Sunday, 11 March 2012

White isn't Always White - Painting Colours

There is much more to painting colour than painting the colour of the object in front of you.  In order to illustrate some of the factors to be considered I am going to write about painting white and how it can be altered in different ways in different contexts.

Firstly the colour of the subject will be under the influence of the light cast on it, not only from the principal lightsource but also the light reflected off other coloured surfaces around it.  In this painting above there were two sources of light, the electric light of the bathroom and also the cold daylight coming from the kitchen behind.

Next the colour of the light seen on the object will depend on the type of surface the object has.  In the painting the surface of the tiles to the right were very reflective so darks and lights were accentuated, the electric light was slightly yellow and somewhat blocked by the door, the door was also had a gloss finish but as it has been a few year since it has been painted this is not the brilliant white it used to be, this added to the tiles having a yellow tone.

Another thing which affects the colour of something being painted is the context which it is put in.  The white of the shirt in this painting looks so white because it is next to whites that look blue or yellow.  In the same way something dark will look darker if positioned next to something bright.  It is a good idea to approach a painting by first establishing on the canvas the darkest and lightest points on the painting, followed by the principal tones.  If you don't then a colour you put down earlier may look different when you start adding other colours and you might have to go back to repaint what you've already done.

A good general rule is to try to paint what you see rather than what you think is there, but you also have to take into account how the colours will be interpreted differently by your eye according to the colours around them.  Don't be dissapointed if you think you've got just the right colour for an object and then have to make adjustments later as the painting develops, for this reason it's usually better not to paint any particular part of a painting in too much detail before you have the other elements at least roughly suggested on the canvas.  The painting should evolve as a whole, your paintbrush jumping back and forth between areas as they develop in contrast to each other.


  1. hello, ez a legjobb festményed!
    how to paint hair? beautiful!!

    1. Thanks Rosina!
      That's a good idea, I'll write one about how to paint hair very soon :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...