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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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    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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    I am all about observing and painting from nature, but if you're struggling to do the most basic colour mixing, I would recommend making a colour chart. it's a great way to get familiar with your colours and their properties in a methodological manner.
    start with a grisaille palette of ivory black, lead white and raw umber: pure black, pure raw umber, pure black+pure raw umber, with four descending scales of each mixture (towards white). then, you can go on and do the same with a palette of ivory black, english red, yellow ochre and lead white, following the same method: black+red, black+white, black+yellow ochre, red+yellow ochre, each with four steps on the scale towards white.

    do this exercise a few dozen times, and there won't be a hue you cannot mix.

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    Edit: Gee, I should remember to read the other posts some times...

    Simple is never easy...

    I think the simplest way to learn is to just go out there and observe and apply with the the core principles in mind. Trial and error.

    I have always been sceptical towards the Munsell system, there were tons of great colorists out there before the system was developed. But then again, people learn differently. I guess it's possible to get an "eye" for colour without too much theory, in the same way many people have a great "pitch" for music, and can learn complicated songs without neccesarily learning the notes (many seems to pick up the basic prinsiples by trial and error or by instinct). And then there are many skilled musicians out there who rely on their theory first and their ears second. Just don't put them in a jazz band.

    Last edited by AndreasM; June 28th, 2011 at 07:06 PM.
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    I started outdoors with a limited palette of ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson permanent, cad yellow light and titanium white. As Briggsy said you must learn theory and back it up with real world observation for it to be effective. It is your interpretation of this information that makes for personal color in your paintings.

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    I was going to do some painting outside but my acrylics dried right up in the heat... Apparently my stay-wet-palette-building-skills aren't up to scratch yet. Guess I'll stay inside for still lives for a while.



    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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    Acrylics make crappy plein air paints, as you have discovered. Use oils or watercolor/gouache.


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    In light of some of the comments on value, limited palette and color/mixing charts I thought I'd share this assignment I have my students do.
    The top scale is white to black in even steps (shooting for 10% each step).
    The bottom scale is just primaries plus white, trying to match the gray scale.
    Name:  Grayscale_72.jpg
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    For more thorough information on making up color charts as duztman suggests, you can check out Richard Schmid's book "Alla Prima" or Steve Allrich "Oil Painting for the Serious Beginner". Both cover it really well.

    Last edited by JeffX99; July 1st, 2011 at 07:45 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    In light of some of the comments on value, limited palette and color/mixing charts I thought I'd share this assignment I have my students do.
    The top scale is white to black in even steps (shooting for 10% each step).
    The bottom scale is just primaries plus white, trying to match the gray scale.
    Name:  Grayscale_72.jpg
Views: 1979
Size:  170.2 KB

    For more thorough information on making up color charts as duztman suggests, you can check out Richard Scmid's book "Alla Prima" or Steve Allrich "Oil Painting for the Serious Beginner". Both cover it really well.
    Jeff,

    Just out of curiosity what color black are they using in the black and white steps, Ivory?

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    Yeah - which of course makes for pretty cool grays.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Acrylics make crappy plein air paints, as you have discovered. Use oils or watercolor/gouache.
    I'm not going anywhere near oils for a long while yet, but thankfully I've got my trusty old watercolours. Also realising I don't know the last thing about gouache, I'll have to have a look into those.



    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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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    The top scale is white to black in even steps (shooting for 10% each step).
    Name:  Grayscale_72.jpg
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    <nitpick>
    That would actually be 11.1% per step (assuming black and white are 0% and 100%).

    If it was 10% per step you would end up with 11 swatches instead of 10, since you would also be counting 0 as a step.
    </nitpick>

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    For more thorough information on making up color charts as duztman suggests, you can check out Richard Scmid's book "Alla Prima" or Steve Allrich "Oil Painting for the Serious Beginner". Both cover it really well.
    as a matter of fact, it was Schmid precisely who spurred me to make the colour charts. haven't done them for my landscape palette yet (alizarin, cad yellow, naples yellow, cad red, ultramarine blue, cerillian blue, cobalt blue, titanium white (green umber, optional), for anyone taking notes), but I aim to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dose View Post
    <nitpick>
    That would actually be 11.1% per step (assuming black and white are 0% and 100%).

    If it was 10% per step you would end up with 11 swatches instead of 10, since you would also be counting 0 as a step.
    </nitpick>
    That's what I meant Tim! I don't do math real well...

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    Haha- anyway, you meant even steps, which is what's important.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dose View Post
    Haha- anyway, you meant even steps, which is what's important.
    Exactly...I found it really tough to maintain even steps at either end of the scale - they jump pretty far at the lighter end and get jammed up at the darker. The main goal was to get the students to be able to adjust and modify using complements - which it works well for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kjesta View Post
    I'm not going anywhere near oils for a long while yet, but thankfully I've got my trusty old watercolours. Also realising I don't know the last thing about gouache, I'll have to have a look into those.
    One of those plant spray water atomizers is pretty good for keeping acrylics wet on the palette. You can get one from any garden centre dirt cheap (no pun intended) - make sure its got an adjustable nozzle to give a nice fine spray though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Exactly...I found it really tough to maintain even steps at either end of the scale - they jump pretty far at the lighter end and get jammed up at the darker. The main goal was to get the students to be able to adjust and modify using complements - which it works well for.
    What I don't get, is how you manage to get the dark end so dark without using black. With both oil and watercolour, I have never been able to obtain such deep darks without sooner or later mixing in some black.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blogmatix View Post
    What I don't get, is how you manage to get the dark end so dark without using black. With both oil and watercolour, I have never been able to obtain such deep darks without sooner or later mixing in some black.
    You can get pretty damned dark mixing dark, transparent compliments (ultramarine+burnt sienna and pthalo green+permanent alizarin are both useful mixes). They won't be quite as dark as ivory black, but most people wouldn't be able to tell unless you painted them out side-by-side. On the other hand, if black is what you want, there's no reason not to use black paint.


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