Demo 3: Understanding Color

Instructor: Jane Blundell (Australia)

Location: National Library

just 6 colours

Choosing a palette of colours is a personal journey. It is up to you whether you work with a tiny sketch kit or carry a full palette of watercolours with you on location, but it can also be very daunting as there are so many colours available. I’ve tried hundreds of them and explored countless mixing combinations to find the best range of pigments for general sketching of any subject – buildings, people, trees, skies, whatever. In this demonstration I’ll be sharing some of my explorations of colour. With the right choice of colours, and a solid understanding of how to mix them, creating any colour you wish is simple and fast, which is essential when sketching en plein air. You may be surprised at how few colours you need to create a world of colours.

First we’ll look at some useful triads and see what is possible with a carefully chosen red, yellow and blue. Then we’ll see how adding some convenient secondary and earth colours speeds up the mixing process. We’ll look at wonderful mixing pairs, such as ultramarine and burnt sienna, which create a myriad of useful hues and tints.

We’ll explore the various mixing systems – split palette, the CYMK printing palette, full gamut palette – and look at how these influence the efficiency of creating the colours we want on location. Ideally, you only want to be mixing two colours together to create the hues that you need.

We’ll look at a number of mixing charts and combinations created with my suggested 15 colour ‘Ultimate Mixing Palette. We’ll also look at how it can be adapted for those who just want 12 colours, or supplemented with convenience colours for a larger palette of colour, without losing colour harmony. We’ll see how these pigments can be used to perfectly depict various surfaces such as stone, brick or even sandy beaches.

Finally we’ll look at special pigment characteristics such as granulation, staining tendencies, ‘liftability’, transparency or opacity, and see how these can be used in your sketches, along with some pigments that are wonderful just for fun.

Questions about colour, pigments and colour mixing are welcome.

4 bright pigmetn mixes