Color Guide in using the RGB Color wheel to brighten your paintings

A different kind of color guide.  Here is an article that I wrote for EzineArticles with some minor editing for the search engines:  (They actually sent me a wonderful huge coffee mug for this article! It was a very neat gift, and much needed for my caffeine addition)

RGB color wheel theory -- and you thought it was just for color television!  Well, really only people in the color television world and optic world back in the day would really know of a different color wheel that applied to optics.

Not anymore!

Would you like to know a secret on preventing Mud from creeping into your color mixes?  Stick around for a few moments, I'll explain in this color guide a secret to keep your paintings from looking like something the cat dragged in!

Then read the following article on RGB color theory, another color guide for new color paints!

Learn and Master Painting

There are volumes of books written on this subject. But admittedly, most are based on science that was discovered in the writings of Leonardo da Vinci, and later, Leone Battista Alberti. Then a Moses Harris created what we believe was the first color wheel, then a Johannes Itten created a 12 point system that seemed to work out for painter mixing paints for a long time.

This is the system that uses primary colors of Red, Yellow, Blue and is generally accepted as the "Mixing Color Wheel". Unfortunately, this theory is still taught in our schools, and I'm as guilty as the rest in that I still use it.

Then science figured out a few more tricks for us, like, color television, and the fact that our eyes are set up with Red, Green and Blue receptors.

This is now known as the "Visual Color Wheel" and is based on primary colors being Red, Green and Blue light. Thus, the RGB Color Wheel was created.

This color theory works great when thinking about light, but how does that apply to paint?

We have to use the subtractive color theory to fully understand and apply this to paint mixing. Lets look at the printing and photography industry.

Inks in your computer printer use Cyan, Magenta and Yellow.  These are the subtractive primary's on the RGB color wheel.

In a nutshell, these colors lie exactly 1/3 around the RGB color wheel, and when say

  • Red + Green lights are combined you get the Yellow.
  • The Red + Blue = Magenta, and
  • Blue + Green gives us Cyan.

The proof for me that the theory is sound is simply looking at an Epson Giclee Print. When using (in theory) all 3 colors, we should get black, but alas, it's difficult to create a perfect Magenta, Cyan, or Yellow pigment, so they add black. (And this is created by other materials)

So why not teach this color guide theory in schools?

Most of your graphic design colleges are well ahead of the game, but it's simply gonna take time for it to filter down to our elementary school systems.

In the mean time, experiment! The closest oil paint available today for matching these same pigments on the RGB wheel are,

  • Yellow Cadmium Light = Yellow
  • Phthalo Blue = Cyan
  • Quinacridone magenta = Magenta 

Most artists already have two of these colors on their palette!

Phthalo Blue and Yellow Cadmium Light.

If you have ever used these to mix your greens, you will find that they are an intense vivid green, so much so, I rarely use it in my own work (remember, I'm ol'school, and I use the old color guide theories).

But don't let that stop you.

If you paint in an impressionistic or abstract style, these colors will be right up your alley. With the addition of the Quinacridone Magenta to this trio of colors, it is an amazing gamut of hues (colors) that can be created!

And their intensity and brightness beats anything I can mix using the traditional RYB color wheel palette.

The reasons being there are less secondary color mixtures/fillers in the individual blends.

They are simply truer to the ideal Yellow, Cyan and Magenta on the Visual RGB Color Wheel. Thus, using them in your mixtures will mean a brighter, less muddy painting!

I hope this small color guide will help you in your painting endeavors.

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