Colour Theory Part 1
 By Baby Lou Tattoo   •   21st Dec 2009   •   4,932 views   •   5 comments
Colour Theory

This is a tutorial on on of the most vital elements of art - colour. I will be starting with the most simple areas and delving deeper and deeper into the more advanced sections of colour theory. I will cover how to use colour to your advantage, but will not cover tone, tint and shade. I will cover those vital sections in another tutorial. This means I will cover all 'pure' shades of colour. The most basic concept.

Like death and taxes, there is no escaping colour. It is ubiquitous. Yet what does it all mean? Why are people more relaxed in green rooms? Why do weightlifters do their best in blue gyms? Why are some paintings just so unforgettable?

The history of colour and Introduction: Colour is a complex subject. We use it to evoke emotion - thought. Most of the greatest paintings we know are vibrant, or have clever use of colour schemes - like the Mona Lisa. Very dark and sultry, yet the colours all mesh perfectly and the image is engraved in our minds. But what is all this colour for? In the natural world of animals, birds, and plants, colour always has a purpose -- to attract, repel, conceal, communicate, warn, or assure survival. Humans use colour everywhere - on buildings, in rooms, our clothes, our sheets, our hair, our skins, TV.. It is important to us.

1) THE COLOUR WHEEL. This is a vital element to an artist. It is a problem solver. I personally have one hanging above my computer at all times when I paint. It shows you primary colours, complementary colours, various colour schemes (Analogous, Monochromatic, Split Complementary, and Tetradic). You can use your color wheel to practice determining which hues are complements. This knowledge should be learned so thoroughly that it becomes as automatic as 2+2 = 4.

Each colour wheel indicates each section of colour without change:

THE COLOUR WHEEL--Primary Colours: Red, Yellow, Blue. These 3 colours are the base colours for every other colour on the colour wheel. This is why they're called "primary." When you mix two primaries together, you get a secondary colour.

--Secondary Colours: Orange, Green, Purple. These 3 colours are what you get when you mix the primary colours together.
They're located in-between the primary colours to indicate what colours they're made from.

--Analogous Colours: Red and Orange, Blue and Green, etc. These are colours right next to each other on the colour wheel. They usually match extremely well, but they also create almost no contrast. They're good for very serene-feeling artwork where you want viewers to feel comfortable, and at ease.

--Complementary Colours: Red and Green, Blue and Orange, Purple and Yellow. These are the colours directly across from each other on the colour wheel. Alas, in spit the name they rarely look good when used together. They're called "complementary" because, when used together, they become extremely vibrant and have heavy contrast. This is very useful to remember - they work incredibly well in cartoon design to make you remember the colours well.

--Tertiary Colours: These are those "in-between" colours like Yellow-Green and Red-Violet. They're made by mixing one primary colour and one secondary colour together. There can be endless combinations of tertiary colours, depending on how they're mixed. I've included in the images a "colour mixing triangle", which shows this theory.

--Harmonious Colours - These are my favourites to use. Just look at the attached image painted of DejaVu's horse, Jackie.

Blue = Orange's harmonious colour. It adds effect without looking unrealistic. They add "pop" to the art without deterring from its value.

That said, that is the use of the colour wheel. It makes life easy for the budding artist and makes life exciting for the old crone artist. But it doesn't answer every question - there are different kinds of colours, and the colour wheel does not explain them loudly for those who look. This is where the theory comes into play.

--Warm/hot Colours: Colours such as red, yellow, and orange. These colours evoke warmth because they remind us of things like the sun or fire.

--Neutral Colours: Gray, Brown. These aren't on most colour wheels, but they're considered neutral because they don't contrast with much of anything. They're just there" and aren't incredibly memorable on their own.

--Cool/cold Colours: Colours like blue, green, and purple (violet). These colours evoke a cool feeling because they remind us of things like water or grass.

When we paint we're usually attempting to paint animals, people.. buildings, rocks, trees. All these things are three-dimensional. But we work on a two-dimensional surface. We have to observe objects as if they were flat, like our paper or canvas. The use of colour (indication of shadow and highlight) is the method we use to gain a 3D effect (refer to my tutorial on shadows and highlights for more information).

So now I've discussed the parts of colour, I'm going to tell you how to apply it better to your manipulations and paintings. You must consider all the parts of reality to gain a realistic image - weather, light, mood, atmosphere, the breaths taken, what the horse is thinking and doing, movement.. it all plays a role.

Weather - WEATHER EFFECTS ALL COLOURS! A rainy, cloudy, stormy day all colours become greyish. Yet a red barn still appears to be red and grass still looks green, as long as there's enough light for you to see, and as long as you know what you're seeing. Beginners usually paint colours equally bright, no matter how far or how near they may be, and no matter what kind of weather they are painting. They simply go by the name of a hue and not by its actual appearance, its value. They'll paint the red barn, the green grass and foliage, as seen from close-by, in bright sunlight. Beginners merely paint the sky blue on a sunny day, grey on a rainy day, dark blue towards evening. If you look at how a child draws, this will show you a similar effect - due to the way we remember things to paint them, everything seems flat and vibrant, no matter the end effect we're trying the achieve.

