Calculating Your Color Options | Chris Cozen Explains

With the year 2016 rounding the final corner, now is a good time to look back at the art you’ve created throughout the past 12 months or even beyond. For this exercise, focus on color. Note what, if any, particular hues have made a strong presence, and how you feel about them.

Chris Cozen is here to help you get there. In the following article that first appeared in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, Chris explains how to experiment in a way that will get you powerful results. Watch Chris in action when you preview her ArtistsNetworkTV videos, which you can stream 24/7/365! ~Cherie

Color for artists | Chris Cozen, ArtistsNetwork.com

Figure 1: Make a color wheel so you can easily see what you have to work with. First apply the paint straight from the container, then dip your brush in a bit of water and pull it through to see how the paint reacts. Pin this!

by Chris Cozen

Think of all the paint mistakes we have made over the years. Remember all the mud you made as you attempted to mix up the perfect shade of purple or orange? What if someone told you that you could buy only eight colors of paint that would magically transform themselves into more than 150 colors? Well, you can do just that. Making a few wise pigment choices can lead to an expansive collection in no time at all. Let me tell you how.

The key is to choose pigments that play well together and are clean mixers. For this we’ll use “modern” pigments, the pigments that come from chemistry labs. These pigments are known for their ability to allow light to pass through them, almost like colored glass.

Materials:
Fluid acrylics (I use Golden Artist Colors®)
• Quinacridone red
• Anthraquinone blue
• Hansa yellow (medium)
• Interference violet
• Iridescent gold (deep)
• Micaceous iron oxide
• Titanium white
• Bone or carbon black
Paintbrush, synthetic

1. Start with a primary red, blue, and yellow triad: quinacridone red (a cool red); anthraquinone blue, and hansa yellow medium. All three are deeply saturated and intense pigments with strong tint strength (Tint is the color that results from adding white to the original color). This means that you can use very little paint to get great color. Combine the individual colors with each other to get crisp, clear, and clean secondary colors: orange, violet, green. (Figure 1)

Note: Tertiary colors can be created when the secondary colors are mixed with the colors adjacent to them. So far we can make at least 12 colors from just this one triad.

Color for artists | Chris Cozen, ArtistsNetwork.com

Figure 2: Pure color (Anthraquinoe blue, Hansa yellow, or Quinacridone red), Micaceous iron oxide plus color, color plus interference violet, color plus gold, color plus interference violet and gold.

2. Add a magical interference color to the red-blue-yellow triad and create another set of 12 colors. The addition of the interference paint will create an opalescent quality that refracts light and alters the original to which it was added. Now we have 25 colors; the interference alone as well as the mixtures. My favorites are interference violet and interference green. (Figure 2)

3. Create a third set of 12 colors by adding a single iridescent paint color. The metallic reflective qualities of iridescent paints result in colors with high sheen that allow the light to dance on the surface. Because we can use the single iridescent as a stand-alone color, that brings us to 38 colors. I most often reach for gold (deep) or silver for this. (Figure 2)

4. Add a fourth set of 12 colors to the tally by introducing micaceous iron oxide (MIO). This dark paint is actually gritty particles suspended in a clear binder that takes on the color of the pigment with which it is mixed. These grayed-out toothy mixtures are awesome additions to your color library. This will pop our list up to 50 colors because MIO is also a stand-alone color. (Figure 2)

5. Introduce titanium white. This highly opaque white paint will allow you to create a minimum range of at least six tints from each of the original 12 colors created from the red-blue-yellow triad. These 48 tints are a range of lightened colors that fade to the lightest pastels by increasing the amount of white added. They will also be more dense and give you heightened coverage. This brings our count to 99, since white can also stand alone. For those of you who are true color seekers, this minimum range is only the beginning. (Figure 2)

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6. Bring carbon black into the equation. By mixing varying amounts of black with each of the original 12 colors you can create 48 additional shades of color. Adding either black or white to your colors will change the value. This brings us to 148 colors.

Color for artists | Chris Cozen, ArtistsNetwork.com

Figure 3

7. Lastly, create a range of neutral gray tones by starting with black on one end of your palette and gradually introducing white until you have created six or more tones of gray before ending with white. This is a neutral gray scale and will help you determine values. These final 6 colors bring our tally to 154. (Figure 3)

You can stop with this amazing number of colors or continue to tweak and experiment to push your color mixtures well beyond these combinations. There is always another mixture that can be created when you combine both interference and iridescent colors together and mix them with the original 12 colors.

Bonus: Try this exercise with two other triads: quinacridone magenta (R), turquoise phthalo (B), and nickel azo yellow (Y) or napthol red (light), hansa yellow light, and phthalo blue (GS). Pick another interference and iridescent as well just for fun.

Color for artists | Chris Cozen, ArtistsNetwork.com

Make reference strips so you know how each color responds when mixed with different amounts of the specialty paints.

A Little Bit About Paint

Pigments are responsible for the color part of paint. The remainder of the bottle is made of a binder and some “fluff,” for lack of a better word. The fluff simply makes everything work together to keep the paint flowing, the pigments evenly distributed, and it allows the paint to stick to a surface. For acrylic paints, the binder is a polymer. If you’ve ever used polymer medium or gel medium you are essentially using “naked” paint or paint without pigment added to it.

Learning to maximize your options saves you money and gives you a greater understanding of the color-mixing possibilities that exist.

A Colorful Vocabulary

Color is what we see as we look at objects, people, and landscapes and includes the full spectrum of the rainbow.

Color temperature refers to the warmness or coolness of a color. We think of red, yellow, and orange as warm colors and blue, green, and violet as cool colors. But an individual color can also be either warm or cool as in a cool red such as a quinacridone, or a warm red such as cadmium. Warm colors tend to advance or appear to come forward; cool colors tend to recede.

Grayscale is the range of tones from dark to light that is created when black is mixed with white. The tones created are referred to as neutral grays.

Hue is the name of an individual color (i.e. yellow, lemon yellow, hansa yellow medium, cadmium yellow, etc.).

Saturation refers to color in its natural form or full strength, the brightness or intensity.

Shade is the color that results when black is added to the original.

Tint is the color that results from adding white to the original.

Tint strength refers to the ability to maintain its strength when another color, such as white, is added to it.

Tone is a color that has been softened by the addition of neutral gray.

Value is the lightness or darkness of a color, or a color to which either black or white has been added. The values found in a grayscale are what you perceive when you look at a black-and-white photograph.

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