Color Intensity and Understanding Color Combinations

Understanding color intensity and color combinations in painting is easy once you understand a few of the basics. If you learn how to master color combinations then you can make your paintings much more expressive.

When we use the word color it refers to the whole spectrum of colors. The word hue specifically refers to the pure spectrum of red, yellow and blue.

Understanding this can help you create your own color wheel which is of great assistance to you when you are trying figure out the palette you want to use in a painting.

Color intensity is also relative to color values. It helps define form and create illusions of space. It is through the contrasting hues that we can distinguish backgrounds from foregrounds. It is also the key to understanding how to create appealing color combinations. You can also use color intensity to draw attention to a single item in the composition of a painting so that it stands out more than anything else.

The key thing to remember is that if values are close to each other in hue that shapes will seem flatter to look at. There is less contrast. This works no matter what colors are involved.

In theory all hues are mixed from three basic ones known as the primary colors or primary hues. When you mix all three of these colors together they create black which is why they are called the primary colors.

Any color that you are using to paint with is placed at opposite ends of a true color hue circle. These are colors that are desaturated because they have white, gray or black in them. Hues with white are known as tints. Hues with gray are known as tones and hues with with black are known as shades.

A complementary color wheel consists of colors that are really tints, shades or tones. On this color wheel the colors are often very warm or cool in nature. Often the warmest colors are placed opposite the coolest colors on the wheel as well.

Hue and value systems in color vary according to different color wheels. Manufacturers, designers and marketing people use different types of wheels. These are digital systems. Two good examples are the Munsell system and the Pantone system. There is no correct color system to use – just the one that is right for you. In fact many of the greatest painters just invent their own color wheel.

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