A GUIDE TO COLOUR PENCILS: THE COLOUR WHEEL AND MIXING COLOURS

If you’re an artist working with a medium that has colour it is essential to have a good understanding of how colour works. In this short guide, I outline what are primary and secondary colours, what makes these colours so important and how understanding their importance can bring your art making to a new level.

Please note: It’s never fun to read something bad about your post, so please remember that I do my best with research and testing to provide information that is accurate. Hey sometimes I get it wrong, but please be understanding about this.

So, welcome and let’s get into this.

PRIMARY ART COLOURS

For the sake of keeping this simple, I’m going to use the traditional visual arts definition of primary colours as red, blue and yellow.

A bit of history

It was in 1706 that the first colour wheel was defined and created by Sir Isaac Newton when he saw a rainbow of colours being caste by light passing through a prism. Taking note of the colours and associating these colours with musical notes he placed the colours on a disk that spun. When the disk spun fast enough the colours blurred together to make white. From this first colour wheel, there has been a lot of discussion about the properties of colour and how colour works in the visual arts.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the history and scientific study of colour check out the sites below.

Wikipedia

Caltech Letters

Print

Artsy

Understanding the primary colours.

It was once believed that the 3 primary colours red, yellow and blue were the purest colours for artists and from these colours all other colours could be created by mixing the 3 colours in various quantities.

This belief is however not quite true and since we are discussing colour pencil art we’ll use colour pencils as the medium in this discussion.

Let’s look a bit closer at why the primary colours in colour pencils are not an accurate indicator of being able to mix all other colours.

Colour pencils are produced with a pigment and binder. Each manufacturer attains their own specific colour by how they combine these elements together. In addition, the hue of a pencil is affected by the surface it is applied on, by the surrounding light source and by surrounding colours. During the day, when the sun is at it’s highest the colour emitted is more blue, but in the morning or late afternoon the colour is more yellow. If the colour is viewed indoors the temperature of the light source from a light bulb will affect the colour of the pencils and what outcome is attained through mixing or layering those colours can change significantly. In this short video I demonstrate two hues, cobalt and phathlo blue from several manufacturers and why it is important to know what these hues look like beside each other if we work with a variety of pencil brands when creating our work.


How the same hue can be different from a variety of colour pencil brands

Because each manufacturer creates their own colours through pigment and binder a cobalt blue from one company can look significantly different from another. If we used only one brand of colours and never mixed those colours than we can be sure to always get the same mix when adding different colours to the primary.

Why is knowing this important.

Simply put, the three primary colours in one set of colour pencils might be slightly different from another set. What we can say instead about primary colour in relation to colour pencils, is that we can achieve a significant number of other colours with colour pencils and each set will bring their own unique colour balance to the mix.

This is fantastic! It means we can get more colours if we mix sets from different brands, and more colour pencils means more colours.

Let’s look at what we can do with the knowledge of primary and secondary colours.

This is what we can learn

1- Primary colours can mix to many other colours.

2- Primary colours are the starting point for secondary colours

3- Primary and secondary colours make browns, greys and black * depending on what combination you use them

4- You can create a rich drawing using only primary, secondary and white

5- Layering primary and secondary colours is the key to success in mixing new colours

6- Using a blending method will also aid in mixing colours

Let’s look at each section separately

1- Primary colours can mix to many other colours

If you look at the colour wheel above you’ll note that primary colours can mix to secondary colours. As mentioned earlier, depending on brand, the colours mixed will be different from one brand to another. Not only can primary colours mix to secondary, but they can mix to many other colours. To achieve this mix, think about what colour you want to attain, start with a light base primary colour then add your second primary colour in the quantity you want to achieve your desired colour

2- Primary colours are the starting point for secondary colours.

Using primary colours in combination you can mix to secondary colours. This is done with the purest hue of primary that you can find in your pencils and it is important that these colours match as close to the colour wheel you can find. If you need to find a colour wheel it is easily done through most art stores and online. Look for Cadmium yellow, cobalt blue and cadmium red.


Using primary colours to mix secondary colours

3- Primary and secondary colours make browns, greys and black * depending on what combination you use them

If you need to achieve a muted tone colour, adding the complimentary colour to the primary will cause that colour to take on a brown hue. Yellow and red mixed makes orang and add blue. Blue is the complimentary colour to orange and adding this combination will mute or create a dark brown/black.

4- You can create a rich drawing using only primary, secondary and white

It is possible to draw with only the primary and secondary colours. This video demonstrates how this is achieved and the results can be fun and challenging. The more you practice with your colour mixes the better your understanding of colour theory is.



5- Layering primary and secondary colours is the key to success in mixing new colours

Colour mixing with colour pencils happens on the paper. Unlike a wet medium such as watercolour, when we want to mix colours we can only do it by layering the colours on top of each other.

6- Using a blending method will also aid in mixing colours

To achieve the best results for colour mixing use a blending aid such as a blending pencil (all professional colour pencil manufacturers produce their own blending pencils), solvent or OMS, or even the colours you are using by pressing a bit harder. My favourite blending pencil is Prismacolor Colorless Blender, a great middle of the road pencil which holds a point well, is medium soft and achieves a good blend.

In the end, you want to take your time on getting your colours smooth and well laid out. Hopefully this has helped and will get you started on a better understanding of mixing primary colours to achieve other colours.

Happy drawing everyone.

#colourpencildrawing #colorpencil #colourpencilinformation #colourpencil #colourpencilhowto

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