Choosing your colors – Color Wheels

 

            I find that a combination of alternate study and pratice is very effective when you are learning something. When you practice (paint), you come across some things that you donot understand and they are like small tensions in your mind, later you stop practicing and do some study ,research like going through art books or observing nature or doing little exercises such as value or color mixing charts for example, you open up your mind and let new things flow in and you will start stumbling upon the answers to what ever blocks you might have had….more research than required and you might end up whiling away your time! Back to practicing then…..

           I`ve made these color wheels with some of the colors that I have just so that I can see at a glance the mixes that are produced and not so much to use them as palette on their own:

 

                     In the RYB color model, the three primaries are Red, Yellow and Blue which when mixed in pairs make the three secondaries:

 Orange (red and yellow),

 Green (yellow and blue) and

 Violet (blue and red).

         These secondaries, then mixed with the primaries form the tertiary colors –

Red- Orange (Red mixed with Orange)

Yellow-Orange (Yellow mixed with Orange)

Yellow-Green (Yellow mixed with Green)

Blue-Green (Blue mixed with Green)

Blue-Violet (Blue mixed with Violet) and

Red-Violet (Red mixed with Violet)

           The more modern color theory proves that you get better mixes with the CYM model (refer to the 4th color wheel) where the three primaries are Cyan, Yellow and Magenta which when mixed in pairs result in the three secondaries:

Red-Orange (Magenta and Yellow)

Green (Cyan and Yellow)

Blue-Violet (Magenta and Cyan)

        These secondaries, when mixed with the primaries form the tertiary colors –

Red (Magenta mixed with Red Orange)

Yellow-Orange (Yellow mixed with Red Orange)

Yellow-Green (Yellow mixed with Green)

Blue-Green (Blue mixed with Green)

Blue (Cyan mixed with Blue-Violet) and

Violet (Magenta mixed with Blue-Violet)

             When you buy your paints, choose according to what pigments the paint contains rather than accoding to the name of the paint. The pigment name is indicative of a particular hue and not its marketing name. For e.g, The red in color wheel 1 is named ruby red by Schminke which has a pigment PV 19 (gamma quinacridone). The red in color wheel 5 is also PV 19 but is named Rose Lake by its manufacturer MaimeriBlu. Sometimes there might be a difference in hue between two paints even when the pigment in them is the same depending upon how it is manufactured. Paints that contain more than two pigments might result in muddy mixes.             

           To make clear mixes, you should mix those colors that already have the resulting color in them. For e.g if you want a clean violet, choose a warm blue like ultramarine blue (which already has a bit of violet in it) and a cool red like ruby red (which also has a bit of violet in it). To make a clean orange, choose a warm red like winsor red (which has orange) and a warm yellow. For foliage, you donot need clean green mixes, they would look artificial (for e.g DS Hansa Yellow Medium and MG Pthalo blue) and you would have to dull them down with a red.

           Even if you`re careful with your mixes, the secondary colors that you get by mixing these primaries will not have a high chroma, i.e they will not be as intense as the secondaries that you can get from the tube. Usually this might not be so important, like in a landscape scene for example but if you`re painting flowers, you do need those saturated colors.

        To make the color wheels, draw a few circles each with 12 equal spokes. Paint your three primaries so that there are three empty spokes in between the pairs.  The middle spoke in these three empty spokes is filled with the secondary color and the ones on either side of it have the tertiaries. Fill your brush with a nice and juicy almost full- valued color and paint a band at the widest part of the spoke. Dip the tip of the brush in clear water and paint this diluted color as a band in the middle area, stroke upwards gently to blend the two bands so that there is a gradation of values. Rinse the brush till almost completely clear and paint this pale tint from the narrowest part at the bottom and blend upwards. If you have this gradation from the full bodied color to its palest tint, it would be useful later on when you are painting to compare colors. It can be surprisingly difficult to distinguish between adjacent colors especially when they are very pale tints.

