Terms Unique to Colour Theory

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1 Terms Unique to Colour Theory Learning the Vocabulary It is difficult to understand instructions unless one is familiar with the vocabulary. Academic terms are used in this text in the hope that it will enable the artist to study other manuals with better understanding. Accent: A colour added to an area to provide flow, coordination, extra interest or intensity. This colour is proportionately small. Chemistry: Refers to the ingredients in paint, special properties and compatibilities. For instance, oil based paints are not mixable with water based paints. Genesis Heat Set Oils are not mixable with any other paint since it is a unique formula. Colour Tonal Values: Each colour on the spectrum has a normal value in its original position on the colour wheel. 9/ White 8/ High Light Yellow 7/ Light: Yellow Green Yellow Orange 6/ Low Light Orange Red Orange 5/ Medium Red Green 4/ High Dark Blue Green Blue 3/ Dark Red Violet Blue Violet 2/ Low Dark Violet 1/ Black Complementary Colours: Colours that lie opposite each other on the colour wheel. Complement is defined as that which completes. In each instance, the complementary colours form the three primaries. For instance, Red s complement is green which is made by mixing yellow and blue. Violet, composed of blue and red, is complementary to yellow. Blue s complement is orange and orange is yellow and red. Fugitive: Describes a colour that is not stable and is subject to change under stress and time elements. Glaze. A thin layer of transparent paint applied over a dried underpainting. Veiling is synonymous with glazing. Antiquing is a decorative form of glazing. Also refers to the extender used to make an opaque colour more transparent. A glazing medium may be thin or it may be in gel form. High Key: A painting that is composed predominantly of the values ranging from Value 5 and upward to Value 9. Hue: Is the proper name of a colour and also denotes the family of the colour. These twelve families are: Yellow, Yellow- Orange, Orange, Red-Orange, Red, Red Violet, Violet, Blue Violet, Blue, Blue Green, Green, and Yellow Green. When formed in a circle these become a color wheel. Intensity: The relative brightness or dullness of a colour describes its intensity. Chroma and intensity are synonymous. Intensity is independent of value since a colour can be bright and dark (violet) or light and bright (yellow). Conversely it can be dull and light (tan) or dull and dark (umber). Intensity is that dimension of colour that is often the difference in achieving the loud colour of a gypsy wagon or the quiet interior of a Wyeth painting. Low Key: Dark paintings are referred to as being low key. The values ranging from Value 5 downward to Value 1 are used in the highest percentage. Medium: Refers to the type of paint used. For example: oil, alkyd, acrylic, watercolour, gouache, heat set oils, etc. Also denotes a value that is mass tone, local colour or body tone. Neighbor: The colour that rests directly above or below a pure colour on the colour wheel. Neutralized Colours: A colour is neutralized by the addition of any of the following: Gray, Black, White, Earth Tone, Complement or with a colour that is already toned. A glaze may also be used to neutralize a bright colour. Opaque: Denotes a colour that is dense and has good covering power. An opaque paint will block out any value tones underneath Palette: Can be the surface on which colours are arranged and mixed or the colours used to mix other colours. We adhere to a fairly basic palette with some special colours introduced when they cannot be mixed because of unusual chemistry. This basic palette is listed on Page 4. Permanent: Denotes colours that will not fade or change under normal conditions. The permanency rating of a colour is usually supplied by the manufacturer or can be obtained by request. Page 1

2 Pigment: The dry powdered colouring agent that is added to give paint its colour. Pigment is the same in all media. Primary: Primary means first. All colours originate from these three primaries. There are two types of primaries and we use a mixing primary of red, yellow and blue. A visual color wheel uses different primaries. They are red, yellow and green. Primary colours cannot be mixed but are manufactured. We use Genesis Yellow, Genesis Red, and Ultramarine Blue as standard primaries. Pure Colours: The twelve colours as they appear around the circle of the colour wheel are defined as pure or raw colours. Secondaries: The secondary colours are mixed by combining primaries. Thus, red and yellow create orange; yellow and blue produce green; and red and blue (theoretically) create violet. A pure violet will not result when red and blue are mixed because of the chemistry in red pigment. Quinacradone Crimson is used instead of red. Temperature: The hues on the colour wheel that