Bill Martin's Guide to Oil Painting
How Do You Match That Color?
A rainbow gives us pure examples of the basic colors of the visible world. The rainbow's colors are, in order, red-violet, red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow, yellow-green, green, blue-green, blue-violet and violet. When this order of colors is formed into a circle we have the COLOR WHEEL. The color wheel is an essential tool for matching colors.
The Color Wheel
The wheel is arranged with yellow, the lightest value color at the top and violet, the darkest value color at the bottom. From the top down on the right are yellow-orange, orange, red-orange, red, and red-violet. These are called the warm colors. From the top down on the left are yellow-green, green, blue-green, blue and blue-violet. These are called the cool colors.
Any TWO colors directly across the color wheel from each other are called COMPLEMENTARY COLORS. Red and green are opposite each other on the color wheel and therefore are complementary to each other. Yellow and violet are each other's complements. Yellow-green and red-violet are complements. Complimentary colors when placed next to each other on the canvas intensify each other. Complementary colors when mixed together on the palette neutralize each other. In this chart the pure intense colors are on the outside opposite their complements. As we move to the middle, the complements are mixed together until they become gray, the least intense of all.
All colors come in all values. The pure spectrum colors are in the position of their relative values on this seven-value scale.
With These Things in Mind, This is How to Match Any Color
We have only to answer these three questions to match any color we see.
1. WHAT COLOR IS IT FROM THE COLOR WHEEL? (Its spectrum color)
2. HOW INTENSE IS IT? (How much of its complement does it contain? More complement means less intense.)
3. WHAT VALUE IS IT? How light or dark is it?
This is How it Works
The colors in order on the palette
Matching the Brown Leaf
The spectrum color is a red-red-violet. White is added to match the value. Yellow-green, the complement of red-violet is added to reduce its intensity.
Matching the Green Leaf
Green is the spectrum color. Cadmium green is the base color. It is a little to the yellow side so its intensity is reduced using a red-violet (Quinacridone Rose). Yellow-green and red-violet are complementary to each other. White is added to match the value.
Matching the Silver Tape
Blue is the spectrum color. White is added to match the value.
Orange, the complement of blue is added and the color becomes gray.
Matching the Colors of a Three Dimensional Object
In this case a bar of soap.
The middle value is first. The spectrum color is yellow-orange. A small amount of its complement, blue-violet, is added to match the intensity plus a trace of white.
White is added to the middle value to create a light value. Blue-violet is added to the middle value yellow-orange to create the object's shadow color.
The soap's colors are matched. A color's complement will usually make the color's shadow value. For darker value shadows use the middle value color with less white. In some cases a color's compliment won't darken the color enough. This is when you add black to get the value.