Friday, February 21, 2014

Colour value

This is another colour chart from the set I am reproducing, based on the split primary palette that I mostly use, along with another couple of colours I commonly use in paintings.   The dominant colour in this chart is cadmium red light, which is mixed with each of the other colours on my palette in the first box at the top of each row.  Each column has a progressively lighter value as it descends which is achieved by adding increasing amounts of titanium white to the paint mix.

Coming to grips with colour is one element of painting, but understanding colour values is as important, if not more so. Colour is complex and we often think of it as a hue only, without thinking how light or dark it should be and how to get it to the value we want without making a brown or grey mess. The same greyscale that is used in drawings works as effectively with colour in determining the overall value and where it sits on the scale.

If you convert an image of your painting and your subject into greyscale, you can see at a glance the value of the colours you have chosen, compared to what you are painting and know whether to lighten or darken them.  However, colour does play a role in how a painting is viewed and can become the pull even if the values aren't strong, or close in range.  Complementary colours often have this effect when they have similar value ranges but if converted to black and white, lose their visual strength.

By flipping the colour chart to greyscale, you can see more clearly the value of each colour and not get distracted by the colour itself. Simplifying every element of drawing and painting is a crucial step towards problem solving, which is what the creative process is all about.

The colours in this chart are not, except for the top row, saturated colours.  As white is introduced in increasing quantities the value lightens as well as cools and depending on the two colours mixed and their bias, can desaturate.  Saturated colours of primary and secondary mixes often have the strongest impact in a painting and can serve well alongside values to pull in the viewer with a brighter colour.