Color Mixing in Oil Paint with a Chromatic Triad (3 Primary Colors)

Color Mixing in Oil Paint with a Chromatic Triad (3 Primary Colors)


Welcome to my studio! I’m just about to
do a little color mixing today. I’ve been working on this painting using gray
tones, which is called painting in grisaille and soon I’d like to start adding
color. I’m using this coffee cup as inspiration for the color of the walls
in the painting, so today I’m going to start out by trying to match that color.
The cup is a pale blueish-green reminiscent of celadon pottery or the
verdigris patina that happens when copper oxidizes, like the roof details on
this building right across from my Manhattan apartment, which was actually
my inspiration for getting dishes in this color. It’s a common color scheme
for 18th-century interiors, which fits with my historical research for this
painting. I’m working by a window because I find that I can see color most
accurately in natural light. I have just a few oil paints set out, three primary
colors, red, blue and yellow, plus white. In this exercise, I’m trying to mix the
local color, the actual substance that the cup is made out of, rather than the
shadows and highlights that are caused by the light falling on it.
Pthalo blue, which is this pigment here, is very strong, so I just want to add a tiny
little bit. So it’s a little bit light and it’s still not green enough, so I’m
going to take just a little bit more of the blue to darken it down a little bit.
Hansa yellow is fairly strong as well, so I’m going to mix the white and
the yellow together so that I don’t end up mixing too much into the original
mixture of blue and white, which is fairly close already to the color of the
cup. All right, I’ll take a little scrape of this and add it into my blue mixture.
It’s possibly a little bit light still. So here I’ll add a little more of the
blue back into the mixture to darken it a little bit. I’m also going to mix the
red with a little bit of white, and this is in case I need to neutralize the
mixture. There’s the hue, so is it red, orange,
yellow, green, blue, or violet. And then there’s value, which is how light or dark
the color is, and then there’s chroma. And I’ve also heard this called “chromatic
intensity” or “intensity” or “saturation,” and this is how much color there is in the
mixture versus how much gray. So how neutral it is or how intense it is. So in
order to neutralize something, you can either add a neutral to it, another way
you can do it is by adding the complement or the near complement. Green
is the complement of red, or red is the complement of green in this case.
So if you add red to green, it will neutralize the green. So I’m going to
just check this again. It looks just about the right value, the lightness or
darkness, but it needs a little bit more yellow in it. To me it’s looking very
close, but it feels a little bit too colorful, a little bit too saturated.
It looks like just about the right value, it’s not too dark, but it has too much
vibrancy to the color, so too much chroma. So I’m going to add just a tiny
bit of this red mixture. I’m going to try, just dab a little bit. It looks a little
bit light. First I’m gonna just mix these three together to make a color that kind
of takes it in the direction that I want it to go. What I’ve made is kind of a
grayish-green, kind of a darker version of this.
All right, now I’m gonna take most of that and this and mix them together. That
way I have some left over that I can lighten this mixture with if I find that
I’ve taken it too far. And I have the feeling that I went a little too far,
possibly neutralized it a little bit too much. So I’m not gonna touch the red now, because
I know I need to bring it back to be a little bit more chromatic, a little bit
more saturated. And I definitely don’t want to make it any darker, so I want
to lighten this mixture up. A lot of mixing is just going back and forth and
back and forth, and I’m not sure how entertaining it is to watch, but you have
to go first to one side and then to the other, and finally you find the right balance.
So this is a little bit darker than this, and I want to keep it the same value. So
what I want to do is mix a little bit of this and a little bit of this together. I’ll just add a little bit more white. So I’m
gonna take some of this mixture, and again I’m keeping some in
reserve, and some of this. Mixing this way with three very strong intense primaries
can be a little bit tricky. You need to have a lot of control in order to make
the corrections in the right amount and not swing wildly from one extreme to the
other, but the advantage is, it’s a very simple palette, and you can achieve a
wide range of colors just with these three pigments, because the hues are
fairly evenly spaced around the color wheel and they’re very strong. So I think
it looks pretty good. In future videos I’ll show various pathways of mixing
this color or similar colors, as I kind of refine the exact shade that I want
for this project. Now, I’m not going to be saving my paint mixture for future use
except in the form of a swatch. So I’ve painted out a swatch here both on gray
and on white, and I’ll be referring to that as I adjust this mixture. I’m kind
of using the coffee cup as a starting point, and then I’m going to refine the color
from there based on further experiments. And when I get the color right, what I
want to do is paint the walls of a small scale model that I’m making, so that
I can set that up in front of a window and do a color study from it, that I can
then refer to as I add color to my painting

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