Part 2 Close to home Project: Understanding colour

I used acrylic paint throughout this project to allow for quick drying times.

Mixing Greys – Anachromatic scale

I mixed student white with mars black to produce my anachromatic scales. I did the exercise several times, the best one pictured below (top one). I am happy with this 13 stage tonal progression. In contrast, the 12 step scale pictured at the bottom is rather ‘clunky’ in places with greater steps in tone visible between stages 2 and 3, and stages 7 and 8. Interestingly though they both give the same tone at their mid point (as pictured by the large grey squares).

Anachromatic Scales
Anachromatic Scales

When the neutral grey is placed against the pure white tone (on left), it appears to be darker. When place against the pure black tone (on right), it appears lighter. I also noticed that the student quality acrylics dry darker (due to a white coloured filler apparently). This was a bit of an issue that I hadn’t appreciated as I mixed my neutral grey up after the tonal scales had dried. As the middle square above shows, my neutral grey ended up one stage darker on my tonal scale than the mid point. I tried to compensate for this in the next exercises.

With some of the spare scales I produced some value scales for each of the pure pigment (ie no white added) for the colours I used in the next exercise. Adding white to each pigment will make the value lighter than this, adding black will make its value darker.

Relative values of my yellow, blue and red hues
Relative values of my yellow, blue and red hues

Primary and secondary colour mixing

For the following exercises I used a variety of hues of each primary colour applied to my original (slight too dark) neutral grey. I applied the paint firstly with a brush, then noticing that thicker paint gives you a better idea of colour intensity, using a palette knife. i then repeated each exercise with white added to each hue. In addition I repeated various combinations of each primary colour on a lighter neutral grey background in order to try to compensate for the acrylic having dried darker in the grey scale exercise.


Cadmium yellow is my most intense yellow pigment. Lemon yellow is quite vivid but it has a very acid green overtone, and in its pure, translucent form over the dark grey background appears green. This is also true for cad. yellow, but the addition of white eliminated this. Lemon yellow and white still have a greenish tinge.


Cadmium red is my most intense red. Vermillion is the brightest but it is quite a yellow red in comparison to cad. red. The crimsons and the purple are very blue colour, something that is more obvious when white is added.


Ultramarine blue is my most intense blue. For a while I thought it might be the cobalt but I think that this may be quite a yellow blue, especially when it is viewed next to cerulean blue (a very yellow blue). The addition of white made little difference to the transparency of the paint in most the hues, the exception being ultramarine. I only painted pure pigment onto the lighter neutral grey.

Secondary colour mixing

Mixing secondary colours
Mixing secondary colours

Broken or Tertiary Colours

Broken  or tertiary colours

Mix produced a series of muted grey-purples hues.

Tertiary Colours

Again the tertiary colours are muted tones although they are not as grey as I was expecting. They have a far amount of chroma to them. On posting this I realise that I have stuck my strips in the wrong places in the bottom triad! The whole triangle needs to be rotated one place clockwise for the colour labels to make sense (the orange hues should be at the top). I have altered the labelling in my sketchbook.

Complementary Colours

My Colour Wheel
Complementary Colours

Complementary colours have the effect of seemingly to enhance the intensity of each other. This must be an optical effect as the paint intensity is the same as it came out of the tubes, and is known as successive contrast. The complementary afterimages intensify each complementary colour.  This intensity is lost when you mix the two to get the tertiary colour. When pairing up complementary colours you always get a ‘warm’ colour being paired with a ‘cool’ colour.


Part 2 Close to home Project: Understanding colour

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s