After years of using a palette full of colors, I am going the limited route. I have experimented with a variety of triads and wondered if there are triads that you find to be most "harmonious," for lack of a better word. I have used the Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow triad and am now playing around with Alizarin, Pthalo Blue, and Cadmium Yellow Light. I enjoy mixing greens and would love your advice on that issue as well. As for my darks (particularly dark space) I use a mixture of Sap and Alizarin - in addition to the triad.
Thank you for your gracious and generous help!...........................Rodney Achromatopsia
Rod; There are a lot of three color palettes, If I had to choose just one it would be Cadmium yellow light, alizarin permanent (quinacridone) and cobalt blue. Painting in a three color palette is a great way to develop your color technical skills. It also means you are dragging less stuff around with you. Matching a new note to one already on the canvas is easy too, because there are only a few color choices you can make. You will get great color harmony, but you lose some things as well.
I have also painted with earth color three color palettes. You don't hear much about those, but I have had some good days working in those. An example of that would be yellow ocher, ivory black and an earth red.
Mixing greens would seem pretty obvious as there are so few choices you can make. Yellow plus your blue, usually doctored up with your red.You may not be able to get anywhere near the actual greens in front of you, but that matters less than you might think, the harmony of your colors will make the greens seem correct,USUALLY. I would suggest caution with adding that sap green and alizarin mixture to get your darks, after all, the beauty of the three color palette is the color harmony it automatically installs in your painting adding that sap green will probably compromise that. Sap green used to be made with buckthorn berries, today it is a hue, and can be almost any shade of yellow green, and is generally mad with pthalo. Unless you already have pthalo in your palette, I think that is a recipe for disharmony.
Working in a three color palette is excellent for learning to mix up your colors chromatically and as I mentioned before gives great color harmony. But it also brings some problems.They are;
Unless you are very careful you will end up with a lot of pictures that are the same color. You want to watch that if you are doing a show.
When I am working on a larger palette I have the ability to use different pigments to paint my lights than I use to paint my shadows, that's handy. If you are on a three color palette you are going to paint the light and the shadow with the same colors. For instance, if I am painting a red barn with a full palette I can paint the lights with cad red and the shadows with alizarin, if I am using a three color palette I am going to paint my lights with cad red and my shadows with cad red plus my blue or my yellow, but the same red note must appear in both.
I have far better control of my color temperature if I have a warm and a cool version of each hue.
A famous palette called the Zorn palette, after an artist who probably didn't use it, substitutes Ivory black for the blue.
I think a cool red is best if you only have one, rather than a hot red like the cadmium red light, unless you are Zornizing, in which case I suggest what ever red is closest to vermilion in color that you can find. I am painting figures one night a week and doing that with gold ocher, vermilion ( a hue, made by RGH), and ivory black. Real vermilion is too poisonous and the hue I am using works pretty well.
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