Color Theory Basics, Part 2

We covered the basics of color in this post.  In this one we get into the more practical aspects of combining colors in a pleasing way.  Here’s some easy tips for success:

Complimentary Colors.  These are colors directly opposite each other on the color wheel.  In the case of complimentary colors, when combined the colors will cancel each other out.  When they are beside each other they create the strongest contrast possible with those two colors.  Examples of Complimentary colors are Yellow and Purple, Red and Green, Blue and Orange.

Split Complimentary Colors.  These are created using any one color and the color found on each side of it’s compliment.  Let me explain:  Red and Green are complimentary colors.  If I use Red as my color choice, I would take the colors found on either side of  Green, which are Blue/Green and Yellow/Green.  If you use Violet, the other colors would be yellow/green and yellow/orange because the compliment is Yellow.

Triad Colors.  The use of three colors equally spaced on the color wheel.  Your examples would be Blue, Yellow and Red.  Or Green, Orange and Violet.  Or Yellow/Green, Red/Orange and Blue/Violet.

Tetrad Colors.  Four colors, two sets of compliments.  Blue and Orange with Red and Green, or Blue/Violet and Yellow/Orange with Yellow/Green and Red/Violet.

These are easy color combinations that will always work.

Another easy way to come up with great color combos is by looking at the advertising which comes in the mail or in magazines.  Advertisers spend a tremendous amount of money to get your attention.  They spend a lot of money trying to come up with the perfect look for their products.  This includes the combinations of colors.

Also look in your closet.  Look at the colors combined in the fabrics you see there.  Notice the amount of colors used.  How much blue is there used compared to the green and the orange.  Things like that.

Honestly the key to being a successful artist is observation.  If you observe the environment around you, you will begin to see and absorb what works and what does not.  Which is equally important, by the way.  If you recognize what does not work, you can then tell what does.



Color Theory Basics for Beginners

How often do you become frustrated with your ability to combine colors in a pleasing way?  Have you ever decided you just don’t have the knack for it?  Have you ever wondered if it is something people are born with and you missed that gene?

Well, stop the frustration and the wondering.  I have some quick, easy ways to make your art work, well, work.

Color theory sounds really scary doesn’t it?  Like a class with all kinds of notes and tests.  Not at all.  Here is your basics for color theory:

There are three PRIMARY COLORS.  They are Red, Yellow and Blue.

When these colors are combined they make SECONDARY COLORS.  The SECONDARY COLORS are Orange, Green and Violet.

TERTIARY COLORS are made by mixing one primary (full part) with a secondary (half part).  There are six TERTIARY COLORS.  They are Red/Orange, Yellow/Orange, Yellow/Green, Blue/Green, Blue/Violet, and Red/Violet.  You always use the primary color as the first word in your color combination.

COLOR is described with three characteristics.  They are HUE, VALUE, and INTENSITY.

HUE:  is simply the name of a color.  Green, Blue, Orange, etc.

VALUE:  the lightness or darkness of the color.  This is in reference to a gray scale, from the darkest to the lightest.

INTENSITY:  this is saturation or chroma.  The purity of the color which determines the dullness or brightness.  This is different from VALUE but people often confuse these two.

Now you have some variations you can make with your colors.  They are TINT, TONE and SHADE.

TINT:  Color plus WHITE.

TONE:  Color plus GRAY

SHADE:  Color plus BLACK.

Neutral Shade is the equal parts of both black and white combined.  White is the presence of all colors, black is the absence of color.  Since color reflects light, all colors reflecting equally create white.  When there is no color to reflect, you have black.

In my own art practice I have six primary colors, a warm and cool of each.  Warm colors advance or come forward in a painting, and cool colors recede or go back in a painting.  The farther back in a painting something is the cooler and less focused it is.  The closer something is in a painting, the warmer and more focused it is.

The use of six primary colors is called an expanded primary palette.

Here are my choices for my expanded acrylic color palette:

Cadmium Red Medium and Permanent Alizarine Crimson (hue) or Cadmium Red Dark

Cadmium Yellow Light and Cadmium Yellow Medium (or dark).

Phthalocyanine Blue and Ultramarine Blue

With an expanded color palette, white and black, you can mix any color on earth.


You do not need to purchase all kinds of paints.  If you stick with the six, add a good white and black-you are set.  A high quality Titanium White is the most important paint in your kit.  I really love the Titanium White by Matisse .  

