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Color: A Course in Mastering the Art of Mixing Colors


Lastman
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This idea might take a lot of people who haven't been to art school to the next level. If hue, value, intensity, and choosing colors that go well together are not second nature to you, then this $10 book is a must.

 

"Color: A Course in Mastering the Art of Mixing Colors" by Dr. Betty Edwards

 

It starts simply with instructions to make a color wheel of hues but then has exercises to train the eye to recognize value and intensity. (There's a value wheel and intensity wheel too... who knew?!)

 

It requires:

1. paint

2. inexpensive card stock. Card stock comes in reams like printer paper in various weights. 67 lb. is thin enough to go through my printer (110 lb. might be too thick). There's a color wheel template in the book that gets copied onto the card stock.

 

So buy the book, read it, do the exercises, and post.

 

This stuff seems rudimentary but I don't think most people understand it as well as possible, certainly not to the point where mixing colors and pairing them well are second nature.

 

 

Later, WIP shots will facilitate discussion, but it'll be something like:

 

"I'm having trouble with the difference between value and intensity because black seems like it should be at the end of the intensity scale too. (pg 32 and ch. 6 & 7)"

 

or

 

"this armor is not simply blue, it's blue/green, so what's the best choice for the cloak"

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I'm in the first couple chapters, not up to the exercises yet. But I remember doing very similar ones in school. Edwards' book on drawing is absolutely the best as well.

 

I never thought of having to switch back and forth- from right brain (painting) to left brain (mixing), but it's a very good point. I know she's right, because I get really frustrated if my brush is clogged, or the paint keeps drying up. Once I get into that right brain mode I don't want to switch out. Probably why I like the wet pallete, I can stay in the zone easier.

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On the theories:

On canvas with oil, you would just as easily designate a corner as the palette and paint into it. Nevertheless, as acrylics are perishable, I know very many who have their palettes mixed ahead of time. This affords them the luxury of painting, and if their creative side needs to fill in the gap, it is easier to do.

 

The easiest part about MSPs is that it is a pre-made palette with colors already mixed. However, if you do mix these further, or mix your own paints, it is always good to keep the surface misted every so often to make sure they do not dry. A wet palette is a good idea, and should be researched by whosoever might not have extended periods to paint.

 

One of the more difficult things about MSPs is that since it is a pre-made palette, it doesn't afford exacting information for everyone to see perfectly what the complimentary color is, or if there is a possibility of shade substitution.

 

In addition, some MSPs are more transparent then others and even ones that seem genuinely opaque are actually semi-opaque. The translucency comes into effect when blending tones, and also causes some colors to react more with adding a lighter brightness (say pure white) or a darker value (say pure black), or even when mixing purer tones. With these less opaque colors, a little of a pure pigment goes a lot farther than if mixed with a more heavier pigmented color.

 

I admit I have not looked thoroughly to see if a list of the MSPs exist with the translucent values, but knowing your paints will help if you are trying to determine primary and/or contrasting colors for the mini.

 

On the book:

I do not dispute the science behind the color wheel, but many have problems thinking of colors in terms of science. For these folks, consider that Newton was given the credit of inventing the color wheel we know today. However, the Sistine chapel was painted between 1508 to 1512. This was 200 years before Newton's wheel. Not to say there was no science to it, but it was more of an unscientific work compared to today.

 

Therefore, color theories are excellent, but never try to hold to absolutes (they are not color laws). Particularly don't if the colors don't "feel" right, or there's something that compromises the aesthetic values of the work. If it makes sense to your mind - do that, but I only use the color wheel more for a loose guideline. I suggest anyone tries that if you do not "get" the science behind it.

 

For those that do not have access to the book, a general idea of the topics can be found here. Although the book covers a great deal more, this may serve as a web accessible alternative.

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On Anne's advice, I bought the book and loved it. Better understood why I like certain things other painters do. Color theory I understand at a deep level from years of color correcting photos, but pigments throw that a little bit of a curve. And then there is the subject of why certain colors work so well together and why some only almost work. Been buying books with works from the old masters to better understand their use of color. Made a big difference on my last piece, instead of being satisfied with it, I love it!

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Slop, if you want to play with colors that are more "pure" pigment, get the Clear Colors. They were designed to be as close as possible to the pure colors. You might want to get the Primary and Secondary colors, and the Pure White, Pure Black and Rainy Gray. Rainy Gray is meant to be a 50% gray.

 

On the other hand, white in MSP is very opaque.

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Slop, if you want to play with colors that are more "pure" pigment, get the Clear Colors. They were designed to be as close as possible to the pure colors. You might want to get the Primary and Secondary colors, and the Pure White, Pure Black and Rainy Gray. Rainy Gray is meant to be a 50% gray.

