Saturday, August 09, 2014

Outstanding color chart

Many have requested additional information about the color chart I (Roger) posted several days ago so I thought I would provide a few more particulars about the process.


  • Arches #140 cold-pressed paper - full sheet (22" x 30")
  • Ruler, drafting pencil, erasure, long straight edge
  • Watercolor pigments - All of the pigments I used for my chart were Winsor & Newton, artist quality pigments except the following which were Holbein - Royal Blue, Quinacrodone Gold, Raw Sienna, Viridian Green, and Aurolean Yellow   (All of my paints were in a palette and allowed to dry, then reconstituted when needed)
  • 1/4" flat brush (I used a blend of synthetic and sable)


I first decided upon which of my pigments I wanted to have displayed in my chart. I came up with 15 which included both warm and cool versions of each primary color. After deciding upon my colors, I arranged them into yellows, reds, and blues (light to dark) and included two of the greens at the bottom.
While I have 9 additional pigments in my palette (greens, violets, cads) I chose to stick with all transparent or semi-transparent colors concentrating on the primaries. There were 4 that I just had to add to the end of the chart though mainly because curiosity got the best of me! Those 4 were Permanent Magenta, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, and Neutral Tint. I am really glad I added those as they produced some unexpected mixes.
I then decided just how much room I would need to display each mix, knowing I wanted to have 4 "swatches" of varying strengths of each. I determined that a 1" square divided in half each way would give me the area I needed to accomplish the swatches (each 1/2" square).
I then laid out the grid of 1" squares with a 1/4" gap between each one and assigned the pigments to the left hand column and across the top. The pigment names I printed onto 1/2" self-stick labels and used the top half of the box for it while the bottom half was used for the pigment itself. My goal was to do a miniature graded wash (1/2" tall x 1 3/4" long) of each base pigment down the left hand column so I had a record of how the value would change each pigment. Then became the fun/tedious part!
Each base pigment was mixed to a "skim-milk" consistency and then a very small amount of the pigment to be mixed with it was added and painted to fill the upper left quadrant of each 1" square. I then added a bit more of the secondary pigment, filled the lower left quadrant and so on. I worked my way across the top of the chart, completing a color at a time, then moved onto the next row (base color). Word to the do not need to create large puddles of paint to do each quadrant. This is where the moisture control part of the learning really came to fruition. I always had a tissue in hand in an attempt to keep the water-to-pigment ratios as close as I possibly could. I was amazed at how little paint the entire chart actually took. As each quadrant was filled, I was careful to leave a small gap between them so as not to create any "bleeding" between them.


 Once the entire chart was completed, I realized I had a substantial amount of paper (the large diagonal) left white. That's when I came up with the idea of creating the opacity / liftability column.

I placed a dark "X" with waterproof ink in the 1" box, mixed each base color to the same consistency and painted over the "X". I allowed these to dry for about 15-20 minutes and the went back with clean water and attempted to lift, back to white, the paint in the lower right quadrant (see first left column on the chart).
 (notice how effectively the Burnt Sienna lifted and how much the Permanent Rose stained)
Overall, a great learning tool. If you plan on tackling one I would encourage spending as much time at one sitting as possible. I found that this provides a rhythm and makes it easier to maintain consistent water/pigment ratios. The completed chart now hangs next to my drafting table (oops, painting table) and not only gives me pleasure to look at but will be a valuable resource for mixing pigments as well as allowing me to know which are semi-transparent and/or lift easily. Have a go but be patient!

Note: Roger's original article on Art Tutor has additional information such as some interesting combinations that he has found:

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