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Paints, dyes, inks, and natural colorants create colors by “subtracting” (that is, absorbing) some wavelengths of light and reflecting what we see.
Black absorbs all wavelengths and reflects none.
In most color printing, the primary ink colors used are cyan, magenta, and yellow .
Note that these three primary colors are the secondary colors created by lights.
Each of these is created by the absorption of all other lights leaving only the color we see.
Cyan is the complement of red; i.e., cyan acts like a filter that absorbs red and reflects a mixture of green and blue back to our eyes. Thus, magenta is green’s complement, and yellow is blue’s complement. Combinations of different amounts of the three inks produce a full gamut of colors.
Mixing these primary pigments in theory yields black.
(However, because pigments and papers are not perfect, printers add K, or black.)
For many centuries before all this scientific theory, artists sensed that certain colors juxtaposed against others were more exciting, even though they didn’t know why.
They used a circular color wheel consisting of three equidistant pigments that were believed to create all the colors we see. They were blue, red, and yellow.
We now know that this is not how we sense color relationships.
However, we still use the three-primary color wheel. “The solution is not to discard the color wheel, but to use it intuitively and alertly, as a compass to color improvisation.”
See demonstration of the evolution of the color wheel, in workshop
(See more modern color wheels at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_wheel )
Using a color wheel, see how orange is opposite of blue. Blue plus its complement should yield black. (Blue absorbs red and yellow but not blue; add blue, and the mixture absorbs all lights, leaving no light--or black.)
In http://poynterextra.org/cp/colorproject/color.html , see the Physiology of color.
Note: Michael Wilcox, the color expert, says there is no “pure” hue, so the practical color wheel should be modified. More later.
Because complementary pigments in the color wheel represent colors that our eyes and brains actually perceive as opposites, the juxtaposition of these colors is visually exciting.
Pointillism: Painting Light with Complementary Colors
During the 19 th century, in an age of artistic enlightenment, Impressionist artists tried to employ the science of light to their paintings.
Pointillism is a painting technique in which small, distinct dots of pure color are applied in patterns to form an image.
In theory, tiny points of complementary colors next to each other would simulate additive effects of light
Georges Seurat developed the technique in 1886, branching out from Impressionistic techniques.
The bright effect of pointillist colors arises from avoidance of pigment blending; instead, something closer to the effect of mixing lights is obtained by painting small dots of pigments near each other.
When we talk about the color of an object, we are referring to its hue. Hues have myriad characteristics.
Every Pigment Has a Color Index Value That corresponds to a spot on the color wheel
Before you buy a paint, you can look it up by its P value (PY, PB, PR, etc.)
And you can look up where each would be on a color wheel at: http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/labwheel.html
Find the ratings and everything you need to know about any commercially available paint at: http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/waterfs.html . Click the color at the top and you’ll find brands with names and color numbers.
More resources in your handout
However, there are more common ways to describe pigments:
Every color has a value of light to dark. In watercolor painting, we vary the value by “thinning” the mixture with more water. This is the way we shade objects.
Change the color values and see how they “recede” in http://poynterextra.org/cp/colorproject/color.html .
Note: We rarely see black in nature, even at night. Therefore, unless trying to achieve special effects, painters should not add black to their paintings; instead, to make areas darker you can thicken the mixture, add layers, or add a complement to the mix if your colors are dark to begin with.
Describing Paints Physical Characteristics of Pigments
A staining paint is difficult to remove or lift from the painting.
The staining characteristics of a paint depend on the particle size of the pigment.
Staining is increased if the paint manufacturer uses a dispersant to reduce the paint mixture time, because the dispersant acts to drive pigment particles into crevices in the paper pulp, dulling the finished color.
Also the composition of the paper affects staining qualities
Ratings of these characteristics by commercial paint name can be found at: http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/waterfs.html . Click the color at the top and you’ll find brands with names and color numbers.
To mix a secondary color, use two different primaries (arcs) whose arrows face toward or away from the desired secondary color (ball).
Both colors pointing toward yields a more pure color
One or both facing away makes a less pure color.
To achieve a neutral, mix two directly across the center; you’ll need to add enough of the adjacent primary to finish the final mix.
All colors are “biased”
The arcs are primary colors
The balls are secondary colors
There are no “pure” colors; all colors contain more than one hue Michael Wilcox, “Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green,” ISBN-10: 0967962870 ISBN-13: 978-0967962870; see the wheel at http://zehnkatzen.blogspot.com/2009/03/wilcox-color-bias-wheel-yellow-and-blue.html
6-color palette of “warm” and “cool” primaries: http://www.fountainstudio.com/watercolor%20tips/tip-mixing_colors.html (all these are transparent. you may want to make it 12, and have opaque, etc.)
Also, Jan Hart’s 6-color palette in “The Watercolorist’s Guide to Exceptional Color,” http://www.northlightshop.com/product/watercolor-artists-guide-to-exceptional-color/ ISBN: 9781600580529; pp. 48, 50, and 68.
This color scheme employs a range of analogous hues, "split" from a basic key color, with the complementary color as contrast. It creates a more “chordal” (like a musical chord) rendition of colors than would simple complementary colors.
Truly single-hued, printers or photographers sometimes employ a duotone color scheme, generated as value gradations in black and a single colored ink or color filter; painters sometimes refer to the same effect as a monochromatic color scheme.
Unless the subject is a riot of flowers or a carnival, choose your theme. To add interest to an analogous or monochromatic scheme, some artists use tiny bits of a complement or a primary color for excitement.
Cast Shadows are an interplay of the surrounding colors; they contain the colors of the surface beneath, the atmosphere, and a reflection of the color of the objects that are casting shadows. They are not black.
Have you ever noticed that as a train approaches you, the sound is higher, and as it moves away, the sound gets lower? Spectral lights work in the same way.
Because in the morning the sun is speeding around the earth toward us, its light waves actually get squeezed a tiny bit, creating shorter waves which result in a bluer effect. Likewise, in the afternoon, as the sun hurtles away from us its light waves become a little longer, moving into the redder part of the spectrum. This is called the Doppler shift.
Therefore, even when painting sunny daytime scenes, paint with cooler colors to represent morning and warmer yellows and oranges to achieve afternoon lighting