Color Theory Basics

August 12, 2019

"I would like to start painting but am not a particularly good drawer. My favorite paintings are usually abstract but where would I even start?"

This is such a great question! If you want to start painting, even if you've had some instruction a while ago, it never hurts to go back to the very basics.
 

 



I'm going to be doing a little series on my blog to help get you started!

We'll be looking at:

Watercolor Art Supplies
Color Theory (This post!)
Using Color for Emotional Meaning
Composition (coming soon)
Finding Your Style (coming soon)



Color Theory Basics

The color wheel is broken down into Primary, Secondary and Tertiary colors.

Primary colors are the only ones that you can't get by mixing other colors together; they are the starting point for every other color!

 

Secondary colors are created by mixing 2 Primaries (ie Yellow + Red = Orange)

 

 

Tertiary colors come from mixing a Primary with a Secondary (ie Yellow + Orange = Yellow-Orange).

Once you have your colors, you need to understand how color combinations hit your viewers.


Colors that are opposite on the color wheel are called Complimentary, and tend to be very striking (and sometimes jarring) when put next to each other.


Harmonious color palettes are more soothing to look at, and tend to be Analogous colors (directly next to each other on the color wheel).

 

Here are some examples of my paintings with Complementary color schemes:

 



And here are some with Analogous color schemes:

 



When you're first starting out, I highly recommend that you begin with a limited palette. What does this mean?

Limited Palette

Choose just 2-3 colors for your painting. Limiting yourself like this has several good effects:

* Less chance of muddying your colors (over mixing and turning them brown/grey)

 

* Each color in your painting will be harmonious with the others, instead of clashing
 

* Limiting your palette can help you get over Overwhelm-Paralysis, where you just can't get started because there's too many options!
 


Here are some examples of my paintings where I chose only 2-3 colors and mixed those few colors to make all the colors you see in the paintings:

 You can choose the three primaries as your 3 colors! These means you'll have a wide range of colors, BUT it promises that all of your colors will match each other, instead of using a pre-mixed green or a pre-mixed purple that might clash with other colors you are mixing.

For the color wheel that I painted, I chose only 3 of my paints (Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, and Cadmium Yellow) to create all the other colors, even though I have all of the pre-mixed colors to the left ready to be used!

 
As you get started, I highly recommend that you create a color wheel of your own! This will get you used to mixing your colors and understanding how your paints work together.


Comment below and show me your color wheels or current paintings in progress! Do you have any questions about the colors you're using?

Talk to you soon!
~Holly


 

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