Basic knowledge of color in art painting, 5 steps

Color in art painting is one of the main leaders in my artwork. Color means life, dynamism, energy and vibration. All things that i like and that we miss sometimes in the world of today. Can you even imagine a world without colors? Just take a look outside or around you, anywhere you are right now.

And then try to notice all the different colors that creates your view or your environment. Maybe it is winter in your city and there are a lot of greys, but can you see how many kind of greys, can you count them, is it more grey-blue, grey-brown, or with some ocher in it?

Our world is made of colors, but we don’t notice them always. I would like that you get to notice them more in your daily life so you can use them into your personal artwork.

Street Art in Montpellier, South of France

To guide you through the basic knowledge of color i will help you to understand what the colorwheel is and how you can use it.

Also you will learn how to mix your color paint so you can obtain any color you’d like thourghout this first video.

The color wheel is essentially the visible spectrum of colors wrapped in a circle and it is a useful tool which helps to explain what happens when we mix our paints together.

It is one of the main art principles to learn and will help you throughout your artistic discovery.

The basics : color in art painting

The primary colors are situated in its center : we have ultramarine blue, lemon yellow and vermillion red.

With these three colors you can create all the other ones (placed in a circle around the pyramid) When you mix these basic colors you get a dark grey color.

The secondary colors : we obtain them by mixing the primary colors, we obtain orange, green and violet. They are placed along the two basic colors to mix.

The tertiary colors : what you obtain if you mix a primary with a secondary color.

The complementary colors in art painting

The complementary colors are those who are opposite to each other on the colorwheel. Red is opposite to green, violet to yellow, blue to orange. They can be usefull to paint shadows for example, I will explain this later.

Vincent van Gogh was very fond to use complements into his paintingn this made his art very strong.

« Tree roots » Vincent Van Gogh 1890

Temperature, value and harmony for color in art painting

The temperature of colors is the warmth or coolness of a color. Red, orange and yellows are warm colors (for example for painting a sunset). Blue and green are cool colors, to use in landscape paint or painting trees.

« Olive grove » Vincent Van Gogh 1890

The value of a color is the lightness or the darkness of a color. It is the most important aspect of a color. A humans eye will first notice the value and only then the color itself. This is very important to remember. The viewer will see high value contrast areas in your art first.

In the painting here above Vincent Van Gogh uses also value for making contrast, it gives a very powerful composition.

The Harmony is the accordant arrangement of colors. Colors that are in harmony must contain at least one common color. For example if red, blue and green have had orange mixed in to each of them, these colors will appear related and will be in harmony with each other. Colors need at least one common color in them to be in harmony but often they share more.

Van Gogh creates harmony in this painting because the blue contains some orange.

« The sower » Vincent Van Gogh 1889

And what about black and white in color for art painting?

White and black do not have positions on the color wheel as they do not have direct positions in the visual spectrum of colors. As noted earlier, white is what you get when all the colors of “light” are combined (for example a rainbow). This is different from the way our paints work – when we combine all the colors we get brown-grey rather than a bright white light. When you add white to your colors, you increase the value (make the color lighter), you can use here titanium white

Black on the other hand, is the absence of color. When you add black to your colors, you decrease the value (make the color darker). When you add white or black to a color, you reduce the saturation of the color (make it less vivid). Here I recommend to use payne’s gray instead of black.

So here again the basic colors that you need to create your color palet :

  • ultramarine blue
  • lemon yellow
  • vermillion red
  • titanium white
  • payne’s grey (not black)

Now you can go to your art supply store and buy your art painting supplies. Be sure you buy good quality paint, the colors and pigments will be more intense (Download my free E-Book to get more details about the materials).

Now check your new colors out and find some inspiration, you can take a walk down in the streets, or go surfing on the internet (Modern Art, Pop Art, Realism, Street Art …) Anything can be your inspiration!

Here a picture of some nice street art in Sète in the south of France, a city where i love to stroll around.

Street Art in Sète, South of France

See how color makes this view so much more joyfull!

I hope you got inspired to start a new work!

Thanks for reading!