I’d been finding the subject of colour matching, and which colours play nicely together very confusing so I attended a workshop run by a local artist called Vicki Norman. One of the first things we looked at was how to accuratly match a colour.
Order of matching when colour mixing.
- Hue – colour eg. red, blue etc
- Value – light or darkness
- Saturation – bright vibrant colour through to grey de-saturated ones.
We also discussed how the word Tone represents a mixture of saturation and value, and isn’t just another word for value, and that to de-saturate a colour is to take a bright clean vibrant one and dull it down towards grey.
It turns out that accurate colour matching is a very difficult thing to achieve. Mixing black in to darken a colour is generally frowned upon as it flattens a colour, stealing the light from it and making it feel somewhat dead in comparison to other colours, but even adding white to lighten a colour can have a similar effect – flattening a colour and making it more opaque, but this is accepted as unavoidable as its difficult to lighten a colour any other way (unless your using watercolour, in which case you just add more water).
I discovered that the best way to begin colour matching is to take out my hue chart and compare the object i’m painting to the hue’s on there using a small hole cut in a piece of neutral grey card, this helps isolate the specific hue I need to mix and gives me a good idea of which paints to use as a starting point. It’s best to start with a big blob of a lighter colour (eg. yellow) and add tiny specks of the darker one (eg. red) as its ery easy to go from a light hue to a dark one, but very difficult to go back again. You can also use a tiny speck of a complimentary colour to de-saurate the hue you have, eg. by adding green to red it makes the red slightly more grey. This effect also causes problems though as if you are trying to mix a very pale yellow or orange hue, adding white can have a similar effect to adding blue to the mix, meaning the yellows and oranges become more de-saturated the lighter they become. Also every colour you add into a mix makes it slightly darker in value, and slightly more de-saturated, so it can be very difficult to mix some colours in a clear and saturated way, eg. purple – you wouldn’t be able to mix a shade as clear and bright as Dioxinene Purple comes ready-made out of a tube!
As you can see here, my first attempt at colour matching from a cylindrical block was awful, the light hitting it made very defiete stripes on the surface that I struggled with. My second attempt was much better, although probably easier, I picked a long rectangular block, and tried my best to copy the colours I saw on that and the table as best I could. The next one was from a little still life set up I created on a piece of red paper with an orange, lemon and a red block. I enjoyed this one much more, although I think the shape and variation in skin colour on the fruit makes them more forgiving to do, with the block each side has a definite colour, and if you get it wrong it doesn’t look right, the fruit doesn’t show this as much.