Colour Theory and Palette Organisation

This course offers theoretical instruction and practical exercises in:

  • Basic principles of colour theory including colour relativity, explanation of Hue, Value and Chroma, Coloured lighting and local colour
  • Colour mixing in oil paint
  • Working within a colour gamut

To enrol, contact Scott Breton via the contact form

For timetable see the term and class schedule

 

Click to enlarge the diagrams.  Feel free to download but if you post elsewhere, please let people know where you got them from.

Above Left: Palette organisation using a colour gamut from a triad of relative primaries (In this case Yellow Ocre, Cobalt Blue and Permanent Alizarin Crimson), with mixed secondaries and tints of each Relative Primary and Secondary.  This provides the 12 colour set of colours at top left for easy colour adjustment.  At the bottom a string of colours has been mixed with palette knife and then free mixed with brush.

Above Right: A colour wheel showing the relative hue and chroma of various tube colours.  The back ground grey circle has been matched to a digital photography grey card to give a true mid tone neutral  at exactly half way between black and white. There is an overlay of plastic showing a colour gamut of the same triad as the diagram at left.  the colours between these relative primaries have been mixed and resulted in a triangular shape.  The square at top right is an estimation of a relative neutral for this particular triad - that is to say a colour that is located an equal distance from all the primaries.

 

Above Left: In each of the three images, the light is the same, but the chroma of the strips is reducing from the top image top to bottom image

Above Right: The five right most strips in this image are a five tone scale of strips from black to white, all broken into crude planes.  Notice how the variation in tone is more dramatic in the lighter toned strips.  The two left most strips are more finely facetted, approximating a curve in the left most one.    In all strips, including the 5 tone scale, notice that the light area is substantially wider than the halftone area.  This is the reason for the adage of "Compressing the Lights" in representing form - the work of turning the form is generally done by the separation of light from shadow and then the variation in the half tones and transition into shadow - rather than modelling in the lights or shadows, where it is very easy to overdo things and break up the form.

 

Above Left:  There are three identical sets of coloured strips of medium chroma in these pictures, but the lighting varies between the pictures. The top set of strips is under a bluish light, the middle set is under white light (same amount of each wavelength), and the lower set is under a yellow orange light.   In each set, the far left hand strip and the background surfaces are a mid tone neutral grey.  This shows two main points: 1. Coloured lights reflect differently off different colours, for example the yellow orange light reflecting less strongly off the blue strip relative to the yellow strip, and 2. The consistency of the way different coloured surfaces reflect a particular light source creates a kind of ambience of that light source, while the local colours remain apparently the same - for example, the blue light set is an entirely different set of colours to the other two, but nonetheless looks like the same object. 

Above Right: There are three identical sets of coloured strips of in these pictures, but the lighting varies between the pictures. The top set of strips is under a bluish light, the middle set is under white light, and the lower set is under a yellow orange light.   Once again, the far left hand strip in each set as well as the background surfaces are a mid tone neutral grey.   The colours of the strips have been chosen to approximate some of the colours seen in light to medium toned human skin - Ruddy (dark reddish skin), cream, tanned (dark yellowish with high melanin), pale (bluish) and light pink.  Notice how with these more neutral colours the half tones appear as the complementary hue to the colour of the light - for instance in the top bluish light, the halftones appear more orange, whereas in the bottom yellowish orange light, the half tones appear bluer or more purple.