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Art Lessons: Complimentary Color Mixing

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we're dealing with complementary color
A lot of times artists will go down in
value by mixing black.
Which you can't do and that can be
effective, but
often times what happens is that it
becomes very muddy and
it loses, it loses the richness of color.
Just like when you're, when you're trying
to get a lighter light,
you keep adding white, keep adding white,
keep adding white, and
that can work, but also what happens is it
starts to bleach out your palette.
Starts to make everything kind of white
and and murky,
milky, and it's not really how color
It's not necessarily the best way to mix
So what we're gonna talk about is
complimentary color mixing and
this is a really good way to take the
intensity down and go darker.
So, I'm gonna start with a let's start
with a red right here.
And of course I'm, I'm going to my trusty
cad red medium that I love so much here.
And my compliment is going
to be complimentary color, green.
That's right.
And that's why this points directly
Orange points directly opposite blue.
Yellow opposite violet.
So when you hold those two colors next to
each other, the reason
they're complimentary is they're, they can
vibrate really intensely.
If you hold them next to each other, they
Try it.
Get those two pure colors and hold them
next to each other.
You're going to see something really
They complement each other.
So here I'm going to mix this pretty,
I'm going to apply this, really
fast, and
get my red down here.
And right here.
Once again the mahlstick is just a great
Now, you guys at home, you might have
your, your color charts
that you kinda got from your art store or
you printed it from the website.
But let me tell you this.
There is nothing better than to do this
kinda thing yourself because what will
happen is if you're painting from life or
you're even painting from you're
imagination and you wanna grab that, that
perfect color and mix it, because you
haven't practiced it like this, you won't
know exactly what you're dipping into.
So it's going to take you more time to
figure out what that color is.
The more you do exercises like this, the
more intuitive this becomes.
So it's really important to get intuitive
at all of this.
So, I put my red down and now what I wanna
do is I wanna grab my palette knife
and I wanna, by the way, hold I hold my
palette knife like this so I can kinda
just rotate my palette knife like that
between my index finger and my thumb.
And it I actually paint a lot with my
palette knife because I'm able to kind of
get that edge and kind of use it like that
for a sharp light or a corner.
So sometimes I do that.
Sometimes I just come in and just use it
like that.
Actually a good exercise,
if you have time is to do a full painting
just with this, just with a palette knife.
You know Norman Rockwell would sometimes
just feel like he was becoming too
monotonous with his painting and getting
into too many bad habits, he was kinda
getting habitual about his painting, and
often times he would pick up a shingle and
paint with the shingle just to feel new
and have a fresh experience.
And sometimes as painters we need to do
We need to have a fresh experience.
So, a really good exercise is to do a, a
full painting of a head or
a still life just with your palette knife.
See if you can do it.
What that will do is it will sharpen your
palette knife skills to where
you're going to be able to use this like,
like a swordsman, like Caravaggio.
Caravaggio was a also not only a great
painter, but
he was actually a great swordsman and
wound up killing somebody and
having to leave and
killing someone again and, Caravaggio.
Crazy guy.
Okay, so now I'm gonna take that red, and
I'm gonna add a little bit of that green
right here.
Just a little bit as I kinda go down like
I'm gonna add just a, little bit.
A little bit more.
So, what's happening is that's becoming a
little bit darker.
I'll actually add, whoops, too much.
Like that.
Look at that.
So, so what that does, is it actually
goes darker and it takes that kind of
[NOISE] out of it.
That, that real purity of red, that pure
saturated purity of color.
And that'll just take the sting out a
little bit.
So if you want, you see a red, but it's
like, you know, it's not,
not super saturated, but it's a little bit
more of that fire-engine red.
Then you kinda just take that
complimentary color, that green and
put it down.
And I just wanna kinda load up a little
bit more here because what happens
is with acrylic sometimes you've gotta do
especially if you're painting
pure color you might wanna put it down
And what I'm painting on is just a, is a
chip board.
So it's just like a of a back of a, of a
newsprint or
tracing paper board that I'm just kind
using, and
it's nice because it's, it's a, it's a
brown and it's a kind of a neutral color.
So it's easy to apply paint.
And I like to use all my materials, so I
paint on anything.
And that's good habits.
So, here's my next color.
Like I said, it's, it's desaturating the
Just a little bit darker.
It's got it's own kind of beauty to it,
like that.
And that's got a little bit of green in
And I'm not using my maulstick because I'm
working on how
clean my lines are, and they could be
So I'm gonna use my maulstick.
Now obviously, if I was spending all the
time in the world,
I would get a thinner brush, so I would
get a better line.
And it's important also like, as you could
I have a little bit of a cast shadow on
So when you're working, try to work where
your, you don't,
you're not casting a shadow in your, in
your painted area.
Because then, you can't really see what's
going on.
So I'm working at a little bit of a
disadvantage here cuz when I,
when I put the maulstick down, I can't
really see what I'm doing.
So that's the next step.
Now, what I'm trying to do here is make
equidistant intervals.
So, they're actual intervial, inter,
they're actual intervals of intensity.
So as they go down, they're going to get
darker, and
they're gonna get less saturated.
So now, I'm gonna take my palette knife
again and
add a little bit more green.
As you can see, it's getting a little
darker, like that.
And you could really go on forever and you
could do this in a very,
very super subtle way.
you could do this in a three-step process.
I'm doing one, two, three, four five steps
Five steps is really all I need to kind of
make a statement.
And, I'm putting it down.
I don't really know where it's gonna be,
because acrylic actually dries 15% darker
on average.
So, I think I'm gonna go a little bit
[SOUND] And more desaturated just to.
Just kinda figure that out.
Paper towels, my trusty paper towels.
My even more trusty, artist works coffee.
Artist works in your cup.
Very good.
So see, I'm going darker.
This, this interval might not be as much
of a step from here to here.
But, you get the point.
It might be, might actually dry darker.
Definitely gonna dry darker, but even
So I'm using one brush for this, by the
So I'm not, it's not like I'm skimping on
It's just that for me,
it's good to have the brush load, the
paint load always here.
And then I'm kinda just using the same
brush the whole time.
So this is actually okay.
And this is once again, this is a really
fun exercise.
You should try this with red all your
primary colors.
Red, blue, yellow.
Try it with your secondary colors.
So, you know, try all of this.
And keep it try, you see that's actually a
good jump from here to here.
That's actually feeling okay.
So now, I'm gonna jump it a little bit
more and I'm gonna go even darker.
And now, we're actually going
more towards, a little bit more towards
the green.
[SOUND] Well, now on that last goop, still
in the reds, but you can see it's darker.
So, sometimes what I like to do when I'm
doing a life painting,
is to do just a quick test and then bham.
Right there, like is that dark enough?
Du, du, du, du, du.
Bham, no.
You know, du, du, du, du, du.
And I just keep doing that.
So that little, I do little testers
If you see, sometimes you see my painting,
you see a finished panting, but
you don't see this incredible strip of
color mixing that I've done below.
Here we go.
Losing more saturation.
Getting a little darker.
And then finally.
Right here.
This last note is not working.
My last color, just kind of getting this
down here.
And that is the darkest.
So you can see these intervals of the pure
red mixed in with the green a little bit.
So its taking the sting out and its going
a little darker,
less saturated darker, less saturated
less saturated and actually more towards
the green.
So try your complimentary color intensity
mixing lesson at home.
I like to do five interval steps.
Try five, try ten, try three and try them
in different colors