The Secrets of the Color Wheel or How to Avoid Getting Mud

Blog post 2

I’ve always been a no rules kind of girl when it comes to my art. I am very disciplined and follow a day planner for all aspects of my life, but when it comes to my art I don’t like looking at long lists of ‘things I MUST use’ or processes I must follow. For me, art is an adventure, a road to be traveled without worrying about the destination. Heaven knows we need a little of that in our lives these days. What with our work and mobile devices totally taking over everything.

That is why I didn’t feel much inclined to read up on color theory. It always seemed to me one of the concepts that professional artists had to learn in school. Well, recently I came across a very good use for some basic color theory and I thought I would share my new found knowledge with you.

I am a green artist – I don’t like buying things that I can make or recycle. I look at art as an adventure and try to do the best with what I have at hand. That does not mean I don’t go shopping. Of course I do! I love pretty paper and good drawing tools. I just don’t like to buy fake printed paper at the art store when I can get an old book from the thrift store. I like saving money and I love saving books from the landfill. So that’s my theory – buy what you need and try and figure out a way to incorporate recycled items into your work. More Creativity. Less Consumerism. So now that I’m done with my green speech let me tell you the story.

I am a mathematician and scientist by profession and the concept of mixing up my own art supplies really appeals to me. When I saw the amazing spray inks that had started to come into the market and what all they could achieve I was totally sold. The only problem was that I wanted all the colors and I wanted lots of them and at about 5 bucks a bottle I knew I couldn’t afford the store variety. So began my research project and long story short, I finally figured out a way to make my own.

Then I started spraying and very soon I realized that the pictures I had seen online and what I saw on my craft table were two very different things. I love colorful art and I was trying to incorporate as many colors as possible and that was not working too well for me. Finally I was able to appreciate the practical uses of color theory. I had never felt I needed the information while playing with pencils, crayons and acrylic paints but spray inks are reactivated when another layer is applied and that was leading to problems.

So I read up on color theory – true to form I only read what I needed and hence that is what I will share with you, just the basics 🙂 – and here is what I found out about how not to make mud!

In order to bring my research to life I actually made my own color wheel using my inks. I picked a red, blue and a yellow spray ink. Now the fun thing here is that you can pick any shade of yellow and blue and even use pink instead of red and you’ll get a different shaded color wheel. I use pink a lot in my art so I went with a deep version of pink, a lovely fresh blue and yellow for my color wheel.

We all know what happens when we mix the primary colors. Blue, Yellow and Red are primary colors. When we mix two primary we get a secondary color.

Blue + Yellow = Green

Blue + Red = Purple

Red + Yellow = Orange.

When I used my spray inks I got some lovely new colors. When we spray one on top of the other the lower layer of color is also reactivated and will change. So if you have a red layer of ink spray and then you add yellow it will change to an orange since the red will be reactivated. That is why we have to be careful with the colors we use together and on top of each other when using color mists.

Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel go well together in combinations. Complementary colors are those which are opposite each other on the color wheel – Orange and Blue, Yellow and Purple and Red and Green. When you spray these colors on top of each other you will get mud.

If you want to see more color wheels and learn more about color theory in detail the www is your best friend. There are numerous articles and images that will explain colors to you in more detail. For the purpose of any adventures you take with me, this much will be enough.

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6 thoughts on “The Secrets of the Color Wheel or How to Avoid Getting Mud

  1. Virginia says:

    Back when I studied art, we used a “double primaries” palette–plus white. The colors were warm and cool reds [think ripe tomato and ripe cherry], warm and cool yellows [ripe squash, barely ripe lemon], and warm and cool blues [peacock blue, and blueberries]. As you noted above, red and yellow make orange…but they both need to be *warm* colors to make a clear-toned orange; otherwise, the cooler tones will make your orange muddy. [Play with that; it’ll be fun!]

    Likewise, if you want a clear green, you’ll want the warmer blue…and the cooler yellow–the one closer to blue; adjust the amounts of yellow and blue to get the hues you love. But if you want more muted tones, add the warmer yellow, the more purpley blue. It’s just a way of controlling your pigments so you get what you want.

    And of course, then, for the most delicious purples, you’ll mix the cool reds [like Alizerine crimson!] with the cool blues [Ultramarine]. Even just talking about those colors makes my soul hungry to mix up some oils!

    Oh–and we didn’t use black. Lady Prof said it’s too harsh; made out of death. We could portrays shadows by mixing in the deeper tones of the color’s *opposite*…say, put some deep crimson into the greens of a tree, where it’s dark. It works!–and the whole painting is so alive!!!

    Eventually I got into glass…so I’m not really mixing colors anymore…except sometimes. Then I’ll laminate layers of glass with jeweler’s epoxy, in order to get the color I want. Stained glass is *so* much about the color!

    • Mahe Zehra says:

      That’s awesome information Virginia! I know what you mean about the shades, I’ve had a few accidents trying 🙂 Half the fun is in learning through doing. I’ll be sharing some videos soon too so that everyone can see me make mistakes and learn from that! 🙂

    • stonepylon says:

      Great info, Virginia – thanks! Never thought of the layering of glass to get colors – I’d love to work with glass someday…

      And Mahe – I just discovered I bought your book in March! And I do like it. 🙂

      Glad to be taking your courses. 🙂

  2. Nab says:

    Would love to know how you finally figured out a way to make my own spray inks. Maybe some videos on this topic too. It sounds like a ton of fun and a great cost saver. I could definitely use these ideas with the kids. Thanks so much for sharing.

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