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Thread: Color theory

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    Color theory

    Hello,

    have a question about coloring. Sorry to pop in unannounced, wanted to write a PN to someone but didn't work. So I have to ask somewhere in public forum and it's very much going on everywhere and so I don't know where to ask. I hope this is half-way the right place.

    I'm pretty new to painting and unsure about the colors to choose. I searched about that here and found out that most people recommend to do value studies (which I will do) first before using color.

    A friend of mine is good at coloring (I can't ask him in personal atm) and he often uses the whole palette for skin colors and the skin he does looks alive and shining while I use (because of insecurity which colors to choose) skin tones and so what I do looks grey, brown, pale and boring. He told me to use some blue or red but I don't know where or why. There's also these paintings where portraits are done in completely not skin-toned colors and they don't look wrong either. I don't get why and how to do this.

    When I try to choose a palette for a portrait I pick the main tone first. Then the insecurities start - I don't know how to pick the darker tone for shadows (should it be more saturated or less, or the same? Or doesn't that matter?) and the highlight one. I also never know if it is enough to pick 3 and how to blend them together. I usually pick 5 to blend them but the result often looks washed-out.
    I also never use functions in PS like multiply or stuff - should I? I never saw why this should come in handy, I prefer the old fashioned way of doing it without those tricks before.

    There's also this effect you often see in very good paintings (and you can see it in photos of the sky often) when colors seem to shine very bright and you think: "Hey, this must be a very bright orange", and when you pick it, it's pretty greyish and not bright at all, it just looks like that because of his interaction with the colors around.

    How can I start to learn this? I already know about the color wheel and even if the fact above confuses me, I have a good eye for colors, I can pick them very well after reference. I'm just confused when I have to choose them by my own.

    When I have a grey value-studies-painting I'm insecure as well - how to go from that to color? Doesn't it matter which colors I choose as long as the value is the same?

    So can you give me a few hints how to start? Of course I looked at tutorials and well, I will do those value studies. This place is just so flooded with tuts and tips and links and videos I can't see the wood for the trees.

    Greetings,
    Coffee (decaf, of course!)

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  3. #2
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    First, when starting out you need to work traditionally not digitally. Mix your color charts; that will teach you how to mix color. Read up on color theory, something like James Gurney Color and Light and work form life not photos. You can't just jump into this in the middle without any understanding. Color is relative, which means there is no formula that will tell you what color the shadows are or the lights are. Everything depends on the environment the figure is in and the angle and quality of the light sources.

    Last edited by dpaint; April 22nd, 2012 at 09:04 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SchwarzerKaffee View Post
    There's also these paintings where portraits are done in completely not skin-toned colors and they don't look wrong either. I don't get why and how to do this.
    Tha's because the tones are right. What you need more , when you start , is right tones, which means you must first learn how to draw.

    You must remember something. If you choose your lights to be cool , then shadows must be warm. If you choose your lights to be warm, then shadows must be cool.

    Something else..if you are painting for example a red vase, then, you must not use red as local colour and then red+white for highlights. You must create another colour. Mix it with something else.


    And what's more important I believe is to know when to neutrilize something. Everything we see is gray.(I mean neutrialized,not black+white gray) . That means there are times when you must mix red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple in order to create the right colours.

    2 ways of making grays, mixing complimentary colours and mixing cool with warm colours. You may also make gray mixing black+white and use it into other colours to neutralize them. so 3 ways.

    When grays are next to non-neutralized colours, then those that are not neutralized look more vibrant.

    You must know when to put complimentary colours next to each other.

    All these must be practised. Again and again. There is no shortcut.

    Different colour for shadows, different colours for mid tones , different colour for hightlights, having always in your mind cools,warms, complimentary colours, semi-complimentary colours etc

    And..paintings balance through diagonals. If you put a redish colour up right, then you should put redish colour down left. You must do this all the time. A colour cannot be only in one spot. Otherwise there is no unity.

    Unity is veeeeery important. You must always think of the whole.

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    And dpaint is right. Start traditionally.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ezion View Post
    There's also these paintings where portraits are done in completely not skin-toned colors and they don't look wrong either.

    That's because the tones are right.
    If by tones you mean values, that definitely isn't correct. Senseless color can destroy both a solid value statement and a solid statement of form in values. (I happen to know a color-blind painter who will ruin his perfectly fine value and form statements with bad color.) Color that works, works for a reason, even if you don't yet understand how or why it works.