Seasons - By a natural association of ideas, we think of spring as full of vivid colour. Summer, in our memory, lives as a season of heat, without any delicacy of colour. Everything is ripe, fully grown. Autumn, in a large part of the world, is a symphony of colours, ranging from still green leaves, through yellow, orange, violet, purple tones, to the dying brown foliage under a clear blue sky. Winter is either depressing with its barren earth, skeletonised trees, and shrubs or invigorating with its bright blue sky and violet shadows thrown on the pure snow. Winter sports are characterised by multi-coloured apparel.

Horses: A horse is a perfect example of an animal to paint. Powerful, energetic, vibrant, sometimes cruel, natures glorious creature. We can paint them to be vile, handsome, beautiful, pretty, nasty, insane, careful plodders... surreal, abstract, aggressive, in movement.. There's barely a limit to what these creatures evoke in us. Their colours (natural) can be bland or utterly appetising to look at. Light falls on a horse so beautifully its easy to see why they've been such big hits in the art world.

Mood: This is an excellent topic. A basic table to run off for mood:

*Blue represents peace, tranquillity, calm, stability, harmony, unity, trust, truth, confidence, conservatism, security, cleanliness, order, loyalty, sky, water, cold, technology, and depression.

*Black is the absence of light and therefore, of colour. It represents power, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, mystery, fear, evil, anonymity, unhappiness, depth, style, evil, sadness, remorse, anger, underground, mourning and death.

*Green represents nature, environment, health, good luck, renewal, youth, vigour, spring, generosity, fertility, jealousy, inexperience, envy, misfortune.

*Orange brings up memories of fall leaves, pumpkins and Halloween. It symbolises balance, warmth, enthusiasm, vibrancy, flamboyancy, and is demanding of attention.

*Purple represents royalty, spirituality, nobility, ceremony, mystery, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, arrogance, mourning. Purple is considered an exotic colour.

*Red is the colour that we pay the most attention to. It is the warmest and most energetic colour in the spectrum. We associate red with love, valentines, danger, desire, speed, strength, violence, anger, emergency exit signs, stop signs and blood.

*White is what we see when all colors come together in perfect balance. It represents reverence, purity, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, humility, precision, innocence, youth, birth, winter, snow, good, sterility, and marriage.

*Yellow represents joy, happiness, optimism, idealism, imagination, hope, sunshine, summer, gold, philosophy, dishonesty, cowardice, betrayal, jealousy, covetousness, deceit, illness, hazard, spirituality and inspiration.

* Brown - Solid, reliable brown is the colour of earth and is abundant in nature. Light brown implies genuineness while dark brown is similar to wood or leather. Brown can also be sad and wistful. Men are more apt to say brown is one of their favourite colours.

This is very basic and does not include tone/hue. But it it very good to know.

And last but not least, BLACK AND WHITE. This is a topic I constantly feel I have to sit people down and discuss quietly.

As a rule, NEVER use pure black or pure white in a realistic painting.

These colours do not occur naturally on a well lit, living being.

Think about how much is truly black in nature. Shadows are not simply black nor a darker version of the colour of the object. They contain the complementary colour of the object. Take, for example, the shadow on a yellow object. If you mix black and yellow, you get an unattractive olive green. Instead of using this for the shadow, use a deep purple. Purple being the complementary colour of yellow, both will look more vibrant.

Original painting genius artists, like Monet, did not own nor use black at all. Neither did Leonardo.

Phew! There is no subject more difficult to talk about than colour. This is because it is so personal. There may be a universal mood shift in all colours - but everyone sees each differently, and holds a couple of colours dear to them. Colour combinations are so different to different people - there's simply no right way to do it, but the "rules" I've outlined are the basic ones most well-known artists choose to follow.

Don't rely on colour alone. There's so much else in art. Learn all you can.
Horse News More In This Category:  Graphics      Horse News More From This Author:  Baby Lou Tattoo
Great tutorial, dear. :)
  Dec 21, 2009  •  2,771 views
GreenClif Acres  MOD 
Awesome article BLT. It's very insightful :)
  Dec 21, 2009  •  2,750 views
Llama In A Box  
Great article - I love this. The importance of colour and the reference to taxes. =D
  Dec 21, 2009  •  2,689 views
Very helpful and informative. Love it.
  Dec 23, 2009  •  2,697 views
Abbadoodle XD  
Great tutorial BLT
  Dec 23, 2009  •  2,701 views
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