My pallet is an expansion of the Golden OPEN Modern Paint Set. The basic Golden OPEN Modern Paint Set consists of seven relatively high chroma, transparent, organic pigments (which produce very clean mixtures), plus titanium white. For my new pallet I have also added zinc white which is transparent and can lighten the value of colors without changing the hue, and bone black which has a moderately low chroma and can be used to lower the value of paint mixtures with a minimum impact on the hue of the mixture. I have also added my mixture of Golden regular and OPEN gel mediums to enable me to do impasto knife painting with a drying time similar to my normal thinner applications of OPEN paints (which I have discussed in a previous Blog post).
Therefore, my augmented modern pallet consists of seven mixing colors, and three tinting and shading colors, along with the mediums.
The Golden modern pallet paint set includes a warm and a cool versions of each of, the blue, red and yellow hues, as well as a green hue. Another useful way of looking at the Modern Color Set is in the framework of Michael Wilcox's book, "Blue and Yellow don't make Green." This is a great book which explains what actually makes color mixing work.
Basically, white light has a spectrum of all colors. Blue pigments look blue because they absorb all of the colors in the light except blue, which it reflects back to the viewer. Similarly, yellow pigments absorb all of the colors of the light except the yellow, which it reflect back to the viewer. Therefore, if you mixed pure blue and pure yellow pigments, the blue would absorb the yellow and the yellow would absorb the blue and the mixture would look black!!!
The reason that blue paint and yellow paint can mix a green is that, in reality, the blue pigment contains some green and the yellow pigment contains some green. When the two are mixed together all the colors are absorbed, except the greens that they have in common. Therefore, if you want to mix a strong green, you must pick a yellow that has a large green content and a blue that contains a large green content. In the case of our modern pallet, to get a strong green we would mix our blue with a lot of green, Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), and our yellow that has a large green content, Hansa Yellow Light.
On the other hand, the Anthraquinone Blue and Hansa Yellow Medium paint pigments each have less green content. Therefore, when these colors are mixed a weaker green will result. We will demonstrate this in the context of the color wheel later in this post.
Therefore, it its useful to consider two properties for each of our seven basic modern colors; the relative warm or cool properties of the paint, and the primary pigment content that will drive the mixing properties. Therefore, for our pallet we have the following:
Hansa Yellow Light: cool yellow, yellow and green (Y/G) pigments
Hansa Yellow Medium: warm yellow, yellow and orange (Y/O) pigments
Quinacridone Magenta: cool red, red and violet (R/V) pigments
Naphthol Red Light: warm red, red and orange (R/O) pigments
Phthalo Blue Green Shade: cool blue, blue and green (B/G) pigments
Anthraquinone Blue: warm blue, blue and violet (B/V) pigments
Phthalo Green Blue Shade: cool green, green and
blue (G/B) pigments
This explains how to mix the strongest, highest chroma, secondary colors of green, orange, and violet. We get the strongest green by mixing the yellow/green color with the blue/green color We get the strongest orange by mixing or yellow/orange color with the red/orange color. We get the strongest violet by mixing the blue/violet color with the red/violet color.
The other mixtures will lead to duller, lower chroma, colors. For example, mixing our blue/green color (Phthalo) with our red orange color (Naphthol Red Light) with give a very dull low chroma violet. because each color contains only a small amount of violet pigment!
As depicted in the following photo, my pallet is laid out with the warm blue, yellow and red along the left hand side. The advantage of separating the warm and colors is that it reinforces the process of migrating a color pool while painting. As I paint, I modify the color pools on my pallet to match the colors I need in my painting by asking my self questions such as should the color on my pallet be warmer, cooler, more red, lighter, darker, etc.. This organization of the pallet makes it easier to immediately pick the appropriate warm or cool color, or the approach for tinting or shading.
The specific warm colors placed on the left hand side of the pallet include Golden OPEN Anthraquinone Blue, Naphthol Red Light, and Hansa Yellow Medium. The cool colors are placed along the top edge of the pallet. The specific cool colors are Hansa Yellow Light, Quinacridone Magenta, Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), and Phthalo Green (Blue Shade). I call these seven colors the mixing colors, since these are the paint colors used to mix all of the hues that we will be using to paint.
Tinting is the addition of white to a mixture to make the color lighter, or raising the value of the mixture. The tinting colors on the pallet are Titanium White and Zinc White. Titanium white is opaque and has a tendency to give certain mixtures a pastel or chalky characteristic. On the other hand, zinc white is very transparent and does not significantly impact the hue of the color to which it is added. Properly applied, these colors can help control both the value and opacity of the mixtures to meet the needs of the particular application. The two whites are placed in the upper left hand corner of the pallet, as seen above.
