Understanding Color for Realistic Painting, with Anna Mason

Understanding Color for Realistic Painting, with Anna Mason

Hi it’s Anna Mason. In this video I’m going
to have us think about colour and the way we need to understand it in order to achieve
realism in our paintings. Analysing colour it’s something that’s actually
pretty complex and it’s something that scientists have struggled with for years. But there are two aspects of colour that I think are especially important for learning how to paint it accurately. Tone and hue. The tone aspect of colour is how light or
dark it is, sometimes this is referred to as the colour’s value. It’s this aspect of colour that is absolutely
crucial to painting form and achieving 3D effects. Because of it’s role in creating form, I believe
tone is THE most important factor to consider in your paintings. The hue aspect of colour is pretty straight
forward. It’s what we usually think of when we use
the word colour – so this is whether the colour is, for example ‘green’ or ‘orange’. It’s possible for two colours to be very different in terms of hue, but the same in terms of tone. For example if we take a look at these two squares: Their hues are orange and green but if we
strip out hue, you can see that this orange and green
are actually the same tone. Only by capturing variations in both tone
and hue as we paint colour can we get a textured, realistic result. But I’ll say it again, so long as you have
your hues in the right kind of ballpark, it’s getting the tone right in your painting that
will give it realism, 3D effects and the WOW factor. There’s a complication we need to take account
of when we paint colour. It’s the fact that hue and tone are relative. In other words, the way we perceive colours
– both their hue and their tone – depends very much on the hues and tones we see around
them. Let’s take a look at these green squares. They are exactly the same colour
But viewed against a light tone they look a lot darker than they do against a darker
tone. And here against 2 different hues which are
the same tone. The green square surrounded by blue seems
to have a little more yellow and looks duller than the green square surrounded by red, where
the green appears more vibrant, lighter, and perhaps even a fraction more blue. So you can see that when we try to colour
match while we’re painting, it’s potentially really tricky until we’ve got all the colours
in place in the painting. And as we can’t paint everywhere at once,
I believe it’s best to work in layers, building up our paint gradually so that we can adjust
for tone and hue as we go. We can work on our light tones, dark tones
and midtones, before going into a phase of tonal adjustments where making an adjustment
to one area usually requires us to make an adjustment to another. As you practice observing your subjects closely
you’ll start to see that there’s a lot more going on with colour than first meets the
eye. For example most people when taking a casual
look at this hollyhock flower as they walked past it would say it was white, or at best
a creamy white. But actually when you look at it in lots of
detail you can see it’s petals actually contain pale greens, yellows, pinks and greys. It’s observing this nuanced colour detail
which will help give your paintings realism. And capturing all that colour variation is
made so much easier if you work larger than life, which is one of the reasons I love to
do that. I hope this has helped you start to understand
colour in the way you’ll need in order to inject realism into your paintings. If you’ve enjoyed this video, please subscribe
to my YouTube channel and I’d love it if you’d share this video with your friends. And if you’d like to take one of my tried
and tested video classes FOR FREE, hop on over to AnnaMasonArt.com where you’ll find
even more resources to help you pick up your brush and paint the way you’ve always wanted
to. Remember, you won’t improve your painting
unless you MAKE the time to paint. So be sure to schedule in some me-time this
week and paint something YOU love. Thanks so much for watching and I’ll see you
soon with another tip for creating watercolours with ‘wow’.


  • Learn Fine Arts says:

    Thank you so much I love your videos 🙂

  • 李小叶 says:

    Your blessed skill and compassion deserve way more attention.

  • Beth W says:

    Excellent breakdown of tone and hue

  • carole villeneuve says:

    I theoretically appreciate how value trumps hue in 'succeeding' a painting, but it's so hard to figure it out in practice when I'm alone in front of a painting. I find it's one of the biggest challenges to get it right. It's also fascinating how colour temperature also figures in the equation: maybe a good topic for one of your videos?

  • Robin Cooper says:

    I would love it if you did more videos on how to understand and use color.   Thank you for a great video!  Very understandable, even for a beginner.

  • ubraec alisen says:

    There are three color dimensions: hue, value, and chroma.

  • Mary Ellison says:

    That is so well explained. Thank you

  • Marion says:

    Dear Anna. I Love your video’s. The video’s are only to short so I went to a bookshop on internet yesterday to order your book The modern flower painter. It arrived today. What a beautiful book! It wil defenitly help me with my painting. I hope there wil be a follow up on this book.
    Greetings from a big fan in the Netherlands. 🎨

  • Doug Moore says:

    I always enjoy your value packed videos Anna. I'm always amazed at how the eyes and brain work to process the detail that we don't typically think about. Thanks for taking the time to do these videos.

  • John Patrick says:

    I am 71yrs young have been painting for years just love your videos. Anna you are sooo good at explaining. If only I would make more time to paint.

  • Spike O'Dell says:

    I am learning a LOT from you Anna. Thanks for your online help!

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