range from yellow-green to red are considered to be warm colours. The colours ranging from red-violet to green are naturally cool colours. However, the temperature can be manipulated by adding a warm tone to the cool colours and vice versa. Chemistry is a joker here since adding red or yellow to blue would not warm the colour but shift it to a different family (violet or green). Therefore a warm blue such as Cerulean Blue or Pthalo Blue are substituted. Adding crimson cools Red. White cools any colour. Tertiary: The contemporary definition of tertiary refers to the combination of a primary and its neighboring secondary. This is sometimes referred to as an intermediate tone in some colour manuals. There are six tertiary colours. These are a mixture of two parts of one hue and one part of the neighboring hue. The first part of the name defines which side of the colour wheel family dominates. Yellow Green, Blue Green, Blue Violet, Red Violet, Red Orange and Yellow Orange. Thinning Medium: A product used to make a paint transparent or more fluid. The chemistry of Genesis paints requires that the paint should not be thinned more than 40%. In other words, 60% of the paint must be used in order for the paint to dry when heat set. Transparent: Pigments in transparent paints have been separated with an extender to allow the light to partially pass through thus exposing some of the colour or value underneath. A colour may be transparent by nature or it may be manufactured to be transparent. Turning Colour: This is a colour that is placed on the blending line between the dark and medium values. The value and temperature is turning from medium to dark, from warm to cool. Also may be referred to as a burnishing colour. Value: This is the term used to define shades of gray, plus black and white. Value is also used to evaluate the degree of lightness or darkness of a colour. The terms value and tone are synonymous. Value is the most important aspect of a painting since it is the values used that will create the form, dimension, mood, rhythm and emphasis. The scale that is used as a measurement of these tones is composed of nine gradations. White is the lightest and Black is the darkest. There are seven shades in between. Although the eye can discern many more tones between black and white, these nine are the standard reference for artists, architects, printers and photographers. In the colour vocabulary there is dual reference to the nine grays. The Prang system uses words and the Munsell system uses numbers. Munsell Prang 9/ White 8/ High Light 7/ Light 6/ Low Light 5/ Middle 4/ High Dark 3/ Low Dark 2/ Dark 1/ Black Page 2

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4 How to Mix Colour We have successfully taught a value scale method of mixing colours for several years. There is a sequence that begins with describing the colour you want by naming its hue, value, and intensity. You will notice that in the colour formulae given in each colour plan the mixing begins with the medium value. The exception to this is when the medium value is very dark. Then it is more efficient to work up from the lowest value. Medium value (also called mass tone, body tone, or local colour) is established first. This value can be light or dark, dull or bright, warm or cool. It depends on where it is to be used. Since this mixture will establish the dimension and importance of the object it should be tested on the surface where it is to be used. Optically it may appear correct on the palette but the surrounding and background colours affect how it appears visually. Light values are mixed next. These are not only lighter in value but also become progressively brighter and warmer. If the object is large, three or more values may be required. A small object may only need one light value. Dark mixes are not only darker in value but become progressively cooler and duller. One to three dark values may be needed depending upon the size of the object or space. When mixing the high dark values for fruits and flowers be cautious about over neutralizing this tone. It is important that the high dark be warm and fairly bright. This will keep the fruit or flower living. When the colours are too dull this essence is lost. How we wish we could formulate mixes to say 3 parts TW to 1 part UB. It doesn t work that way unless circumstances are strictly controlled. The mixture changes optically once it is applied and if any of the conditions change, such as a different background or personal choice, then the mixture must be adapted. Once again, train the eye to see and the brain to analyze if the colour is appropriate. Steps to mixing a colour: Step One: The medium value or body tone is mixed first The colour family of the object is the first consideration. (These are the pure colours on the colour wheel.) Step Two: Value is the next consideration. The value is raised by adding white, gray, lighter