Mixing Colors

Mixing color with colored pencils is a quick, almost instant procedure that requires very little equipment. Artists who work with these pencils often report experiencing an intensity of concentration—a total absorption—which takes them by surprise. The medium's speed and directness of handling usually spurs these colorists on to further experimentation, which is excellent, since an active pursuit of color often brings fresh and unfamiliar results.

This is a good time to think about starting a personal workbook for your colored pencil drawings, if you don't have one already. This book should be separate from your regular pencil workbook. The most useful kind for your colored pencil drawings is one with pages of a medium-grained surface very similar to that of your everyday drawing paper. For example, the Strath-more 400 Series drawing paper is inexpensive and comes in a 5/2" x 8'/?" notebook, and also in small spiral-bound tablets. Either version would make a good workbook.

THE DIMENSIONS OF COLOR

Color mixing involves the three dimensions of every color: hue, value, and intensity. The varying, or mixing, of a color is actually a varying of one or more of these dimensions. The meanings of the three dimensions of color are discussed below.

Hue. A color's hue is its name: red, yellow, blue-green, etc. It also denotes a color's place on the spectrum. Hues are said to have "temperature"—those approaching red are warm and aggressive, those nearer blue are cool and reticent. To visualize other relationships among hues—to show which are complementary (opposite), for example, and which are adjacent (neighboring)—colors are often arranged in their spectrum order on a color wheel. Black, white, and the various grays are not considered hues, but neutrals.

Value. The lightness and darkness of a hue is its value, as if on a scale from white to black. Gradations of value are critical when describing form in art, building a composition, and evoking mood.

Scales of value, often presented in chart form, can contain anywhere from a few to several distinct gradations. You can assess values easily with grays or with a single hue. Determining value gradations becomes more difficult when several different hues are involved as a group, but this becomes easier with practice.

Intensity (also called chroma). This describes the purity of a color in terms of its brightness or dullness. A hue of strong or high intensity appears vivid and saturated. It also has a simple and straightforward quality and is usually unmixed. A hue of weak or low intensity appears dull and unaggressive. Remember that, in a color sense, "dull" is not a pejorative—it is merely the opposite of "bright."

ALTERING COLOR'S DIMENSIONS

Color mixing is done by deliberately altering one or more of color's three dimensions. You can manage these color alterations in a variety of ways— many of them unique to the colored pencil medium.

The hue of a color is changed by mixing another hue with it. You can do this in two basic ways:

1 Combine two or more pencil hues by superimposing or layering one color on top of another. You might use this method to express the rapid hue changes of a sky at sunset.

2. Combine two or more pencil hues by placing them side by side. The energetic hue changes in a blooming garden might be shown in this way

The value of one color is changed by adding another color or a neutral that is lighter or darker to the first color. There are three basic methods for accomplishing this with colored pencils:

1. Change the pencil pressure. When you look at a colored pencil lead, you see that pencil's color at its darkest value. By changing pencil pressure, you are in effect combining more or less of the paper's whiteness with the pencil's color. Moderate to heavy pressure will transfer a deeper value to the paper; lighter values will be expressed by lightening the pencil pressure. This method is useful for gradating values on a flower petal without changing the petal's original brilliance or hue.

2. Overlay a color with a white or black pencil. A white pencil overlayed on a dark color will raise or lighten that color's value, but overlaying has little effect on colors that are already of a medium to light value. White pencil excels as an overlay when rendering the effects of glazed surfaces, such as those found on porcelain or stoneware.

Overlaying black pencil on a color of any value will lower or darken that color's value. Because black also deadens hue and affects the intensity of a color, overlaying with black pigment must be done very carefully. For a city street at dusk, where hue and intensity are intended to be dimly expressed, overlaying with black can be an excellent method of changing value. But used too much or inappropriately, black-altered values can produce a sameness that is tiresome.

3. Overlay a pencil's color with a lighter or darker color. Although this method also changes a color's original hue and intensity, it is the colored pencil medium's liveliest way of changing values. The new values arrived at seem crisp and decisive and filled with a richness of hue. This method works well for a portrait's pattern of light and dark values, accompanied as they are by subtle hue changes.

Color can be bright in intensity (top) or dull in intensity (bottom). "Dull" is not a pejorative in terms of color but is merely opposed to "bright" and can often serve as a useful variation.

As you see from this pair of charts, the values of a single color (left) are easy to assess and arrange in a progressive order of darkness to lightness. It becomes more difficult to assemble a similar scale of values when colors of differing hues and intensities are used (right).

Intensity Scale Single Color

white

The Value Colour Drawing

dark black middle white dark black middle

Color can be bright in intensity (top) or dull in intensity (bottom). "Dull" is not a pejorative in terms of color but is merely opposed to "bright" and can often serve as a useful variation.

As you see from this pair of charts, the values of a single color (left) are easy to assess and arrange in a progressive order of darkness to lightness. It becomes more difficult to assemble a similar scale of values when colors of differing hues and intensities are used (right).

Colored pencil offers two basic methods of altering a color's hue: by tonally overlaying or superimposing separate hues to construct a new hue (top); and by the juxtaposition of separate hues (in this example with a linear technique) for the visual illusion of a new hue (bottom).

Therapy Colored Pencil
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