Have you ever considered eliminating burnt sienna from your palette? After all, it’s probably one of the most popular earth toned colors found on painters’ palettes. I know it is one of my favorites and for most of my painting career, I always squirted it out of a tube.
Do you have a favorite pairs of complementary colors? Perhaps first, I should ask if you think of complementary colors as pairs? Most likely you do. They are: Yellow and Purple, Red and Green and Blue and Orange.
Two characteristics about complementary colors that make them special:
- When mixed, a pair of complementary colors will cancel each other out. In other words, the two source colors loose their intensity when its complementary color is mixed with it. The same thing happens when they are layered on top of one another.
- When painted next to each other, the colors will sparkle and attract attention. They can actually appear to be vibrating.
Here are three examples using watercolor. On the left of each pair, the color opposite was layered or painted over its partner. On the right of each, they are painted next to one another, showing off. Notice when they are layered how the original intense color is neutralized or dulled
Most of us have heard about complementary colors, also known as color opposites, since we were in grade school. I wonder, “How well do you really know about the various pairs of complementary colors at your disposal? Have you ever played with them to discover the mixtures that are possible?” Here are 6 pairs of color opposites using acrylics. On the right side of each swatch I have added a little water to see a thinner variation of the color.
I like to call these ‘chromatic scales,’ because as on a piano, a slight change of tone or color happens as the two original colors are mixed in different ratios. For example, in the first column on the left, I started with a violet-red and mixed it with a dark yellow-green. The mixture in the middle is a combination of these two colors and neither of the source colors is evident. At the top or second row, I mixed just a little of the green with the violet-red and you can see how quickly the intensity of that red immediately tones down. Isn’t it a lovely color? In the third row, I added a tad more green and you can still see that the color still maintains some red. In this next chart, I painted more chromatic scales using oil paints. However this time I added a little white on the right side of each swatch. To see a video demonstration of painting a chromatic scale, visit my YouTube video (it is a tad old) at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TniAwC6gkzU
As you know, we call them color opposites because they are opposite from each other on the color wheel. Below is a 12-hue color wheel that helps to see potential pairs of complementary colors.
Have you ever tried painting with the complementary pair of red-violet and yellow-green? How about yellow-orange and blue-violet? Try them and let me know your results.
COLOR MIXING TIP: A true mixture of complementary colors results in a black or brown. If it results in a green, then they are not a pair of complementary colors.
Given that we all have different tubes of paint in our paint box, each of us creates unique chromatic scales. It really is fun to make a chart of your own complementary colors. Every time I teach this, students are always surprised by what they discover. This and other color mixing concepts are available via my Craftsy.com online video course entitled: Mixing Acrylics Made Easy! For more information click here.
What possibilities do you see? Are you inspired to try a new pair of complementary colors in your next painting?
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Gratefully & Colorfully Yours,
PS If you want to learn why complementary is spelled with an “E,” check out my post entitled, Is It Complimentary or Complementary?
Water soluble oils have arrived! Actually, they showed up in art materials stores over 20 years ago, but are just now becoming known and more frequently used. They are also called “water mixable” oils. Either will suffice, though I prefer water mixable because soluble can imply that the paint, once dried, will dissolve if it comes in contact with water.
I began working in water mixable oils in 2002, having been introduced to them at a plein air workshop. At that time, only a few brands were available. The most reliable and consistent was Duo by Holbein. Having come from 15 years of working in watercolors and a few years with pastels, I had not spent a lot of time with traditional oil paints. Hence, I dove in without much bias toward regular oils. [Read more…]
Do you know why you mix mud?
In my humble opinion, the Two Primary Palette is the gateway to color mixing with confidence and not mixing mud. Knowing how to use this well balanced palette opens doors to mixing clean colors while mixing mud only when you choose. Imagine not mixing mud!
Throughout this CelebraingColor blog, I write about color bias and its role in creating the Two Primary Palette. To read more, please visit these posts: 1) Why Color Bias is Key to Mixing Color; 2) How to Mix Bright and Dull Secondaries. This eye-opening information is also taught via my online Craftsy video course Acrylic Color Mixing with Ease!
Below is a schematic showing the foundation of the Two Primary Palette, which can also be called the Double-Primary or Split-Primary Palette. You will notice I have two strong color bias tubes of paint for each primary color. By this I mean, the color leanings of each primary color is evident. The palette consists of a: green-yellow, orange-yellow, green-blue, red (violet)-blue, blue (violet)-red, orange-red and orange-yellow.
What Does a Two Primary Palette Look Like in Action?
Recently, a reader asked me to show how I place these colors onto my working painting palette.
Below shows you how I translate it onto my palette. On the left I have numbered the six colors of the graphic Two-Primary Palette and on the right you can see these colors squirted out. There is no correct way to do this. It just happens to be how I like to lay out my paints. Putting out your paints is personal and unique to each of us.
Wait I don’t stop there! In the next image you see mixtures of my primaries to add more colors to my palette. In other words, I mix the two yellows, then the two reds and then the two blues. By doing this I have eliminated needing more tubes of paint — see the image below of my yellow mixture that matches up with a tube of paint.
Creating these additional mixtures is optional. Watercolorists you can do the same thing in your palette using the wells and leaving empty wells in between your 6 primary colors and, of course, not including white.
This is an example of mixing my two yellows into another yellow mixture. The big blob is my mixture and the squirt of color out of the tube is to the right of it. I don’t need to own this tube of yellow because it is easy to mix.
Next, I typically mix my bright secondary colors. To learn more, please read How to Mix Bright and Dull Secondaries. By the way, I use a porcelain butcher tray for my palette.
And then, if you want to continue setting up your palette of colors, you can mix your tertiary colors of burnt sienna, olive green and purple-black. Again, these are completely optional.
To learn more about tertiary colors, please visit my post: What is the Correct Definition of Tertiary Colors?
By starting out with this well balanced Two Primary Palette, I have increased my possibilities of a successful painting because of this color unity. Decision making is also easier and I have decreased the chances of mixing mud.
Now you are ready to rock and roll! How do you lay out your colors when using the two primary palette? I would love to know. Please share this in the comment section below.
By the way, the Two Primary Palette and the color mixing principles taught in Acrylic Color Mixing Made Easy! apply to ALL media, not just acrylics.
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