Basic Colour Science

Painting Landscapes - Basic Colour Science

I have drawn up a subtractive colour triangle for you to consider (below). The Primary colours of paint are red, blue and yellow. By mixing these paints together we create our secondary colours. Colours opposite in the triangle are said to be complimentary to each other because mixed together they will make black. I like to store my paint by following the triangle in an anticlockwise direction. I know the subtractive colour triangle like the back of my hand and so will you one day I trust.

Sir Isaac Newton's 1666 experiments told the world that white light is made up of 7 colours in the spectrum. Yes the colours of the rainbow… Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet. Newton gave us his colour disk (below). Spin the disk, blend the colours and it will go grey-white. This is called additive colour mixing, also shown in the additive mixing triangle (above)

Why is there an additive and a subtractive colour triangle? Mixing paint is due to a subtractive process. Pure light has already been manipulated, for example blue paint has absorbed all light except the blue and green, which it reflects back to our eyes. A yellow flower is yellow because it will absorb most of the other colours of white light and reflect only the yellow. Take away the light and the yellow flower is now dark or black. It is the same with our pigment. That is enough science for one day; you can see how a basic understanding of light and colour can help you with your painting.