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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Thanked 273 Times in 205 Posts

    Principles of Color as applied to painting( What are they?)

    I'm a complete beginner when it comes to painting and learning color, but I believe in the importance of learning the principles rather than concerning oneself with how to mix a certain color. I'm hoping that the more knowledgeable and experienced could share the important principles that they apply in painting whether if it's done from life or imagination. I hope that this thread could serve as a starting point for those who want to start painting as well.

    Please feel free to post what you know.


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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Thanked 9 Times in 7 Posts
    Pick a basic colour for whatever it is you are painting. From this base colour, ALL you need to know is how to cool it, how to warm it, and how to make it darker or lighter. Doesn't matter what pigments you use to do this.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Thanked 433 Times in 156 Posts
    "Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work. " -Chuck Close

    [ Costau D ][ Cuervo ][ Braintree ][ Fumble ][ Ookchk ][ RoboMonkey ]

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Boston, MA
    Thanked 53 Times in 38 Posts
    I followed the advice of artists from the Cennini Forum and read A Color Notation by A.H. Munsell, followed by How to Mix & Use Color by Liquitex. By then you should have a very clear understanding of how to practice identifying colors.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    May 2005
    marietta, ga
    Thanked 32 Times in 23 Posts
    Patdzon based on my experience on color...there is a book called..The Enjoyment and Use of Color by walter Sargent, excellent..there is another one wich I will be looking to get Theory of Colours both by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe both can be gotten i guess on Dover Publications..pretty cheap..but like any book take it with a critical eye..get what you want from it..dont take it as a are an artist you distill and comprehend things different than scientists. Also looking is as always very important..comprehending your surroundings, experience a Sunset, a sunrise, a cast day, any day for that matter and look just at the beautiful colors..everytime you look it will look will see more, trust your eye and nobody your instinct in picking your own colours. Go to my webpage I always post stuff on my own findings and i think i wrote about colours too..I won tell you here..cause it has taken me a lifetime to learn this and im still doing..but again..look around..diferent arts ,the use of color not only in paintings but in other art, I learn all the time from people's clothing, i learn from comics, illustration, design, even the fake colors of tv (compared to the beauty of nature) being sensitive to colors means also understanding the use of it..not only looking and copying what you see.
    If you want to start with them go ahead and mix..because you have to think of them as tones of music, listen to music as you paint..I would recommend you getting the colors of the rainbow
    my new site, is crazy stuff but is my own space, I can say whatever!! hehe:
    One of the art schools I respect the most:

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Thanked 1,452 Times in 259 Posts
    Colors. . . here is some mishmashed information abut colors.

    First, are you talking digital or analog? In digital, colors are pure, and they will behave exactly as they are supposed to. I.E. blue and yellow make green. With pigments you may find that one particular blue with one particular yellow make gray instead. So, with pigments, either you have to experiment with lots of combinations, or you have to look at the experiments that others have done. You have to keep in mind with pigments that they are not pure tubes of color, but are instead tubes of medium with particles of ground up substances in them. To blend convincingly from red to yellow you may need more than just a tube of red and a tube of yellow.

    Color by itself is not all that much fun. Try putting together an image made up of nothing but the most pure and perfectly intense colors available, and you’ll end up with an image that gives you a headache. The magic comes when colors are reduced down towards gray – low chroma or saturation. A good rule of thumb is this: the larger the area, the lower the chroma. In other words, use intense colors sparingly as focus points in your images.

    Perhaps the most complicated thing about color is understanding how light interacts with it. I’m afraid I’m still learning this so I may not explain it well. Looking at your work, I think you already know that it is value that comes in the most handy for defining forms in space. Carry that over into color, and you’re most of the way there. From that point, the next step is to think your way through an object of a single color, say a blue ball. What color will the darkest shadow be, what color will the middle-lit areas be, and what color will the highlights be? That range could be anything from black to white, navy blue to pale blue, purple to green, etc. It all depends on context, and your own preferences. There is no absolute with color.

    By “context”, I mean two things: what else are you showing in the picture, and what light sources are present in the picture. If this blue ball is sitting on a plain white background and lit by a plain white light, then it may look best shaded from a medium blue to a pale blue. If the ball is sitting on a black background with a plain white light, then it may look best shaded from a very dark blue to a very saturated middle blue. But then, you may not like what that looks like, and you could use a much different range of color and value that feels more “right” to you and looks just as realistic. This is where I suggest working from still-lifes. Even in the most simple blue ball, there is a whole lot going on, and it is much easier to start by observing than by trying to calculate it all mentally.

    Light – it interacts with color in maddening and beautiful ways. Colored lights add color to surfaces while also pushing the value toward the lighter end of the spectrum. To get the best understanding of what colored lights do, try a still-life of a white object in various light settings: sunlight, lit by an indirect glow from a window, lit on one side by a bright incandescent desk-lamp and on the other by the glow from your monitor. In every context, a white object becomes not a white thing with gray shadows, but a subtly colorful object with subtly colorful shadows. The most brightly-lit areas are closest in color to the color of the light. An area shadowed from a bright light source becomes the color of the dim light-source.

    Painting a white object will help also to give you an understanding of the “warm/cool” dichotomy that so many artists use. I consider the warm/cool thing to be just a confusing way of thinking about the presence of subtle complementary colors. For example, your white object in sunlight: the lit areas will be yellowy/orangey, and the shadowed areas will be bluish purple (because they are lit by the glow from the blue/purple sky). Warm and cool. Also, within the shadowed areas, there might be sections that are picking up a bit of reflected sunlight, putting a range of warm and cool colors within those blue/purple shadows. A similar range may exist on the lit portions.

    Complementary colors. The best way to make your colors glow is to use complementary colors. For example, that blue ball on a black background. Blue pops out visually when paired with its compliment orange. So, instead of painting that background with a neutral black and gray, instead use a very dark and desaturated orange. The casual observer will still describe the scene as a blue ball on a black background, but that hint of orange in there will make the blue of the ball more powerful.

    You don’t need to stick slavishly to complementary colors, so long as you reach somewhere across the color wheel for a dash of something different. It would be a rare orange-yellow picture, for instance, that couldn’t benefit by a touch of purple, green, or blue. Color gains intensity in contrast, not in isolation.

    Color is relative. This is very important. If you want to make an object look more green, then add red around it. If you want to make the glints of light in a character’s eyes shine more brightly, then darken everything else. If you want to make the lit side of a face glow more warmly, paint a cool compliment in the shadows. The best example of how color is relative, in fact, is with pale skin tones. You can pick *any* color, call it your skin tone, and then by matching colors carefully to it for the shadowed skin, hair, background, and whatever else you can make that original color be a proper skin tone.

    *phew* Did I miss anything?
    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

    Perspective 101, Concept Art 101, Games Industry info,Oil Paint info, Acrylic Paint info, my sketchbook.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Thanked 32 Times in 23 Posts
    Nice info Seedling..Thanks!
    Learned a lot!

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