colours with the same middle grey, so there is no attempt to keep values uniform. The main difficulty in that case would be that many of the hues would tend to drift, for example, yellow towards green, and red towards purple. So you would correct this drift by adding just enough of any colour that would pull the hue in the opposite direction. This slide from my National Art School class refers to correcting the hue shift in a shading series (i.e. mixing with black rather than grey), but the principle is the same.
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  21. #13
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    I see I was wondering if you'd correct the colour. That image is very helpful, thanks!


    Check these out too:
    Rotor - GoGoJoJo

    "Limited drawing skills are OK if they are offset by a fearless commitment to putting images on paper."

    "I mean, What is a chair? It's an anti-gravity device." Glen Keane

    "The difficult part is continuously realizing when you've stopped enjoying the process, and re-aligning yourself. It's kind of like meditation/being an art ninja..." ceddo
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