    Quote Originally Posted by ezion View Post
    And..paintings balance through diagonals. If you put a redish colour up right, then you should put redish colour down left. You must do this all the time.
    Not true. Where did you hear this? This is one of those "rules" that isn't a rule. Balance is a decorative design principle only.

    Quote Originally Posted by ezion View Post
    A colour cannot be only in one spot. Otherwise there is no unity.
    Another rule that isn't true. Again, where did you get this from? It would be good to know so we can unrecommend the source.

    Last edited by kev ferrara; April 22nd, 2012 at 01:20 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    If by tones you mean values, that definitely isn't correct. Senseless color can destroy both a solid value statement and a solid statement of form in values.
    This. For some reason, I've heard the line that if you have solid values, the color will take care of itself thrown around a lot, and on its face that's obviously not true. The monthly threads asking about why color overlays on grayscale images look like shit testify to that. Probably better to say that good values won't guarantee good color, but to get good color you need good values. (And honestly, I'm sure we could find plenty of exceptions to the latter, but I can't think of any at the moment.)

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    Joining the chorus: just because value is the most important element of color for creating form, doesn't mean it's the only important one in terms of the piece as a whole. Also, it's incorrect to think in terms of value vs. color, rather, think of color as being made up of value, hue, and chroma. The first can exist independently, but the second two cannot. Most of the time, when people have trouble moving from monochrome to full color, it's a chroma problem.


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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    If by tones you mean values, that definitely isn't correct. Senseless color can destroy both a solid value statement and a solid statement of form in values. (I happen to know a color-blind painter who will ruin his perfectly fine value and form statements with bad color.) Color that works, works for a reason, even if you don't yet understand how or why it works.



    Not true. Where did you hear this? This is one of those "rules" that isn't a rule. Balance is a decorative design principle only.



    Another rule that isn't true. Again, where did you get this from? It would be good to know so we can unrecommend the source.

    I didn't say they are rules, I said my opinion. And yes, most people lack unity in their works because of wrong colour compisition. And I was talking about colour composition, not decorative desing. These are 2 different things. And I got that from my teachers whose work can be seen here : http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/dimitris-mytaras
    http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/panayiotis-tetsis

    That's what I believe it's good not to always use it but have it in mind. I even don't do what I said all the time

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    If something isn't a "rule," stay away from language like "must," and "should always."


    Tristan Elwell
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    If something isn't a "rule," stay away from language like "must," and "should always."
    No. I can talk as I like. Who am I to make rules?

    You must be a fool to believe I'm talking about rules. And you must be a fool to follow what I say. Are you a fool? You won't tell me how I talk. Read it. You like it or not it has nothing to do with me. I want obligate anyone to do what I say. I said my opionion. What I believe could be done to make a good work. My way of seeing things. What's the problem?

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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    If by tones you mean values, that definitely isn't correct. Senseless color can destroy both a solid value statement and a solid statement of form in values. (I happen to know a color-blind painter who will ruin his perfectly fine value and form statements with bad color.) Color that works, works for a reason, even if you don't yet understand how or why it works.



    Not true. Where did you hear this? This is one of those "rules" that isn't a rule. Balance is a decorative design principle only.



    Another rule that isn't true. Again, where did you get this from? It would be good to know so we can unrecommend the source.

    And something else.. You said ''not true''. How do you know?
    And please..you can not unrecommend those painters just because you don't like their opinion. Doing what I say they have made magnificent wokrs. Don't act like you know everything

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    I'm not telling you to do anything, simply offering advice. It's easy to be misinterpreted when one is writing in other than one's native language. There are subtleties in grammar and vocabulary that are important, especially when we don't have the luxury of tone of voice and facial expression to help guide us.


    Tristan Elwell
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  19. #13
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    Ezion,

    Actually, I like the work of your teachers. Possibly you have slightly misunderstood them or they have slightly misspoken. It happens.

    You gave no indication that your first post contained opinions. That's okay if you want to clarify now that they were your opinions. Opinions are fine. "Musts" are an indication that rules are being spoken of.

    The reason I know that the points I said were wrong are wrong, is because I know somebody who can make a bad painting with correct values, I know of a whole bunch of compositions that work excellently which do not have diagonal balance of color and a raft of other compositions which have colors which only appear in one unique spot.

    Last edited by kev ferrara; April 22nd, 2012 at 02:54 PM.
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