Making your own Paint Reference Cards
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Making your own Paint Reference CardsBehind the Art
by Melissa Acker
A paint reference card is really handy to have around, and when you make your own you also learn a lot about your paint. I'll run through some ideas for different cards you can make and keep in your studio. It might take an afternoon to make one, but then you have it around forever!
You can make a paint card to test just about anything your paint does. Whether it's transparency, staining, mixing, or granulation. Here's one card I made to test a couple different things:
This is a page of watercolor strips. The leftmost column is the original, full-strength color. The black strip is to test transparency and opacity, you can see the yellow ochre at the bottom actually shows up on top of the black. Next is another strip of full color, then a strip to test staining ability. I scrubbed it with a toothbrush to see which colors dyed the paper more than others. And the last group shows each color going from light to dark.
Here's another page of watercolor strips:
I've taken one color, winsor blue, and laid down a row, mixing it with all my other colors. I've got pages of these, going through almost all my palette. These are extremely helpful when planning out compositions and troubleshooting color problems in paintings. Color mixing sheets are one of the most useful reference sheets.
You can make test sheets of all kinds of techniques in watercolor as well. Try comparing how different paints react to salt, or how one paint reacts differently to salt, rubbing alcohol and sprayed water. You can also drop paint of one color into a pool of another color and see how they react to each other. Some paints are very 'aggressive' and will spread into other colors. Others are more granular than others -- that means that they form a sort of texture when they dry because of the kinds of pigments used in them.
These examples have both been with watercolors, but you can make reference cards with any medium! Here's a colored pencil example:
The left column is the original color, and the next three are patches blended with different techniques: one with white, one with a colorless blender, and one with a clear marker. Not only does it show how each pencil reacts to each technique, but also how opaque the pencil is. I have a page of these on six different colors of paper.
Whenever you feel like painting but don't know what to paint, just take a small piece of paper or canvas and start to play. Keep a folder or binder full of these pages to thumb through whenever you need inspiration or have a tricky situation you're dealing with. You'll be glad you did!
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