Sunday, March 20, 2016

Beyond the Colour Wheel: Lesson 3

The on-line class on colour theory with Jane Davies continues. This time, we are looking at reducing the saturation or brightness of colours. This can be done by mixing in white (to make a tint) or black (to make a shade) or grey (to make a tone.)

Here you can see how I began with a bright pure colour (Cadmium Red, Permanent Green Light or Pyrrole Orange) and reduced the saturation by mixing in increments of a neutral grey until I had a full range of tones. The special requirement of this exercise was to choose a grey of the same value as the original colour, so that all the colours have the same value. To check on whether the values are equivalent, I used photo software to "take out the colour", leaving nothing but value. That result is below. Notice how the eye can be tricked into thinking a bright colour is lighter than it really is.

Another approach to creating a desaturated colour is to mix it with a neutral colour other than grey. Here are my colour swatches for this second exercise:

Beautiful, subtle colours, aren't they? I love this mix of the bright and the earth tones. Of course, the values changed from left to right in this exercise, because I was lightening the original colour with a light neutral, going from Bright to Light.

Yet another approach to neutralizing bright colours is to mix them with their complements. In the range below, you can see what happened as I added increments of Permanent Light Green to Quinachridone Red. Slowly, the red becomes duller until it is a true neutral, neither red nor green. In the second row, you can see what results when white is added to the neutralized colours.

Next up, I began with the bright Pyrrole Orange and added tiny amounts of Phthalo Blue, its complement. Again, the result is a neutral grey, and you can see in the first four swatches of the second row just what happens when white is added to that neutral grey.

Finally, when tiny amounts of purple are added to yellow, the result is a warm neutral, and in the second row you can see what happens when white is added to these neutrals.

I can really appreciate the subtle, complicated beauty of these neutral and muted tones, and plan to use more of them in my work. To achieve them in hand-dyed cloth, I could 
  •  add small amounts of grey, beige or tan dye to brightly-coloured dye, 
  •  add tiny amounts of a complementary colour (green to red, for example),
  •  overdye cloth that has been dyed a bright colour with a neutral or  complementary colour, OR
  •  purchase dye ready-mixed to produce a more subtle colour.
Paint is so much easier to work with than dye. Maybe I should just paint the cloth!

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