When I first began painting some 10 years ago, I recall how intimidating it all seemed. With all of the various colours, mediums, brushes and other tools available, it was enough to make my head spin. While learning about the various brushes and mediums was a bit confusing, the biggest challenge for me was how to accurately depict nature and other real-life objects on canvas using colour.
How do I make a colour lighter or darker? What about making realistic shadows or highlights? This article will shed some colourful light on the situation, and with practice, working with colour in your oil paintings will become easier and more enjoyable.
Thank God for the beautiful Sun, for without it, we would not see colour. Everything would appear dark and colourless.
Thankfully, the light from the Sun also travels in a straight line. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t have the wonderful variety of light and shadow that makes everything so enjoyable to paint.
If you take an apple for instance and put it outside in the grass in the sunlight, you will notice several different values that the light creates when shining on the apple.
You have the main overall tone of the apple, the shadow on the apple, the cast shadow, reflection from nearby objects like the green grass and the sky, and highlights. Our job as painters is to accurately depict these values on canvas using colour.
Colour-Mixing Simplified – Acrylic & Oil Painting Lesson
There are so many different oil colours on the market today. All of these different colours come from the six colours that make up the spectrum – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet.
Colours have four main properties – value, intensity, temperature and hue. The value of a colour refers to how light or dark a colour is. The intensity of a colour refers to how bright or dull it is – also known as the saturation or purity of a colour. If you used yellow straight from the tube, it would have a higher intensity then if you mixed it with white. The temperature refers to how warm or cool the colour is. Colours range in temperature from warm yellows and oranges to cool blues and violets. Finally, the hue is just another word for colour. An apple and a cherry are both hues of red.
Colour mixing is not an exact science. Artists have different formulas and methods for mixing and applying paint, so the following tips are general guidelines and not necessarily rules that must be followed.
When mixing colours don’t over mix. Over mixing a colour will take the life out of it.
Colour Theory Basics Video
To create highlights in your paintings, use white with a touch of the objects complementary colour. There are some exceptions, however. When painting highlights on certain objects like brass for instance, which can be depicted on canvas using yellow, making a light yellow tinted with white can create a convincing highlight.
Cast shadows of objects are complementary to the colour that the shadow is cast upon. For instance, the cast shadow of a red apple on a blue tablecloth would be orange.
To get any desired colour, try to mix as few colours as possible. Try to keep the overall theme of your painting either warm or cool. Again, colour mixing is not an exact science. If you survey 10 artists and ask them various questions about mixing oil paint, you will likely get many different answers. My advice is to keep painting and practising until you develop your own formulas and techniques that you are comfortable with.
Happy Painting and God Bless!
How to Match Any Color with Oil Paint