neighboring colour or a lighter earth tone. The value is lowered by adding black, darker gray, darker neighbor colour or a dark earth tone. In each of the above additions, not only the value changes but coincidentally so does the intensity. Step Three: Intensity is usually the next consideration. Lower the intensity by adding black, white, gray, earth tone or complement. Temperature needs to be taken into account. Refer to Temperature in the vocabulary section. The colours may need to be adjusted. This may require a few more steps to achieve the colour. Has the colour shifted into another family? Did the value change when the mix was neutralized? Overneutralizing can be corrected by adding the pure hue that created the colour family. Finally, analyze how the colour looks in the composition Once the medium value is determined to be appropriate, then mix the lighter and darker values using the guidelines in the beginning of this section. Page 4

5 Colour Characteristics Every painting medium has peculiarities that require study and understanding. This discussion focuses on Genesis Heat Set Oils but the theory is consistent throughout most media. The colours presented are pure pigment colours with the exception of the earth tones, grays and flesh. The following information generally translates to other media, only the labels and technique change. Please refer to the conversion chart on Page 6. Bismuth Yellow: This is a great substitute for Yellow Light. Yellow does not remain intense if white is added and this colour is necessary when a yellow needs to be raised in value yet remain strong and bold. Particularly good for final shines on brass, copper and gold. Genesis Yellow: This is a very bright yellow. As with most yellows, it may turns green when painted on very dark backgrounds. A second coating will overcome this tendency. Mixes well with blues and blacks to produce intense greens. The tendency toward shifting to green is controlled by slowly adding small touches of red in the light areas and crimson or burnt sienna to the dark areas. Diarylide Yellow: Very close to yellow orange and when mixed with Genesis Red it produces a very strong orange. Because of its orange tendency this colour neutralizes when mixed with Ultramarine Blue. Genesis Red: This has a tinge of blue that must be considered when mixing with Genesis Yellow to make a secondary orange. A more true orange can be mixed with Diarylide Yellow. This colour becomes very cold when white is added, therefore yellow is routinely introduced in the lighter tones. Quinacradone Crimson: In the same league as Alizarin Crimson. A somewhat transparent colour when used alone. Produces very intense violets when mixed with Ultramarine Blue. Tends to become very brilliant when white is added. Can best be subdued with earth tones or grays. The complement, yellow, tends to turn this tone towards golden bronzes. This paint tends to turn to violet when neutralized with black or grays. Ultramarine Blue: Admittedly this is not a true blue but is certainly cost effective when compared to cobalt blue. The slight violet tinge does not prevent it from producing intense greens. As white is added to this hue the intensity brightens immensely. It is best subdued with burnt umber or burnt sienna as raw sienna may shift the mix into the green family. Pure red and crimson are good choices for raising the value when intensity is desired. Neutralize with black or gray for easiest results. Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue also produce a semi-transparent black that is a good glazing colour. Burnt Umber: A necessary paint on every palette. It is a good solid neutralizer but does have a tendency to turn green when used with yellows. This is a good colour to use when mixing neutral blues. Works best in dark areas because it tends to cool and darken light tones. The addition of raw sienna in light areas will provide neutral warmth Burnt Sienna: This colour can be mixed with burnt umber and red but is a wonderful convenience colour to have on the palette. This will warm light areas, makes good bronze tones and when a good neutralizer when mixed with blue. Warms light areas without brightening them. Raw Sienna: Has a slight greenish cast and is semi-transparent. Makes a good glazing colour for that reason. Mix with Ultramarine Blue for a dark transparent green that is very close to olive green. Pthalo Blue: A very intense warm blue that leans to the warm side. Works well in warming light blue. Ultramarine Blue cannot be warmed without shifting it into the violet or green family, therefore Pthalo Blue is on the palette to be used as a warm blue. Genesis Gray Scales: Values 02 through Value 08 are conveniently packaged in jars. These mixes do lean slightly to the blue side. Add a small amount of burnt umber to control this tendency as needed. We find them indispensable. Genesis Flesh Mixes: These mixes are also scaled from 02 through 08 and work well as warm neutralizers for blues and umbers. Magenta 01: This is a very brilliant red violet. As with other violets it does become more intense when white is added. Gray values used as neutralizers may shift this colour into the blue violet range. Mars Black: This is our black of choice. We could discern no great difference between Mars and Carbon black. When mixed with white it produces a gray that has a slight hint of blue. Titanium White: This is a creamy opaque white. We prefer this to Flake White but can give no specific reason for this preference. We have rejected flake white in other brands because of the toxicity but in Genesis this is not a factor. Page 5

