Understanding Color

The key to vibrant color lies in choosing the right paint pigments or those that are transparent enough to let light shine through from the white paper. Sort your possibilities by creating your own color chart and color wheel. In the color chart, test similar colors in the same areas and paint a saturated, intense swatch of the color so you can see the full power of the pigment. This lets you compare shades of the same color and see how the colors look together. Transfer these findings to a color wheel that has five concentric circles for five categories: transparent, semitransparent, semiopaque, opaque and white/black. Transparent colors from the outermost ring create the most brilliant color.

Mary Whyte is the author of Watercolor for the Serious Beginner (Watson-Guptill) and a compilation of her low-country portraits titled Alfreda’s World (Wyrick & Co.). Her work has been exhibited widely and her portraits are in numerous private and corporate collections. She lives near Charleston, South Carolina, where she and her husband, Smith Coleman, own an art gallery (www.colemanfineart.com). Her art will be exhibited this summer at the Greenville County Museum of Art in Greenville, South Carolina, where she’ll be offering a one-day watercolor workshop on July 12.

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