We’re back this week with our Color Mixing and Color Theory Workshop for Artists: Part 3. Today is all about color mixing and the color wheel. Color wheels are not just for beginners. They’re for anyone looking to take their understanding of color to the next level. FREE DOWNLOAD:
Welcome back to the Self Taught Artist Podcast. I’m Lauren Kristine, your host. We’re back this week with our Color Mixing and Color Theory Workshop for Artists: Part 3. If you haven’t listened to the other two episodes in this series, I encourage you to go back and listen to them in order. That’s episode #37 and #38. Today is all about color mixing and the color wheel.
Most people will be familiar with the artist’s color wheel, but many may not understand how to properly interpret it. What’s more, many artists have never actually made a color wheel themselves before. I was one of those artists for a long time. When I got serious about learning advanced color mixing I finally listened to the people telling me I need to mix my own color wheel. Color wheels are not just for beginners. They’re for anyone looking to take their understanding of color to the next level.
This episode will be an explanation of the artist’s color wheel to help you understand what it is and how you can make use of it. As a part of this episode, I actually created a free downloadable template to help you create color wheels. The worksheet has instructions for the three exercises I recommend in this episode and next week’s episode. These useful exercises can help you make three different varieties of your own color wheels. Ultimately, learning more about color and our paints.
To download the worksheet, please visit: www.laurenkristineart.com/42 On my website, scroll down and simply enter your email and you’ll receive the download in an email to your inbox.
If you recall, I’ve mentioned that I’ve been making some behind the scenes improvements to the podcast over the past few weeks. The big upgrade is that my podcast has a new online home: www.laurenkristineart.com/podcast On this section of my website, you’ll find all the transcripts for past episodes and a search feature so you can search all the podcasts for topics of interest. Take a look! Don’t forget to download the worksheet at: www.laurenkristineart.com/42
Let’s highlight our Review of the Week and then jump into our discussion on color wheels and color mixing! Today’s Review of the Week comes to us from CatahoulaMom and the title of her review is “Inspirational!” She writes, “I finally graduated from painting at the kitchen table to a spare bedroom upstairs after 5 years. I haven’t felt inspired since. Out of sight, out of mind I guess! I’ll try the 15 minute challenge!” Thank you so much for leaving that review! I agree, sometimes when you move your art supplies into a new corner of the house it can be easy to forget about them. I hope you’re able to get back into a creative flow and that the 15 minute challenge is helping. To everyone who doesn’t know about the 15 minute challenge yet, go listen to episode number 35 with lots of tips on how to paint more often. I also recommend episode 40 where I talk about setting up your studio space as well. Everyone out there listening, could you please take two seconds to give me a 5 star review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify? Thank you! Now, back to the show.
What is a color wheel?
The color wheel is basically the visible spectrum of colors wrapped around a circle and it is a helpful tool which explains what happens when we mix our paints together. Color is a continuum, meaning that each hue doesn’t exist as a separate entity itself. Instead, each hue is part of the visible spectrum which has no end and no beginning. That’s why the color wheel is in a circle.
Once you understand the relationships between colors you can become more advanced in your knowledge of color and how your paints work together. The color wheel can be a helpful visual reminder for your color mixing and serve as a reference when you’re thinking about what paint colors to add to your painting next.
There are several different types and varieties of color wheels. First, there is the traditional color wheel with the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue evenly placed around the circle. This is the most frequently used color wheel type and the one you probably think of when I say Color Wheel.
The color wheel is made up of the following:
The Primary Colors – Colors that, in theory, are able to mix most of the other colors in the visible spectrum. In traditional art, the three primary colors are considered to be red, blue and yellow. However, some artists consider magenta, cyan and yellow to be more accurate primary colors, because they are able to mix a wider array of colors.
In our color exercises, I recommend you try both if you have the paint colors. Try making one color wheel out of a traditional Red, Yellow, and Blue first. Then, notice the limitations of those primaries. Next, make a second color wheel using magenta, cyan, and yellow. I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll come back to your exercises in a few minutes.
Please note, when you combine all three primary colors together, you will mix mud or a dark gray color.
Another set of important terms to remember are:
Secondary Colors – These are what happens when you mix two primary colors together (green, orange and purple).
Tertiary Colors – What you get when you mix a primary color with a secondary color.
Colors which are opposite to each other on the color wheel are called complementary colors. There is a strong contrast when you place two complementary colors directly next to each other. For example, when you put red and green next to each other, they pop! However, beware of mixing two complementary colors together. They will create mud! The reason for this is because mixed into those complementary colors are actually all three primaries. And as I just mentioned, when you mix all the primaries together, they make mud or dark grey color!
However, there are good reasons to use complementary colors in mixing. Artists will frequently use the complementary color when they are seeking to tone down a color’s intensity or chroma. If you add a little bit of red to a bright green paint, you will dull it down and create a very earthy and natural-looking green. This can be really helpful when I’m painting leaves or grass and want a natural-looking green, not a bright Kelly green. I use the same complementary color mixing trick when I’m painting the ocean. Usually, the water of the ocean is not a bright color like my paints in the tube. In order to tone down the blue of my paint and make it into a more natural-looking blue like the ocean, I will actually add a tiny bit of orange to my blue. This tones down the chroma or intensity, and make it look like a beautiful ocean color that I would see in nature.
