Colour Theory for Watercolour Painters

Colour Theory For Watercolour Painters

Understanding colour theory for watercolours is important when you wish to learn the art of watercolour painting. If you have a flair for creating beautiful images, mastering the skill of using colour and texture will help you achieve the desired result.

With a little imagination and a lot of practice it is possible to capture the mood, scene or moment by creating a good work of art. Intelligent use of colours is important. Especially knowing how to create “warm” and “cool” effects.

So here’s what you need to understand about the basics of the colour theory.

What is Colour?

Have you ever observed any object such as a crystal or piece of glass that has caught a spectrum of light when the sun shone through the window? The colours that are reflected have a rainbow effect which contains primary and secondary colours including complimentary colours.

To begin with, it is important to know that all colours are made up of three primary colours – red, blue and yellow. Secondary colours are obtained by mixing any two of the primary colours in equal parts.

For instance, try mixing red with yellow and see what happens.  You will get orange. If you mix red and blue, you will notice that it turns purple and a mix of blue and yellow will result in a green colour. Experiment on paper using your watercolour paints and a wet brush. This practice is useful when you get down to painting on a larger canvas.

A Look At The Colour Wheel And Colour Moods

If you look at a colour wheel, you will understand the concept revolving around the colour theory basics. Red, blue and yellow are the primary colours that are interspersed with the secondary colours as they blend into each other.

When arranging colours on the colour wheel, you will notice that the colours are arranged in a chromatic scale. Harmonious colours are next to each other while contrasting or complementary colours are directly opposite. For instance red and green, orange and blue and purple and yellow are contrasting colours that can be used to complement a painting.

The colour spectrum can be further broken down into warm and cool colours.

  • Greens, blues and violets are generally considered cool colours whereas red, yellow and orange are fiery and warm.
  • The use of white or black will produce tints or muted shades which can be referred to tones or hues.
  • Texture, shine and pattern affect the appearance of colours. It is therefore important to place colours in relation to others carefully.

To explain the concept further, you will notice that a light colour appears lighter when it is seen against a dark background. On the other hand a dark colour against a light background will seem darker. If you do not want such a striking contrast, all you have to do is use a medium tone to lighten or darken the colours accordingly.

Choosing Colours

If you are a novice at painting, take some time to understand the effect of colours and their relevance when using them to make your painting look realistic. Look around you and observe the objects around you.

Perhaps you can admire the array of colours in your garden! You will notice how some colours complement each other and the reason you mix and match to get the desired result. You could also look at vegetables and fruits and see how the colours look next to each other and the various shades and hues in each.

Every beginner should learn the colour theory basics for turning out quality works. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Do not be afraid to experiment.
  2. Pay attention to light, hues, shades and tints as well as textures
  3. Try out various mixes and blends and hues.
  4. Highlight and focus on the subject using the right texture and colour

Even after you have grasped the colour theory basics, there are still several nuances of using colours that can affect the final result. If you would like to know more about the right methods of watercolour painting, contact me any time for information, tips and suggestions.