I seldom use black in my paintings but my preference is Ivory Black or Mars Black.  You will get different results with each.  They are not the same.  (Ivory black is no longer made from the ivory tusks of animals but they left the name the same.  Just like Indian Yellow is no longer made from the urine of cattle fed only mango leaves and water.)

So why are there so many paints on the market if all you need is six?  Because there are some commonly used colors which artists have found incredibly helpful to have pre-mixed.  Some of these include:  Quinacrindone Magenta, Dioxazine Purple, Prussian Blue, Cadmium Orange.  Then there are the earth-tone colors which are made from natural materials:  Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, Red Ochre (Oxide).  Each valuable in an artists arsenal, but you can also mix a color very close to each with the ones you pick for your basic six.

The reason you may not get the exact match for these colors is because each paint company has their own chemists which make a healthy living coming up with colors.  Their exact formulas are heavily guarded secrets.  Since I have never been an “it has to be exact” artist, when I mix a color to approximate another one if it looks close enough to me, that’s good enough for me.  I also have books devoted to my own color combinations and mix recipes, spelled out in a way that makes sense to me and in a way I can easily duplicate each color.

Your best tool for learning what colors go with what colors is a basic color wheel.  This will help you instantly and is very easy to use.  There are also many great books on color theory, and I have a lot of them.  I would recommend Walter Foster books.  They are inexpensive, concise, accurate, easy to understand and-in my opinion-an invaluable resource for artists.  Whether you are a beginning artist or a seasoned pro, these books have a wealth of information and are certainly worth looking into.



About Face #12

Some of today’s daily art.  This is a tutorial from the Art Sherpa.  I loved making this painting.  It was fun to do, easy and turned out well.  It’s my favorite About Face project so far.

The man is not Cinnamon’s father.  He’s not my father either.  He’s just a guy with great lighting.  But he reminds me of an old man by the sea, which means I am giving it to my dad.  I made a figurine of an old sea captain years ago and gave it to my dad.  He still has it.  This will work well in his family room downstairs.

One Color Background

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Brown/Sepia-one color, multiple art materials

Today’s background pages.  Here’s how:

I began by gessoing the pages, which I do on nearly all my art journal pages.  Then I pulled the modeling paste card.  Used that with a stencil.  Then added music pages.  The next card was interesting.  Use one color with three different materials.  I picked a brown/sepia color.  I used an Inktense block, a Lyra water-soluble crayon, and a Graphitint pencil.

My next card was acrylic paint.  I used chocolate brown metallic (which was the same as the other media colors) and highlighted the texture paste areas.  I aged the whole page with a wash of burnt umber.


The photo doesn’t look nearly as cool as the actual page.  The use of one color on the page really looks great.  I will probably add a quote or title and call this one done.  Give a one color background a try and see what you think.

DIY Texture Tool

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have many old credit-type plastic cards.  One use for these handy little things is to cut the edges up to create textures on your art journal pages.  Here’s how:

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cut edges of card to make textures

Each edge is cut differently, giving you 4 options per card.  I have several of these.  I used a decorative edged scissors for one edge, a hole punch for another, and cut patterns with my scissors on the other two.

If you use modeling paste while art journaling, this will give you some really interesting textures on your page.  This gives you added variety, rather than only using your stencils with the paste.

You can make unlimited patterns which makes this a frugal, handy item to add to your art journal tool kit.

Craft Room Essential TOOLS

Here is a list of tools I find to be essential in my work room.  These are suggestions for those new to crafting or setting up a craft room.

  1.  Hot Glue Gun.  This is a tool I use every day.
  2. Craft knife and blades.  This is something I use to cut out chip board images. I cut plastic stencils with my craft knife.
  3. Blow Dryer or Heat Gun.  Drys my work quickly so I can continue my projects.
  4. Ott Lights.  These are portable and powerful.  They can be costly, but in my opinion are worth every cent.
  5. Awl or pokey tool.  I use this to make the holes in my art journal covers for attaching the signatures.
  6. Paper trimmer.
  7. Easels.  I have portable, tabletop and floor easels.  Essential tools for holding your canvas while painting.
  8. Paint palettesHere is my review of paint palettes.
  9. Printer and Computer.  I use this daily.  I print instructions, I type up recipes for art supplies and materials, I print copyright free images.  I could not function without these essentials.  I consider them one item, as they work together.
  10. Credit Card Scraper.  Seriously, this is my most used tool in my workroom.  There are countless uses for this handy, free little plastic rectangle.  I have cut them up to make smaller wedges for use in watercolor painting-to make branches and trees, to make flower details, for texture on mountains and grasses.  I have several I use to add gel medium to my art journal pages.  I use them to smear paint and gesso around.
    1. I was fortunate enough to mention my desire for more gift cards (we have no credit cards) to my dear husband.  He travels for work quite often and has access to hotel key cards-which are also perfect for this use.  Quite often the hotel will give him several to take home.  He also is a safety director for a local trucking company.  In this capacity he orders the guys fuel cards.  Every so often they have to turn their old ones in and get new ones-he has kept the old, shut off cards for me.  I have-I’m guessing here-over 200 plastic credit card-type cards in a storage box ready for me to use.  If you are collecting them, remember you can use the cardboard ones that come in junk mail but they are not nearly as sturdy and reusable as the plastic ones.  For my bible-journaling class, I purchased 100 gift cards from Walmart-I put one cent on each card.  (I asked the manager if this was alright before the cashier and I did it, obviously.)  It may have helped that I was purchasing a tremendous amount of materials for the class at that time.  Since I was purchasing 300 plus dollars worth of stuff, the manager may have been inclined to allow this to happen…I don’t know.  Nevertheless, you may be able to purchase some from stores in your area if you don’t have access to any.


The Clip Art Book

I noticed this book on my book shelf last night.  As I have mentioned, I have many many books.

This book is filled with over 5000 copyright free images.  There are people, costumes, architecture, alphabets and numbers, heraldry and armor, transportation, leisure and sports, Music, anatomy and medicine, flowers, animals, reptiles, birds, insects, fish, occupations…The images are copyright free, the way they are laid out on the page is copyrighted by the publishers.  Which means I cannot scan each page and upload it onto my blog for your use.

I think I am able to share individual images, however, and I will investigate that further.  I hope I am able to do that, as some of these pictures are absolutely stunning!

I am so thrilled I found this book on my shelf.  I have looked at the title many times in the past, but never really grabbed the book and looked through it.  It was one of my second-hand purchases, and I have made many, many of those.  I have bookshelves lined with books I purchased because I liked the title, the book cover looked cool, it was old and huge (for use in art journaling), whatever the reason might be.  Those books are separate from my bible reference/study books, my art books, my history books, my business books, my collection of biography’s, my instructional/classes-I’m-taking books, and my personal favorites.  Oh, and I have boxes and boxes of books which don’t fit on my bookshelves.

To say I have enough books to fill a small public library is not at all an exaggeration.

Once I have my own sketches uploaded for your use, I will see if I can get some of the images from this wonderful book onto my site.  I think you will enjoy using the artwork in your projects.


More Backgrounds

Another Mixed Media Mash-Up.

Here are the prompts used to make this one:


Book, Magazine, or music pages

Metallic Paint– I used metallic watercolors


Homemade Heart background stamp



Border- I used metalic paint, chocolate bronze

Stamps– I used the heart stamp earlier

Spatter–  I used white paint and an old toothbrush

Another background in my latest art journal.  I have completed three art journals since I began this latest a.j. adventure.  I have started a recycled art journal and have made at least 100 ATC backgrounds.  Art journaling is one of the most creative-and potentially inexpensive-art hobbies I have found.  I love the challenge of making wonderful things with recycled materials and the most inexpensive supplies I have on hand.

Enjoy your day and have some artistic fun!

My Sketches

are coming along.  I’m making buildings with windows, doors and chimneys which can be mixed and matched.  I am working on outdoor things like flower beds, flower boxes and swing sets.  I’ve made several Christmas items and am working on some commonly used household things like tea cups and coffee pots.

I have deliberately avoided looking at the Tim Holtz items, because I don’t want to be influenced by his work on my sketches.  Hopefully the end results will be something useful for all of you.  I will upload the sets when they are finished.

DIY Mod Podge


8 oz. white school glue/ PVA glue

3 oz. distilled water

Put in jar with lid and shake well.  Shake well each time you use it.

For variety:

Add 2 to 3 Tablespoons of gloss, water-based varnish to the Mod Podge if you want it glossy.

Add 2 to 3 Tablespoons of very finely ground glitter to make Glitter Mod Podge.

Keeps for ages.