Properties of colors include hue, value, saturation, and temperature.
Hue refers to the name of the color. A hue is a given color created by a specific wavelength of light.
Value is the degree of light and dark of a color. You can use it to create contrast and to add visual drama to your work. In watercolor, we add water (not white paint) to a mix to make it lighter. To make it darker, we add more of the hue we are painting with (not black paint).
The water-to-paint ratio is what creates value in watercolors. Learning to control that ratio is key to mastering watercolors.
To practice this technique, paint swatches of all your colors from dark to light so as to create a value shift. A common way to identify the water to paint ratio is to think in terms of the consistency of your mix: butter is thick and the darkest mix, add a small amount of water and the consistency is that of cream, making the mix less thick and less dark. By adding a bit more water, the consistence is that of whole milk. More water still, skim milk. And for the lightest value, the mix should have the consistency of weak tea. This swatch will be very light indeed.
If you paint swatches at each of these consistencies, you will get a handle on each color at full strength and at a diluted value. Make value studies of each of your colors with these five values. You’ll notice that some colors don’t have that much of a range. They can’t get any darker then what you achieve in 3 or 4 values no matter how much paint you add to the mixture. Good to know!
The swatches of our colors that are at full strength show us that color’s mass tone.
The value of the pigment diluted to the thinnest wash shows us the undertone.
Painting your values this way will help you see what color is actually inside each tube because looking at the color in your palette does not reveal its real color, mass tone or undertone. Some colors look completely different on paper than in your palette and can look quite different at full strength (mass tone) as compared to a lighter undertone.
To explore values further, consider painting a simple scene with only one color, diluting the paint as necessary to achieve various values. I painted this watercolor of a fan using Lamp Black.
These exercises will help you learn a lot about your paints before you dive into your next painting.
I will be teaching Understanding Colors for the Watercolorist as a 10 Week Workshop at Cloud 9 Art School in Bothell on Tuesdays 9:30am - 12:30pm from January 8 to March 12, 2019.
Designed to help watercolor artists understand both color theory and paint properties, we will explore the properties of watercolor pigments (transparent, opaque, staining, fugitive, granulating, on my!) and we will look at different ways of mixing color (on the palette, on the paper, wet-into-wet, glazing). We will experiment with color temperature, value, and intensity of pigments. We will learn about the advantages of painting with a limited palette and we will make a lot of color charts in the process.
We will play with formulas that work well for specific subjects (skies, skin, shadows). We will explore how to match colors and study classic compatible palettes (colors that work well together in a painting). We will look at the emotions of colors and explore the use of color through art history.
Each of the lessons of our workshop will introduce new ideas and exercises, new paints, techniques, and challenge you to think about color in new ways. You will get a creative workout, but in a relaxed, supportive setting, where experimentation and play are encouraged while techniques and observation are emphasized.
To register, visit https://charlenecollinsfreeman.com/workshops/
Color in a picture is like enthusiasm in life. - Vincent van Gogh