Color Science (Part 1)

Usually on Thursdays, I do my marketing. Which includes a blog post. But even before I got out of bed this morning, however, I knew I had exhausted all topics to include in a blog post.

My number one priority for this week was to get Paige and Webb sent off to the next publisher on the list. Which means I haven’t really done any art. And I’m tired of talking about marketing. I want to talk about paint!

As I got out of bed, I decided to do the optional color assignment from the free Find Your Joy Taster course by Louise Fletcher. The assignment is to take 3 tubes of color plus white and black. You combine them in different ways to create as many colors as possible and then paint each color that you make on to a swatch of drawing paper. She emphasized that you need to mark what colors you used so when you decide you need that color in your painting, you at least know which colors you used to make it. This assignment works best if you choose a yellow, a red, and a blue.

Some of you might already know that colors are divided into warm colors and cool colors. yellows, reds, oranges, are warm colors and blues, greens, and purples are cool colors. What you might not know is that there are warm yellows and cool yellows, warm reds and cool reds, warm blues and cool blues, warm greens and cool greens, etc. Which basically means that one yellow (or red or blue or green, etc) is closer to a pure yellow than another yellow which is closer to a blue color. Recently, I was watching a painting video and the artist was saying that a certain yellow was a warm yellow and a different one was a cool yellow.

I know if I try really hard and paint the color onto a piece of paper and compare it with another color, I can figure out which is warm and which is cool. But I don’t know these things off the top of my head and I am still developing my artistic eye. And it occurred to me that maybe there was a chart of some kind that told you what colors were warm and which were cool and that everyone else had just been taught to memorize a list—like memorizing your times tables—-so they just knew and they didn’t have to figure it out every single time they reached for a tube of paint.

I found one. Gamblin has one on their website. You can find it here. I got out a fine point sharpie marker and marked all my acrylic paints with cool or warm. You know just until I memorize the times tables…I mean color temperature tables.

I wondered if I would get more vibrant colors if I chose all warm colors. What if I chose all cool colors? Do I need to have a mix of cool and warm colors to get vibrant colors?

To start, I chose 3 warm colors: Hansa Yellow, Cadmium Red Light, and Phatho Blue. Right off I discovered a bunch of really nice skin colors. If I added white, it made a color closer to my skin color. If I didn’t add as much white I got rich browns in a variety of values. I learned that a little Phatho goes a long way. Then I discovered that if I embraced the blue and put it as the primary color in my mixture, and added a little of the other colors, I could make some really interesting and varied blues. Black added made the blues more of a country blue. Yellow made very bright green but just a little yellow and lot of white could make a sea foam green and a sea foam blue. As I painted, my youngest woke up and came down and sat with me. She showed up about the time I was running out of ideas for more combining the 3 colors. She decided that she was going to name all the colors that I was making. She made suggestions and ewed and awed with me as I painted each new color on anther paper swatch.



Only about half of the colors I made.

Only about half of the colors I made.

As I worked we talked about color. I told her the secret of color that I learned in a painting class at UVU with Richard Hull. Choose a yellow, a red, and a blue. Then if you mix what ever color you need from those 3 tubes, your colors will always go together.


I was going to keep going today and do all cool colors so we could compare, but I’m running out of time and today is blog post day after all. Stay tuned for the continuation of this color experiment where I choose 3 cool colors and then a couple of palettes of a mix of cool and warm colors. Maybe I’ll even substitute a purple or a green for the blue and an orange for the yellow. I’d love to hear suggestions from you below. Which paint tubes would you like me to try? Here are the colors you can choose from: Phthalo Blue, Dioxazine Purple, Hansa Yellow, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red Light, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Yellow Light, and Phthalo Green

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