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Color for Starters

Unless you paint with only in black and white at some time you will need to learn color theory.   Bookmark this page so you can refer back to some of the links I have here and some of the book references I will give you.  

To start your tour in color take a beginners course on colors from Color Matters-Design Course web site. This covers just the basic beginning principals.  Then hop over to a Color Study course by Sanford Paint.  To begin understanding some of the terminology try Nita Leland's Color Speak  Here she talks about definitions of hue, and color intensity.  To understand color you must build your  vocabulary.   



 Suggested Reading
The Art of Color

Color in Contemporary Painting *

Examples of color wheels and how to paint them can be found in a few excellent books on the subject. You can find examples of color wheels and how to paint them in a few excellent books on the subject such as Watercolors Techniques & Color by Jose M. Parramon,


Some of the confusion about color wheels comes from the fact that there are two different types of color wheels. One is known as additive, the other subtractive. The light you see in a rainbow, the light you see all-round you, is additive. The Primary colors for additive color wheel are Red, Green and Dark Blue- when added together you get white. If you are a photographer you need to understand the principals of additive color wheels, as a painter you would do best just to forget all that; for the time being anyway. The painters color wheel is what most of us learned in school, where Yellow, Red, and Blue are the primaries, when added together you get brown muck. The secondary colors are Orange, Purple, and Green. IF you are into exploring more about both color wheels and understating a little about both additive and subtractive I recommend this next site. Color Theory Too

 Once you learn the basics of the color wheel, all in theory, and you begin to put it into practice, you run into a few problems.

First and foremost - pigments.  If all there was to color you could learn from a color wheel mastering color theory would be a snap.  First you must understand the difference between pigments. How the pigment is arrived at.  Animal, vegetable or mineral/ each has a different base and will react differently. Some will never give an intense hue, some are heavy with chalk which makes for a gritty paste in transparent watercolor and mixing problems for other media and so on. This brings up the next point. Some consideration to the binder, or medium must be observed.  For instance, it is generally assumed in oil and acrylic paints that you can mix black with yellow to get green.  I don't suggest you do this with transparent watercolor, you wouldn't like it. Thirdly you must differentiate between paint companies, how they manufacture their paints, what they put into them, how the binders will effect the final outcome of the color you intend or thought you were going to have on your painting. Some pigments vary slightly by grade. Now there is a large number of artificial (man made) pigments that are considered just as good and not as toxic, by the industry. 




color wheel.jpg (9527 bytes)

Try making your own color wheel, like the one shown here. All you need are three primary colors. I suggest a lemon yellow/alizarin crimson red/cobalt blue. 

For starters- Try this article about transparent and opaque pigment.  

Winsor Newton has a extensive question answer section on their products and includes many questions about pigments and pigment properties a must read for those confused about paint and the differences.

Brands do differ as far a properties and color quality and an artist, eventually, after experimentation, will come to like certain colors/brands over others. This part is subjective.

Mixing brands is not the problems it once was, and one companies color name, while similar to another companies, could be more attractive to the user. Also, some brands make up their own names for common colors already in use by other companies. These new colors are practically identical to the old tried and true color names.  For instance the American Journey line put out by "Cheap Joes' has quite a few 'new' color names but not new colors. The more you paint the easier it will be to recognize this.

Stephen Quiller book on Color choices, recommended for color study

Buy it