Colors which are close to each other on the color wheel are sometimes called analogous colors. These colors have a harmonious relationship and will play well together.
How about black and white?
You’ll notice that black and white do not have positions on the color wheel as they are not part of the visual spectrum of colors. White is the result of all colors of light combined. However, light works differently than our paints. If we combined all colors of paint together, we’d get a muddy grey instead of a bright white!
Despite the fact that black and white do not have positions on the color wheel, they do have the power to alter the value and saturation of the colors. We will explore this in one of our worksheet exercises.
If you add white to a color, you will make the color lighter and increase the color’s value. Adding white creates a tint of the color.
When you add black to your colors, you decrease the value and make the color darker. To use another artist term, you create shades of the color.
When you add black plus white to a hue, or grey plus a hue, that is called creating a Tone.
Tint is a hue plus white, tone is a hue plus grey, and a shade is a hue plus black.
Let’s talk about the Color Wheel worksheet I created for you. It’s totally free, by the way! Just go to www.laurenkristineart.com/42 to enter your email address and receive it.
In my experience, the best color wheel to use as a reference is one that you have created yourself with your own paint.
The first page of the worksheet I’m providing you has a blank color wheel template for you to use.
Step 1: Paint in the primary colors (red, blue and yellow). You should use the highest chroma primary colors that you own. For example, cadmium red would be a better choice than a dark red like alizarin crimson. I like to apply the paint using a palette knife because it’s easier to clean in between colors. You can also use a brush, but be sure to mix it well so you don’t contaminate your paint colors on the color wheel.
Step 2: Combine the primary colors to create the secondary colors. The secondary colors will be in the middle of the primary colors on the wheel. I’ve also labeled them on the worksheet with a (S) next to them.
Step 3: Use the primary and secondary colors to mix the tertiary colors. The tertiary colors will make up all the remaining spaces. Tertiary colors are simply a step in between the primary and the secondary next to it. So for example, the tertiary color in between Red and Orange, is a Red-Orange.
Step 4: This is optional, but I encourage you to print out another copy of the worksheet to try making another color wheel with different primaries that you own. See the different colors you can make! The different primary combinations make a big difference. Cadmium red will give you a very different result than using quinacridone magenta as your primary.
If you have the paint colors in your collection already, I encourage you to try making your first color wheel with traditional colors like Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, and Ultramarine. Then, try it again using Primary Magenta, Primary Yellow, and Primary Cyan. (An alternative set of colors would be Quinacridone Magenta, Phthalo Blue, and Benzimidazole Yellow.) Just use what you have to create different variations. Do you like the traditional primaries or modern primaries better? Personally, I love using magenta and cyan or phthalo blue because of the wider array of colors they can mix together.
That’s the first page of the worksheet. Create a color wheel using whatever primary colors you have on hand. See what colors they can mix together!
Now, let’s look at page 2 of the worksheet. This color wheel provides areas for tinting the color with white. The outermost circle is where you’ll put your pure hues. This outermost circle should look just like the color wheel on the first page of the worksheet.
Next, mix the paint with a little bit of white to create a tint of each color. Put it in the next ring of the circle. Then, add a little more white and paint the next ring of the circle. Each circle should have progressively more white mixed in as you get closer to the center of the wheel. This exercise shows you how value impacts each hue.
What starts as a deep blue on the outside ring of the circle, will slowly move to a pastel blue as you get closer to the center of the wheel and add more white to the mixture.
White helps to create lots of different tints of colors that you can add to your paintings. I love having this tinted color wheel as a reference when I paint, because it reminds me of the value dimension of color and how much I can play with it in my paintings. Value is a critical component of a well-balanced piece of art.
Advanced painters out there, you can also print out additional copies of the second color wheel and add on tones of each hue or shades of each color. A tone is when you take a hue plus black plus white. A shade is when you take a hue plus black.
This is a good stopping point for today, don’t you think? I’m leaving you with two exercises to complete: the first and second page of the worksheet. First, mix up a color wheel. Next, create a tinted color wheel by adding white to the colors on the wheel.
Next week, we’ll be back with part 4 of our color mixing workshop for artists. We’ll be talking about split primary palettes and completing the rest of the worksheet. Split primary palettes are awesome because they allow you paint an expanded range of colors, and add vibrancy to your colors. Don’t miss next week’s episode dropping next Saturday morning.
Remember to visit my website: www.laurenkristineart.com/42 to download the color wheel worksheet I created for you. On my website, scroll down and simply enter your email and you’ll receive the download in an email to your inbox. The link is in the shownotes as well.
Have a wonderful week! I’ll see you next Saturday morning for more of the Self Taught Artist podcast. As a reminder, you can also find me on Instagram at LaurenKristineArt. Until next time, my friends. Happy Creating!
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