Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A new painting strategy.

I'm color blind. Not 100% color blind but enough to where it makes painting figures, the house, choosing clothing that matches etc.. a challenge.  I have also consistently failed the color eye chart they give you when you go to get your eye exam.  I tend to have problems with Blues/Purples, Reds/Browns and usually it happens when the colors start getting really close together in hue.   So I have adapted my ability to paint figures with being very precise about what colors I'm going to use for a uniform. I need to know exactly what bottle of Vallejo I should use in order to paint my AWI figures and so on.  This has led me to purchasing a huge amount of paint.  Also it has led me to having less than dramatic looking figures as I have a really hard time finding colors to highlight what I've already painted.  My daughter has been a big help in picking colors and suggesting how to mix somethings together to get to the color I needed. 

A few weeks ago I was perusing the Historicon PEL and noticed a class called "Color Mixing: Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green".  I was intrigued by the title and the description and promptly went out and bought the book.  The opening chapter turned the light switch on for me on why in the past when I've mixed, lets say, red and blue together to try and get purple, it ended up looking like mud or very dull. The understanding that, for example, the color red could be on either side of the red spectrum. Red with more orange or Red with more violet in it.  If you didn't pick the right spectrum of red or blue for the purple you were going for, it would turn out dull or muddy.  Also the understanding that there is no "real" Primary color as your surroundings and lighting affect what you see the ideal of a pure Red, Blue and Yellow don't really exist.

After reading the book and then rereading certain sections I went to the local Blick Art Supply store and bought the paints I needed to try mixing colors using Mr. Wilcox's technique.   Below you will find my experiment.  

The book in question!

My pallet for this experiment.
The colors I have purchased following the books guidelines and pigment numbers.

Cadmium Red-leans towards the orange spectrum

Alizarin Crimson-faces the violet spectrum

Ultramarine Blue- also faces the violet spectrum. 

Cerulean Blue- faces the green spectrum

Hansa Yellow Pale-Also faces the green spectrum

Cadmium Yellow-leans towards the orange spectrum.

So my first test was to take the Cad. Red and Cad. Yellow and make orange. That's what I got!

Next was Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue to make Violet.

Then Hansa Yellow Pale and Cerulean Blue to make green.

All of them turned out pretty well.  Then I decided to mix different amounts of one color with another to change up the end product.  Below are my results. I also then took the starting colors and mixed Cad. Red with Alizarin Crimson together for a solid red and then did same with the yellows and blues.

I like the results and more importantly I can see the difference in them.  I thought about having another pallet where I show what happens when you mix Cerulean Blue and Cad. Yellow together but I decided to stop where I was at for the moment.  I can do another blog post on that if anyone is interested.

Now comes the leap of faith.  Below are two units of my new War of Spanish Succession project I'm getting ready to start.  Since the uniforms are typically bright colors this system should work for what I need. Also I'm going to try and decide if I like the white primed figures over the black primed ones. It is sometimes hard for me to pick out some of the details on black primed figures.
I primed the above unit with white and then I took agrax earthshade and washed it over the figures.  The detail really pops out now and it adds in a nice shadow to the recesses. 

I'm sure most of this is old hat to most of you but I thought I would share it anyway.


  1. Great post! I recall going to an art supply store and asking for some black paint in the tube. The owner then asked me "warm black or cool black?" He went on to explain that warm black was based on reddish colors and cool black was more blue. I used the paints as washes and found the warm worked better with reds and browns even yellows and the cool was good for blues and greens. Very subtle but noticeable.

    I'll have to check this book out. Thanks.

  2. Wow, Vic, I didn't know about your trouble with colors. Your figures always look great. I'm sure you'll get great results with your new found method.

  3. GREAT POST!! I am not colour blind, however I do have some difficulty when it comes to colour matching or identification...I can only try to appreciate some of your challenge. I applaud your dedication and determination to adapting and overcoming.

    Well done sir.

  4. Color blindness is certainly an obstacle; one of he Residents in my year was Red/Green color blind - with redness a key sign of infection, definitely a challenge in our profession. It also raises the old philosophical question of how do I know that we both perceive the same thing when we see green, or purple. Are there species that see colors we don't see? What would THEY look like to them, then? There are human cultures that don't have a name for "orange", for example, as well.