Friday, December 5, 2014

How Color Affects Color

As I get back to painting after nearly a month off (NaNoWriMo month) I wanted to start with something simple, an exercise showing how complementary colors affect each other.

Here’s what I did:

I drew six large boxes with a smaller box inside the first. I chose two paint colors, red and green, which are direct complements, directly across from each other on the color wheel. (For those of you who are interested I used Quinacridone Rose and Cobalt Green watercolor.)

 Here’s the key for what I did and the results I saw.
(Descriptions are from top row left to right, then bottom row left to right.)
  1. Neutral gray box painted around an inner red box. The red box is activated and “pops” forward.
  2.  Black outer box with the inner red box (I got the black by mixing the red and green together.) The red box looks bigger and brighter.
  3. White outer box with inner red box. The red box looks duller and smaller.
  4. Green outer box and inner red box. The two colors compete to come forward, creating an interesting vibration for the viewer.
  5. A red outer box with a neutral gray inner box. Because your eye seeks balance the inner gray box looks cooler and more green.
  6. A green outer box with a neutral gray inner box. The inner gray box looks warmer and reddish, reflecting the missing complementary red color.
Aren’t optical illusions fascinating? More than that, they’re useful. By understanding how one color affects another, a painter can better plan their paintings leading to more frequent successes. Sure it takes practice, but the results are well worth it.

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