                This first wheel has S ruby red, DS new gamboge and MG Phthalo blue. It is quite a strong palette and I use this often.  Ruby red is cool, it is actually a magenta and has some blue in it. This mixed with new gamboge which is a very warm yellow makes a not very saturated orange. But these RO,O and YO are still interesting and I add another secondary color Schminke translucent orange to brighten these mixes if required. Since the blue is cool (has some yellow in it), the resulting violets are also not that saturated, I would add a mauve or a purple from the tube to these mixes. A warm red would be another useful additional color if you`re painting red flowers. The yellow and blue make great greens however. This warm yellow has some red in it, so these greens are toned down and are perfect for foliage. 

 

             In the second color wheel, the warm winsor red and winsor yellow (neither warm nor cool) make beautiful oranges. But both the winsor red and phthalo blue donot have violet in it, so the the resulting mixes are neutrals rather than violets. The greens are good. I would choose an additional cool red and warm blue. In fact, you can make a color wheel like this, where you have both warm and cool primaries (placed side by side) where you`ll always have clean mixes. Clockwise direction > A cool red next to a warm red which is mixed with a warm yellow placed next to a cool yellow which is mixed with a cool blue placed next to a warm blue which is mixed with the warm red.

 

               The same is the case with the third color wheel, beautiful oranges but neutrals on the violet side. DS prussian blue is a bit opaque but gives interesting dark valued shadow greens. 

 

                This fourth color wheel has beautiful clear mixes throughtout. Very close to the CYM color model. The primary is a magenta, so the secondary color is a blue violet, that mixed with the magenta gives the tertiary color violet. The primary hue, Cyan, mixed with BV gives blue! Magenta mixed with RO (secondary, here) gives red! You would probably need an additional warm red here, though.

 

 

                  This fifth wheel has the best mixes. Even though the rose lake is quite cool, the orange is still quite saturated. The warm blue makes clean violets. These three primaries would be sufficient for a painting.

 

               The ultramarine blue in this sixth wheel is the warmest of the blues here but does not make too great violets mixed with S permanent Karmin.  The lemon yellow is the coolest of all the yellows here. The greens have texture to them beacause of the ultramarine blue which is sedimentary.

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12 thoughts on “Choosing your colors – Color Wheels

  1. Hi Neelima!

    I really love this watercolor colorwheel you’ve made! So pretty.
    I’m putting together an e-book for my website, and we’re mentioning pairing different colors and using a colorwheel. We would love it if we could use yours, and we will definitely credit you!
    I couldn’t find your email address, so I hope this message reaches you okay.

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  2. Pingback: Top 5: Crayloa Crayons « Improper Escalator

  3. Hi Neelima,

    Love your blog. Wanted to let you know we linked to this article at our site, ImproperEscalator.com in a Top 5 list we do weekly. Really, your art is gorgeous and your posts are so well thought-out and laid out.

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  4. Hello first time talker long time listener, I do have to say you are very explicit which is very nice, though I do have one question and it may seem silly but is there a list of PV color listings it may serve well. I mean to say I understand each company has their own but is there a list of sorts to browse over?

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  5. And by the by, don’t stop posting you do a wonderful job and it is really hard to find someone who loves their world as much as I do mine!

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  6. Hello Robert,

    Handprint.com has detailed tables on the pigments, their properties and the major manufacturers that make the paints containing them. I chose my colors with the help of this information, giving priority to the ones with the highest lightfastness, highest transparency and those that contain single pigment (except sap green)
    Nita Leland’s Confident Color has a color index chart in the appendix as do most good books on color.

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  7. I’m creating some charts for myself and I’d like to include a warm and a cool of each primary. How do I tell which ones are warm and which are cool?

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  8. Hi! Categorising hues as warm and cool is just a convention to simplify the thinking process and there is no strictly right and wrong way to classify them. Some artists consider red and some yellow as the warmest hue, and some the one in between , i.e orange as the warmest hue. The coolest can be the one opposite to orange , i.e blue. Violets and greens can be both warm and cool or neither as per your preference. To answer your question, if the hue contains undertones of a warm color, e.g cadmium red can be perceived as having orange in it, it is warm ; or if it contains undertones of a blue for e.g permanent magenta can be perceived as having violet in it , then is thought of as cool.

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  9. The chart in this post is quite old , I had made it when I was using the traditional RYB model, the updated MYC model i.e magenta yellow cyan is actually a much more accurate way of approaching color theory and I highly recommend that you look that up and use it for your charts.

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