Theory Of Color

The principles connected with coloring should be understood if one

desires to produce the most pleasing and harmonious effects in

painting. The three colors, red, yellow, and blue, with the white of

the paper, are equal in theory to all the requirements of art in its

true relation to color. Red, yellow and blue are called primary colors;

that is, we cannot produce these colors from the combination of any

others. Orange
purple and green are called secondary colors, and are

produced by the combination of the primary colors. By the mixture of

red and yellow we obtain orange, from red and blue, purple, from yellow

and blue, green. The tertiary colors--broken green, gray and brown--are

produced by the mixture of the secondary colors. From orange and purple

we obtain brown, from orange and green, broken green, and from purple

and green, gray. The three primary colors must always be present in a

picture to produce harmony. Colors are divided into what are called

warm and cold colors, the yellow and red being termed warm, and the

blue cold. Yellow and red produce light and warmth, and it is

impossible to produce coolness without the use of blue. In painting we

use the three terms, light, shade and color, because they best express

the qualities of color. Light is expressed by yellow, shade by blue,

and color by red. While red is particularly designated as color, we

must not forget the claims of yellow and blue, as they, together with

red, complete the primary scale of colors. It is by placing these

different colors in juxtaposition that we produce the proper qualities

existing in each of the other colors. It is impossible to produce the

effect of warmth by red and yellow unless we use the blue in connection

with them. It is this filling up, or completing the primary scale of

colors, that gives the term complementary, so often employed in

speaking of colors. Thus red is said to be complementary to green, as

green contains the other two colors of the primary scale--blue and

yellow. Blue is complementary to orange, as orange contains red and

yellow. Yellow is complementary to purple, as purple contains blue and

red. The principle of using the complementary color is of the utmost

importance in painting, or the use of color by any method, and it is on

this principle that the harmony of color is based. When a painting is

produced that has the colors red, yellow and blue properly balanced, a

pleasing and harmonious effect is attained; but if these colors are not

used in their proper relations, there is a discord, and the work is not

satisfactory. These rules must be borne in mind by every student in

coloring, whether he uses oil or water colors. One of the most common

errors of amateurs is to overlook the red in landscape. Thus trees are

too green, and the grass is insufferably green: the complementary

color, red, has been left out.

By the following experiment you may prove that when you see one color

the eye is in a perfect condition to see its complementary color. On a

piece of white paper, three inches wide and five inches long, draw with

a lead pencil an oblong, half an inch from the top, one inch wide, and

two and one-half inches long from right to left, and a similar oblong

one-half an inch below the one already drawn. Then draw a six pointed

star (or any other not too large figure you desire) in the centre of

the upper oblong, and paint it with vermilion water color. Now look

intently at the painted star for thirty seconds, and then look at the

plain oblong below, and you will observe that the latter will gradually

assume a very beautiful shade of green, the exact complementary color

of the vermilion, with the figure in white upon it--unless you should

happen to be color blind. If that is the case, the experiment will

demonstrate that fact.