6 All Colour is Optical No colour is ugly. It becomes ugly or beautiful depending on how it is used. Helen Van Wyk Colour Surprise Many times a colour is absolutely beautiful when you analyze it on your palette. Don t fall in love with it until you test it on the project. Because all colour is optical! M. E. Chevreul was a French artist/colourist who devoted his lifetime (and he lived to be 103) to a study of colour. His goal was to make colour understandable and practical to both painters and craftsman. Hence he wrote myriads of observations and rules concerning the theory and use of colour. Simplification is always difficult \. However, we have gleaned through his books and are including those theories that are of most importance to decorative artists. Let s begin by understanding that all colour is optical. The colour you mix can optically change from the palette to how it is going to be used. The eye must be trained to see colour accurately and the brain must be used to create colour accurately. This comes only with practice and focusing on colour. The information in this book is meant to point the student in the right direction. Ultimately you must do the work. These are but a few of Chevreul s discoveries: green card is optically much stronger than the red on the Russet card. A warm colour will appear warmer when it is placed against a cool colour. Conversely, a cool colour will appear cooler when it is placed against a warm colour. We need two cards again. One painted with orange and the other with blue. Place a bit of Genesis Yellow on each card and then a swatch of Ultramarine Blue on each card. Observe how the temperature and intensity changes. Close value contrast recedes. Light values recede on light background. Dark values fade out on dark backgrounds. The same illusion happens when a near middle value is placed on a medium value background. Value contrast advances. The opposite occurs when light is placed in front of a dark background and dark is positioned against the light. This disproves a commonly held theory that dark recedes and light comes forward. All light colors appear most striking against black. Paint two index cards one black and one white. Observe how a colour (Genesis Yellow for example) appears much stronger on the black card versus the white card. All dark colours appear most striking against white. Using the same cards, paint a swatch of Genesis Red on each card and observe. Dark colours upon light colours appear darker than on dark colours. Paint two cards. One with a light gray and the other with a dark gray. Put a bit of red on each. Doesn t the red appear darker on the light gray? Light colours upon dark colors appear lighter than on light colours. On the same two cards apply swatches of yellow. Doesn t the yellow look lighter on the dark card? When a pure colour is placed against a neutralized colour, the contrast will be the strongest when the dull colour is the complement of the light colour. Paint one card with DecoArt Russett and the other card with DecoArt Kelly Green. Swatch with Genesis Red. The red on the Wide value contrasts divide. Value can be used to separate as well. This illusion can be useful when creating a focal area or to create drama or depth in a composition. Close value contrast unites. Strong value contrast pulls the eye to a particular section of a composition and close value contrast will guide the eye to the next element. Consider how the eye is able to track easily up and down the value scale without distraction. Use this principle to add rhythm and flow to a composition. Close values act as a bridge from one portion to the next to create harmony. Close temperature unites. When attempting to minimize or recede elements in a composition, warm temperatures will recede against warm background. Logically, cool temperatures will recede on cool backgrounds. Wide temperatures divide. Warm temperature colours will come forward on cool backgrounds, while cool temperatures will advance on warm backgrounds. (Note: The background is not always your surface colour. The object behind an element can become a background.) Page 6

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