 

On the other hand, white in MSP is very opaque.

Yep my friend, I have them all. Gotta love the MSPs. ::D:

 

Yet you touched on something perfect! The clear colors are indeed the pure colors. Unfortunately, they are see through (as the semi-opaque) I mentioned earlier. After a little thinning they do make a nice ink/wash that's not as stark as using the inks. ::):

 

Are the primary and secondaries in the MSPs listed? I've been unable to find it. :huh:

 

 

On Anne's advice, I bought the book and loved it. Better understood why I like certain things other painters do. Color theory I understand at a deep level from years of color correcting photos, but pigments throw that a little bit of a curve. And then there is the subject of why certain colors work so well together and why some only almost work. Been buying books with works from the old masters to better understand their use of color. Made a big difference on my last piece, instead of being satisfied with it, I love it!
An awesome part for me is working with the "After Images" and psychology of how a blue can make one feel cold, or sad, or both. Granted with miniatures its a much smaller canvas, so the exaggeration must be enhanced, but I just love that schtuff! :blush:
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Colors are transparent in MSP's *mostly* in accordance with the pigment used, and more pigment does not necessarily mean more coverage--I can oversaturate pthalo blue pigment into a clear base and it still won't cover, folks. Pigments from highest-coverage to lowest-coverage are, roughly:

 

1. White (the lighter the color, the greater the coverage)

2. Red Oxide (vivid reddish brown used in Rust Brown and many others to intensify)

3. Brown Oxide (duller mid-tone brown)

4. Yellow Ochre

5. Black

6. Red

7. Pthalo Green

8. Yellow (orange shade)

9. Raw Umber (dark "dirty" brown used in the first Bone triad and some Olives)

10. Pthalo Blue

11. Magenta

12. Yellow (green shade)

 

In truth, numbers 7-12 are all of a very similar (weak) opacity. You also have to throw the monkey wrench of Science in there, because our paint company's lab has managed to turn out the newer pigments used in our colored bases which give blue and red a lot more strength than they normally have...but those formulas are proprietary, so I can't give you the science, sadly. ::):

 

A word on Betty's book: She is absolutely right that there are no pure spectrum pigment colors other than yellow, and we can't even get that pure yellow here to mix with. From what I have seen of other miniatures paint lines, they're in the same boat. You can get close with the Clear Brights (close enough, many would say who don't want to use two reds, two yellows, two blues!).

 

--Anne ::):

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Interesting thing. At MegaCon this year, we had snap-pots with Primary and Secondary clear colors, the liner colors, flesh, two metals, white and black. We also had a full set of Reaper MSP on the tables.

 

One thing I found was that as long as people had those sets ready to had, they were pretty content. It helped my crew a lot, saving them from the eternal, "Does someone have a flesh color? Where's the silver?" issues. They could spend their time helping people and policing the area, rather than running around looking for paint.

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In truth, numbers 7-12 are all of a very similar (weak) opacity. You also have to throw the monkey wrench of Science in there, because our paint company's lab has managed to turn out the newer pigments used in our colored bases which give blue and red a lot more strength than they normally have...but those formulas are proprietary, so I can't give you the science, sadly. ::):

Nor I doubt anyone here would want the formulas, or they would not be supporting Reaper. Once a paint line gives out too much information, and the paint line is dead as its easily deconstructed and duplicated. Also, manufactures (in this case the lab) may disclose their pigments and process to the VAR, but even the exact process and mixing of their bases are their own trade secrets (for the same reasons). Usually when displaying swatches, a "mask" is incorporated when displaying the visual representation of the color. It gives the eye the information that is needed, but the exact, specific color may not be represented. Hence I understand the information that may not be "technical", but is good enough for "all practical purposes". :rock:

 

There is an old joke about Zeno's paradox - A man and a woman stand on opposite sides of the room. They approach each other halfway and stop. Then they approach another fourth and stop. Than an eighth, and then a sixteenth, and so on. Each time they cut the distance they travel in half. The question is "Will they ever meet?" The joke answer is "Technically 'No', but they will get close enough for all 'practical' purposes." :lol:

 

That being said I expect not to ask for anything 'technical', but I am curious as to a 'practical' view of the colors. There are primary colors on a wheel, and primary colors in a palette. The wheel is educational as it gives demonstrative attitudes and matching. However, since the wheel color of "yellow" may not match exact MSPs colors of "yellow", this may not be exact matching approach. Based on this, are there colors in the MSP line most representative of the "recognized" colors on a wheel? :huh:

 

Much like - if not exactly like - paintbynumber's

... which triads are the best complements and split complements of each other...
As it seems the transparency/opacity focus is out.

