June 2006: Halves
After the Sketch
Color Theory, Part 2
Heraldry, Part 2; Color and Fur
Color Theory, Part 2Behind the Art
by Annie Rodrigue
Iím happy to start this second part of this Color Theories articles because now, weíre going to have fun with colors! I suggest that you get out your favorite medium and paper (or canvas) because weíre going to do some exercises. Some of you might not want or need to do them, but thatís okay too. Iíll show some clear examples for you all to follow.
First, I want to again include my color wheel guide for us refer too.
Some of you might remember my composition article a few months back. You might recall that I did mention that colors can be part of the composition. Let us dig a little deeper this time:
Monochromatic composition: A composition will be considered monochromatic when you are using a single color in your work and are simply using different values of this color to create shading.
Analogous composition: A composition will be considered analogous if you are using three colors of a same group on your color wheel (meaning colors next to each other). If you are new to painting and coloring, I strongly suggest starting with analogous colors when you work. Youíll always be sure that your colors will work together this way and you will be able to focus on figuring out how to shade your work. Remember that the smaller the color palette, the easier it is!
Achromatic composition: A composition is achromatic when there is no color in your work. Youíll only be using black, grays, and white.
Atmospheric perspective: I wasnít too sure in what section to put this one, but I think the composition section is the best place. You can create perspective with colors. I suggest going out on a sunny day and go someplace where youíll see from a long distance (maybe with trees and mountains). The first thing you should notice is how everything closer to you has much brighter colors than elements in the background. In fact, you might also say that elements in the background will look colder. They seem to have blue tones. Thatís atmospheric perspective. Our brain interprets these colder shades as elements that are far away from us.
Shading with Colors
I have to admit that this is my favorite part. I love shading! Letís take something really easy to shade: an red apple.
So you have a red apple and you want to add shadows to it. What color will you be using for your shadow? A darker shade of the same red color? Or another color? Letís try both and see what we like best!
Example 1: Shading with a darker and lighter value of the color.
When we change the value of a color, we either add black or white to this color. Shading with different values of a color isnít a bad method in itself. Itís the logical way to go because we are taught young that a shadow is black and that light is white. But this is not entirely true.
Example 2: Shading with hot and cold colors.
Letís try our same red apple with hot and cold colors for shadows and highlights! Even if we completely change a color when we put a shadow or a highlight, our brain understands whatís going on. It even looks more natural and vibrant that way!
The rule of thumb is: shadows = cold colors and highlights = hot colors.
Keep in mind that my apple example has very contrasting colors, but you can work with more subtle hues too. Instead of purple for the shadow, I could have used a mix of purple and red. As long as you feel that the hue you are using is hotter or colder than the middle tone, youíre in business!
Try observing everyday objects to see if the shadows and highlights are cold and hot colors. Some objects and elements will be more obvious than others. The first thing that comes into mind to me is snow: the snowís shadow is almost always blue and sometimes even purple! Another test: Light a candle in the dark and look at all the shades of colors on the candle. Youíll have a nice surprise!
1) First, I suggest painting a still life with only colors and absolutely no blacks. Create shadows and highlights with other colors, just like we did here with the apple. Use a simple object with a single and direct light source to start.
2) This second exercise is something I did myself in an art class: Try creating a painting made of only triangles. These triangles can only be colored in blues or greens. Try to create shapes and/or dimension with these two colors. Remember about hot and cold colors. You can get some hot greens (lime green) and colder greens (blue-green). Here is what I ended up doing in my class. See how the yellowish-greens triangles look closer to us than the blue triangles?
3) This third exercise is really easy: Take a look at magazines. Look for stylish publicity with limited colors palettes. Look for color compositions and study them. Maybe youíll even find pictures where youíll see cold colors for shadows and hot colors for highlights. Cut pictures that you feel like using for color references and build yourself a book of these references.
I hope this little overview of color theories and simple shading will be helpful to some of you! Keep in mind that colors like black and white (which arenít really colors) shouldnít be used to often in mixing. They will create dull hues and make less than vibrant shadows and highlights.
When you arenít too sure about what colors you should use in your work, stick to those basic color compositions and keep your color palette limited to no more than 5 or 6 colors. It will prevent you from getting overwhelmed with the millions of colors that paint or computer softwares can offer you.
Next month, weíll cover something completely different and try to see how we can create goblins, gnomes, and imps of our own!
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