Those of you who are visual artists may have an on going difficult relationship with colour mixing. There are so many things to know and so many of the colour mixing books around make it far more complicated than it should be. I would like to share some facts with you that may be affecting your results, which you may have no idea about.
Some of the following facts are also about line and shape.

  • Contrasts intensify each other.
  • Hues next to each other will make the complement of the other colour appear to a certain extent e.g.  if red and yellow are next to other the yellow will appear slightly greener (green being the compliment of the red) and the red will appear slightly more violet or purple (purple being the compliment of yellow).
  • When you have a spot of grey on a red background, the opposite or complimentary of the colour  will be induced, thus making the the grey appear greenish.


There are as many opinions about black as there are artists in the world I suspect. To forget about black altogether is like leaving  an important ingredient out of a recipe simply because you don’t like it. Like all the other colours, black too has its place.

  • Black makes colours placed next to it appear brighter and if  it totally surrounds the colour the colour will also appear bigger than it is. We can often see this effect in stained glass windows.
Red squares on black and white

Red squares on black and white

  • Observe how the red square on a white background appears smaller and duller than the red square on the black ground even though both squares are the exact same size and value.

We can mix a black with other colours such as Viridian and Cadmium red or Pthalo blue and Burnt Umber.  These blacks will always give more life to your painting than a black straight out of the tube as you can vary the amounts of each colour to give your black interest.


This week’s question: How do you use black in your work, if at all? If not would you consider adding it to your tool box ?

Tagged with: