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Art Every Day Month Day 13 - Basic Colour Theory

An understanding of the basics of colour theory is essential for every artist and increases the possibilities for your work. Colours are, after all, one of the basic tools of painting. Here are some of the things I have learnt.

The Colour Wheel
Most color wheels are based on three primary colours, three secondary colours, and the six intermediates formed by mixing a primary with a secondary, known as tertiary colours, for a total of 12 main divisions; some add more intermediates, for 24 named colors like this one. 


Primary colours: Are the three colours that cannot be created by mixing other colours together 
- red, yellow, and blue.


Secondary colours: A secondary colour is made by mixing two primary colours together: red and yellow to get orange, yellow and blue to get green, or red and blue to get purple. The secondary colour depends on the proportion in which you mix the two primaries. For example, if you add more red than yellow, you get a reddish orange, and if you add more yellow than red, you get a yellowish orange.

Tertiary colours: Neutral colours, such as browns and greys, containing all three primary colours. They're created by mixing either all three primary colours or a primary and secondary colour. By varying the proportions of each primary colour, you create the different tertiary colours.

Adjacent colours: These are the colours next to another on the colour wheel.

Complementary colours: Two colours on opposite sides of the colour wheel, which when placed next to each other make both appear brighter. The complementary colour of a primary colour is the colour you get by mixing the other two. So the complementary colour for red is green, for blue it's orange, and for yellow it's purple.

Cool colours: Blues, greens, and purples are considered cool colours. In aerial perspective cool colours are said to move away from you. If you compare different blues (or greens or purples), you'll see that there are also warm and cool versions of each.

Warm colours: Reds, oranges, and yellows are considered warm colours. In aerial perspective warm colours are said to come towards you. If you compare different reds (or yellows or blues), you'll see that there are also warm and cool versions of each of these colours. 

Earth colours: Paints made with natural pigments, rather than chemical pigments, such as umbers, ochres, and siennas. 

Optical mix: Creating colours not by mixing them on the palette, but through knowledge of colour theory and how the eye perceives colours that abut or overlay each other. The opposite of a physical mix.

Physical mix: Creating colours by mixing them on the palette before using them in a painting or mixing colours on the support itself. The opposite of an optical mix.

Hue: is one of the main properties of a colour, defined technically, as “the degree to which a stimulus can be described as similar to or different from stimuli that are described as red, green, blue, and yellow,” The other main correlatives of colour appearance are colorfulness, chroma, saturation, lightness, and brightness.

Tint and Shade: a tint is the mixture of a colour with white, which increases lightness, and a shade is the mixture of a color with black, which reduces lightness. Mixing a colour with any neutral colour, including black and white, reduces the chroma, or colourfulness, while the hue remains unchanged.

Mixing colours: You could spend a lifetime exploring colour and the results of colour mixing, there are just so many possibilities and results. Here are some tips to help you.

Add Dark to Light: It takes only a little of a dark colour to change a light colour, but it takes considerably more of a light colour to change a dark one. So always add blue to white to darken it, rather than trying to lighten the blue by adding white.

Add Opaque to Transparent: The same applies when mixing an opaque colour and a transparent one. Add a little of the opaque color to the transparent one, rather than the other way round. The opaque colour has a far greater strength or influence than a transparent colour. 

Mixing the Perfect Browns and Grey's: Mix 'ideal' browns and greys that harmonise with a painting by creating them from complementary colors (red/green; yellow/purple; blue/orange) in the palette you've used in that painting, rather than colours you haven't used. Varying the proportions of each colour will create quite a range. 

Don't Over Mix: If, when you mix two colours together on a palette, you don't mix and mix until they're totally, utterly, definitely combined, but stop a little bit beforehand, you get a far more interesting result when you put the mixed color down on paper or canvas. The result is a colour that's intriguing, varies slightly across the area you've applied it, not flat and consistent.

Transparent paint: Will allow all of the light rays to pass through it because of the density of the molecules inside it. 

Opaque paint: Will allow no light to pass through it because the density of the object is too great. Opaque paints are denser in molecules than translucent. All of the light rays are being reflected or absorbed.

A fantastic book to read on colour is COLOR by Betty Edwards, there are lots of exercises you could do to master the art of mixing colour.

Do you have any tips or experiences you can share with me about colour?

The Youtube clip for the day is Color Theory Lesson For Beginner's


Even though this chick talks about makeup application she has some great points on colour, and she is funny. I really enjoyed watching this clip.

My card for the day was DIVINE TIMING

it said...pay attention to door that are opening and shutting, for you now, and learn from the doors that shut. Look for door that are open and walk with faith and gratitude for your prayers are being answered. There is no doubt about that, however everything operates according to the universes law of divine timing. If you skip or rush certain pieces or parts, the whole plan will lack solid foundation. 

Here is something that I read today which made me think about living life with no fear...


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