Are You Painting
With Dirty Colors?

Do Your Oil Paintings
Look Flat, Dull and Boring?

Or Sparkling, Right?
A Real Problem You Can Easily Resolve 

A Cushion Pattern Showing a Bright color and a subdued one as a compliment.A Cushion Pattern Showing a Bright color and a subdued one.

An overwhelming percentage of painting enthusiasts, amateurs and professionals alike, have identified color and using color as their main problem or major stumbling block. Why?

If you know the three primaries, the three secondaries and three tertiaries, memorize them, you should be good to go and create wonderful oil paintings!

Portrait of gentleman in HB and 2B pencilsPortrait of gentleman in HB and 2B pencils

If this is also your major concern, then join the club.

The problem usually starts when combining three or more colors into your color mix. 

Doing so increases the likelihood of having muddy colors that is usually the result of too many colors into the mix.

Some mages do not require color, they look better without it. (See portrait on the right here.) Color would spoil it and probably lose the high contrast!

The resulting effect is usually flat, dull, and comatose.  Have you ever got one of your paintings you created yesterday and you were horrified with the results? Yuk! I know I have, many times!

Apparently, this is a big concern for the majority of painters and artists.

You want lively colors that create an emotional impact on your audience. Right? That will sell your painting!

If your goal is to have no more muddy colors, just like most painters, then it’s best to have a look at what causes it in the first place. You can have subtle hues by the use of complementary colors without your painting looking dull and flat!

We have already established that yukky or dirty colors are the result of combining three or more paints, especially when you don’t get the right tint--because one or two of the colors used in the mix are not the right hue.

Another cause of lifeless colors is having too many colors on your palette, especially using black and brown to tone or gray colors.

Trying to darken a color using black will usually result in a sea of mud. The recommendation is that you stick to primary colors – blue, red, yellow, secondary, and tertiary colors plus white--as your only source colors.

When you overwork a painting by re-stating brush strokes or fiddling too much or concentrating on a particular area, then it also increases the likelihood of having really flat colors in your work.

Flat, lifeless colors also occur when you try to paint shadows, silhouettes, or when you’re attempting to darken a bright color by introducing dark colors such as charcoal tones and grays.  If you attempt to lighten this color with white, it will result in dullish colors. If the colors used are muddy, the painting will look lifeless and boring—and the loss of a sale!

There are various recommendations on how to avoid a muddy mess such as not using black in your color palette, trying not to use more than three colors in a color mixture, and darkening a color using its complimentary color instead of using black.

This is all very good advice.  However, you need to have an understanding of the basics and theory of color in order to really know the reasons behind why your colors make your paintings look lifeless and how it can be avoided in the future.

The underlying cause of muddy colors is really a poor understanding of color theory. This is the reason why Richard Robinson’s Mastering Color, which is suitable for all mediums, is a very helpful resource for beginners to advanced painters.

With 40 breakthrough color exercises, chapter 1 of this useful course is ‘Color Theory’. A theoretical understanding and history of Color Theory is fundamental in order to start having no more muddy colors.

After an understanding of color theory, you will investigate why it is so hard to understand color--to see, analyze, and paint color well, in a module entitled "Seeing Color”.  Part of the course is realizing that everyone has a visual problem about color and our brain tricks us into seeing something else.  The course will introduce the concept of Color Constancy, which is the underlying feature of color to be perceived the same way under various viewing conditions.  This means that colors look the same and remains constant despite different illumination conditions and light sources.

The next chapter in the course Mastering Color is entitled ‘Describing Color’ answers the question what is the best way to think about color? Learning the best methods when analyzing color in nature leads to better decisions when mixing them on the palette.  Thinking about color clearly will result in your paintings coming alive with vibrant color!

It is time to get your paints out in the next few chapters, as you will get a chance to apply everything you have learned so far.

Chapter 4 of the course delves into ‘Value’, which is the basis of all good color work.  It will show students powerful exercises to master value and hues. 

Painting enthusiasts will now get a chance to see, analyze and apply colors in the next chapter, which is entitled ‘Mixing Colors’.  This answers important questions such as ‘what’s the best color mixing wheel?’ and ‘how can you accurately match a color’?

The last three chapter of the course Mastering Color delves into more advanced topics such as manipulating color, color symphony, and painting luminosity.

In order for you to achieve lively colors in your paintings, you would need practical and straightforward advice from a master, given in simple language that is easy to understand.

Let's Paint With Clean Colors - it will make a Difference!

basic coloring pencilsbasic coloring pencils

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