 

In that vein, are there core colors that can be "mixed" to produce the other colors in the MSP line, or is this touching into the taboo arena? :unsure:

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>>>

Pigments from highest-coverage to lowest-coverage are, roughly:

>>>

 

Riiiiight...But you've got 180 colors consisting of _mixtures_ of all those pigments.

 

I'm one of those people who sometimes has a difficult time looking at a color and determining that it is on the green side, or the blue side...

***

 

What's "VAR" and what country does it refer to?

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I'm one of those people who sometimes has a difficult time looking at a color and determining that it is on the green side, or the blue side...
I hear that! "Nightshade Purple" has a lot of red in it and "Amethyst Purple" actually looks like a saturated blue. Is "Imperial Purple" a true purple? Is it a Blue-violet? What is its true counterbalance?

 

Also, it is easy to see that each "base color" in a triad has a highlight and a shade. More often than not, the highlight pulls toward one direction of the spectrum, and the shade moves in the other. This adds a more natural flow to the triad, but makes it even harder to match compliments wheel wise. ^_^

 

What's "VAR" and what country does it refer to?
VAR = Value Added Reseller. Wal-Mart (essentially) buys "Peter Pan" peanut butter then puts their "Great Value" label on it. Things like that. :poke:

 

I am in no way comparing MSPs to Wal-Mart, Peanut butter, or anything "generic"... I thought I better specify this. ::):

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Update July 19, 2007:

- Copying the color wheel template from p. 50 onto card stock is much easier and faster than tracing onto illustration board by hand. Bonus = now I have a whole ream of card stock ($10) to use on other projects.

 

- Like Dr. Betty says, Do Not thin paints for these exercises.

 

- I bought a $5 pack of Liquitex artist colors from a craft store in little snap-tops that match her list in the book almost exactly (the green is lighter). This way I don't have to figure out which RMS paints are Cadmium Red or Ultramarine Blue etc. And it saves my expensive RMS and Vallejo for figures.

 

- Color wheel painted p. 51, easy, I knew this well already.

 

- Value wheel painted p. 61, pretty easy once I stopped being sloppy. It's a gray-scale (in wheel format) that goes from white, gray (5 shades), to black. This was very educational as it revealed that you don't need to buy many different grays. A non-welled palette or wet palette would make this especially easy.

 

- Best exercise so far pg. 65, two color value wheels = taking white to dark blue on one wheel, taking dark blue to black on another wheel. This is like making every triad. I'm doing it for every color on the color wheel for practice. This exercise seems like the one to drill until you run out of card stock color wheel templates. So far it looks like I have every triad of every color I've done so far, but honestly I wouldn't want to mix every color I need from scratch during a painting session.

 

- Pics at this point would be boring. They are just like the paint sample strips at the hardware store-- but mine have errors! These exercises are worth the effort as they reveal what you really don't understand and need to practice. With some colors, my white-to-pure-hue gradient is smoother, and others my pure-hue-to-black gradient is smoother.

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In that vein, are there core colors that can be "mixed" to produce the other colors in the MSP line, or is this touching into the taboo arena? :unsure:

 

Well, sure there are! That's half of what the Clear Brights are for! ::D: And the Clear Brights are as close as you'll come to matching color wheel values, too. The only pigments I don't have pure representations for in the line at the moment are our brown oxide and raw umber (umber is sooooo transparent and tends to create chemical imbalances in our clear bases when heavily saturated, so no raw umber MSP yet). Clear Red, Clear Orange, Clear Yellow, Clear Green, Clear Blue, and Clear Magenta are very close to pure pigments in a clear or similarly-colored base. We have two clear purples, the purple and the plum, one more blue and one more red, because we were matching specific colors from other lines. You'd be best off mixing your color wheel purple to taste from the Clear Blue and Clear Magenta.

 

Keep in mind that our pigments are not artist pigments; I have no Alizarin Crimson, no Ultramarine or Cobalt Blue, none of that. Reaper uses a more generalized palette, and thus I am very limited as to what I can do as far as matching some of the great artist hues out there. I may be able to match the color, for example, but the transparency and dispersion won't be the same as the true artist's pigment. This is what I've done with the Ultramarine Blues, for example.

 

SO, to stay on topic, the point of all this is that you can get close but not precise matches for the colors Betty is using in her book. ::): I was working up matches to help a friend who wanted to know which MSP's related best to the book colors but I don't own some of the artists' paints she names so I didn't have a good sample. Though Clear Red when thinned is identical to Alizarin Crimson when thinned, it certainly isn't when thick!

 

--Anne

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