Shading is adding a paint to a mixture to lower the value or make the mixture darker. Bone black is my shading color, since it has a moderate opacity and has a minimum impact of the hue of the mixtures to which it is added. It is placed in the upper right hand corner of my pallet as seen above.
My pile of mixed Golden regular and OPEN gel acrylic mediums, for use with heavy impasto pallet knife painting as described in a previous Blog post, is also placed in the upper right corner.
Note that each color has been plotted based on its hue (color) and chroma. Each of the color points corresponding to the paints on our pallet are indicated on the chart above and the outer points are connected by straight lines. This defines a five sided polygon in color space, as depicted in the photo above (you can click on the photo to see a larger version to see the details).
When two colors are mixed together the resulting mixture will fall somewhere on the straight line connecting the two original colors in color space. Therefore, the area within the five sided polygon defines all of the colors (defined by their hue and chroma) that can be mixed by combining combinations of our seven mixing colors. At this point I am not including use of the titanium white, zinc white, and bone black pints, since they are used to impact the value and opacity of the various hue mixtures and will be discussed later.
The area within the five sided polygon is called the "Color Gamut" of this pallet of colors, as shown in the following image. The color Gamut defines the pool of all possible hue mixtures that can be mixed from the seven colors that define the color space. The use of Color Gamuts is discussed in detail in a great book on color in painting, "Color and Light" by James Gurney. I highly recommend this book for insight into how to mix, use, understand, and see color in painting.
The following image depicts three more color strings that cross the wheel and connect to mixed colors on the edge of the wheel.
The next higher string connects a mixed orange to green/blue paint on the other side of the wheel. Note that as the orange is mixed it becomes darker and browner as it approaches the center of the wheel. The colors that it matches as it does this are the standard burnt sienna and burnt umber.
The top string connects a more yellow orange mixture with the green/blue on the other side of the wheel. Note that as more of the green/blue is mixed with this orange, it becomes darker and browner as it heads to the center of the wheel. However, since this string is further from the low chroma center of the wheel than the previous string, it is less dark and contains lighter browns. Colors such as yellow ochre, raw sienna, and naples yellow can be derived from strings of this type.
So you see the results of the various mixtures depends on the nature of the pigments involved. As pointed out by James Gurney in his book "Color and Light", a very interesting case is to mix our Phthalo Green Blue Shade (G/B) (which has green/blue pigments) with Quinacridone Magenta (R/V) (red/violet pigments). As depicted in the following image, the resulting string of mixtures will include a dull BLUE!!! Notice that I had to tint all of the colors in the string so that we can easily see the color of the mixture.
As an example of "happy mixing" I have included the following image of one of my pallets for one of my paintings. I use the same pallet for the life of a single painting. Since Golden OPEN paints stay workable for weeks or months if kept in an airtight container and occasionally sprayed with OPEN thinner. Therefore, I can have the same color pools available to be to used or modified for the whole period of time that I work on a painting. And, of course, I use a different pallet for each painting that I am working on, since each painting will use different color pools, depending on the color scheme of the motif being painted.
I am finding that using this approach to be very freeing. I no longer have to carry around a large number of tubes of paint. I no longer have to think in terms of matching my color needs to any particular named tube of paint. I no longer have to think which tube of paint do I need now, "is it yellow ochre or raw sienna that I want now?". Rather, the color pools enable me to become more attuned to color itself. Now I can think that that color I need is a brown with a cool red tendency. It is then easy to move my color pool in the brown cool red direction until it has the hue that I want. I can just concentrate on the properties of the hue desired and not the paint names!
As I do this I find that I will suddenly notice another place in the painting where the same hue, or a slightly modified version of the hue, is needed. I am finding that color is now directing me to how paint the picture. Very exciting.
It is interesting that years ago my son-in-law, a trained talented painter, suggested a color pool technique to me. However, I did not have the experience to understand how to do it. However, with experience painting, experience studying color theory, the recent availability of the slow drying Golden OPEN acrylics, and now this wonderful set of modern colors, it has suddenly come together for me. I am now enjoying the freedom of color pool painting. I hope my Blog can help others shorten their learning curve and enjoy this fascinating experience.
In future posts, I will discuss strategies for defining and using color pools within the Color Gamut of this pallet, and provide additional practical suggestions for managing and understanding the mixing process.
For now let me direct you to the extensive color mixing tables that the Golden paint Company has made available to describe this modern set of colors on the following links:
Golen also has other references in their product announcement for the new modern set of colors at the following site: