You can also add white or black paint to another color. When you add white, the new color becomes a tint of the original color. That's how red becomes pink, for example. When you add black, you make a shade of the original color. That's how you get maroon from red.
Make a chart of tints and shades. You can use Figure 5-2 as a guide.
1. Using watercolor paper, grab your pencil and draw a 4-x-1-inch rectangle for each color exploration.
2. Choose a color and place it in the middle of the rectangle. Rinse your brush.
A flat K-inch brush makes painting these rectangles easy because of its shape.
3. Paint black on one short end, rinse your brush, and then paint white on the other.
4. Blend a gradation (a slow, smooth transition) from black to the color and from white to the color.
You must blend the colors while they're still wet. If they dry, you may be able to blend them by rewetting the area with clean water and rubbing with a stiff brush like a bristle brush. Even wetness is the key to blending colors. If you get a dry area while another area is wet, let it all dry. When it's dry everywhere, rewet evenly and try to blend again. Uneven wetness is dangerous territory. When in doubt, dry it out!
Try to leave some of the center color pure without black or white. Practice making the transitions smooth. (For more blending instructions, review Chapter 3.) When you're finished, you should have a chart showing the color in a range of tints and shades with the true color in the middle.
You can also paint the color and gradually add water until the color fades to just the white of the paper. Compare the tint you create using white paint and the pigment diluted with water.
5. Label your color name in pencil, and repeat the exercise with other colors.
Try as many colors as you want to explore. Tint red with white to achieve lovely pink colors. Shade blue with black for the colors of a night sky. Tint and shade all the colors to see what other discoveries you can make. Label the color names you use.
Example of cadmium red tinted and shaded.
Example of cadmium red tinted and shaded.
Transparent versus opaque
Transparent watercolor is what appeals to me. It "glows" from the light that bounces through the paint and is reflected back to the viewer.
You can also buy opaque watercolor called gouache, which is pigment with Chinese white added.
Some watercolor pigments can be opaque too. Cadmiums, for example, can be opaque. More water added makes every paint transparent. Both types of watercolor make beautiful results. Each is just a matter of style.
Avoiding mud: The bias color wheel
As you begin to mix colors, sooner or later you encounter (cue sinister music) the ominous mud. Mud is the result when the colors mix up just plain ugly. You can get mud when mixing a neutral color from complements (see the "Getting along with complementary colors" section earlier in the chapter). Or mud can appear when paint is opaque, meaning you can't see through it. Transparent paint allows the viewer to see through the paint. Light bounces through the paint to the white paper and back into your eye so you see glowing colors. You can't see through opaque paint, so the light can't bounce off the paper and no light is reflected. The result can look chalky and dull — like mud.
Mixing complementary colors neutralizes colors, which looks like a gray-brown color. Sometimes this is a useful, beautiful color. Mud or neutral? It depends on your intention — but it's important to know how to get what you want or avoid what you don't want.
So why do you sometimes mix colors and get a color that isn't what you hoped it would be? Here is the secret:
Paint pigments are not pure colors. They may have a little bit of another color in them. So when you mix red and blue and hope to get purple, it sometimes comes out brown. Mud. How did that happen? You need to have the correct red and blue. For example, if I mix cadmium red and Prussian blue together, I should get purple, right? Yes, according to what the color wheel says. Instead, I get a muddy brown. Why? Those two colors have a tiny bit of yellow in them. So essentially, I mixed yellow, red, and blue, a formula for neutral gray. Without knowing it, I mixed the wrong blue and red. So it is important to understand which primary colors to mix to achieve secondary colors.
Each color contains a primary color adjacent to it on the color wheel, and that adjacent color is called the bias. The red and blue in my example each had a yellow bias.
So each primary color has two biases:
^ Cadmium red is biased yellow; alizarin crimson is biased blue. ^ Cadmium yellow is biased red; lemon yellow is biased blue. ^ Phthalocyanine blue is biased yellow; ultramarine blue is biased red.
Figure 5-3 shows a bias color wheel.
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