"Fun" Colors and When to Use Them

What is your favorite "fun" paint color? I'm talking about that paint color you love so much you could almost eat it (please don't!). Maybe it's a unique color that was required by a workshop teacher. Maybe it's a stunning hue you couldn't resist buying at your local art store. It's that beautiful color that sits on your palette, just begging you to use it…

…But you never seem to find the opportunity to use that color. You always search for the color in your subject but you can never find it. How do you know when to use that "fun" color?

This is a good thing to know, because having too many "fun" colors on your palette can hinder you. Here's why:

  • They take up valuable space on your palette for mixing.
  • They can make color mixing unnecessarily complicated. Color mixing is easier when you have fewer choices. Don't worry, having fewer choices won't hurt your painting one bit. Even very limited palettes can sufficiently capture the colors in many subjects (See "A Limited Palette That Won't Cramp Your Style")

To begin explaining when to use "fun" colors, I'll share which two "fun" colors I added to my palette for these paintings: 

"Aaron" • Oil 10" x 8"

When I saw my bro-in-law wearing this neon green t-shirt, I was like, "You need to wear that when you model for our painting group!" The shirt provided the perfect opportunity to try out a new paint color I had recently acquired—cadmium chartreuse from Gamblin. The color of the shirt was great fun to paint because of its sheer intensity and because of the way it reflected into his jaw and nose.

"Knitter's Gift" (Detail) • Oil • 30" x 30"

One of the most difficult parts of this piece was the section of fuchsia yarn hit by sunlight. The reason it was tough was that it needed to be both light in value and also very intense/saturated in color.
As you may have found, it is very hard to paint something both light and saturated at the same time. This is because the more white paint you add to lighten another color, the less saturated that color becomes. My solution was to thin my paint to a wash. This allowed my color to be lightened by the white canvas underneath without any white paint. My color could be light and intense at the same time.

But I still had a problem. Neither of the reds I typically use—cadmium red medium and permanent alizarin crimson—was the right color. Both reds were warmer reds than the fuchsia yarn. I could have just used one of these reds anyway, but I really wanted to capture the specific color of the yarn. So I added a "fun" color—magenta from Old Holland. It was the perfect color!

So how do you know when to use a "fun" color? You use a "fun" color when the subject calls for it. But here's the best part–you don't have to wait for that to happen! Go ahead and buy those shocking pink flowers. Pick up that bright aqua hat for your favorite model. Whatever your favorite "fun" paint color is, create the perfect opportunity to use it, and explore its potential!

Next time: I hope it encourages you as much as me to know there is a max of only 5 possible things wrong with your painting. I'll share what those are next time, in "5 Reasons Your Painting Doesn't Look Like Your Subject." See you then!


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1 comment:

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