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Palette Mixed


As I mentioned a couple of days ago, after reading Richard Schmid's book on painting, I decided to explore my palette of colors further by mixing each color with each other color and setting the individual swatches side by side. What you see above is that effort.

If you start in the upper-left corner and move diagonally to the lower-right corner, that line of swatches is that of the "native" colors, which are:

  • Viridian (blue-green)
  • Cadmium Yellow Pale
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber
  • Cadmium Orange
  • Grumbacher Red
  • Violet
  • Ivory Black
  • Chinese White
  • Ultramarine (blue)

So for each column and row that a native color is found, it has been mixed with every other color and in order. To explain, the 4th row and the 4th column are all colors mixed with Burnt Sienna. The first color mixed would be Viridian, the second Cadmium Yellow Pale, and so on.

I'm now strongly of the opinion that every painter should do this. I learned a great deal about the strength of some colors, such as red, to easily overpower another color when mixing the two.

Color harmony also becomes more obvious by doing this. I noticed that if you take any four adjacent colors, they create a nice harmony. Doesn't matter which colors. Here's an example:

Here you have White/Viridian and White/Cadmium Yellow Pale on the top, and then on the bottom, Blue/Viridian and Blue/Cadmium Yellow Pale. These work together.

Here are a few others:

It's because they have colors in common that tie them together. That tie of colors together creates a transition that our eyes can follow. In my first example, I get from White/Viridian to Blue/Cadmium Yellow Pale through White/Cadmium Yellow Pale and Blue/Viridian. Seeing this helped me to understand Schmid's concept of Edges better. An Edge is the transition from one color to another. It can be rapid or slow, steep or shallow. But as long as it is a migration that makes sense in terms of color changes, the eye will accept in a painting.

(Further, Edges will define the depth in a painting as much coloration will. I didn't understand Schmid's point about this when I first read it, but I do now. A stark color transition will insist that there is separation between objects. A person standing in front of a building needs no color transition with the building because there are separate. But when painting a face, there can be no harsh absence of transition, or the face will not appear right to us.)

If you've ever used Photoshop and Microsoft Paint (or Paintbrush), you know the difference between unrealistic edges and realistic edges. Photoshop will produce gradual transitions to another color, as this zoomed-in movement from orange to white shows:

Edges are "smoothed" in Photoshop. Not so in Paint. There you'll see hard edges driven by the pixel. Hence the term, "pixelation."

I've found that I really like the series of colors that share a base color. I plan to explore that more. And I want to use this as an occasional guide when reaching for a color... I was surprised by some of the colors created. Cool exercise.


Read the whole story of "Drawing and Painting"
Tags: richard schmid | palette
by Brett Rogers, 4/23/2005 10:19:57 AM


WOW! My brain is spinning from this entire post. This is cool!



Posted by Buffalo Bill, 4/25/2005 12:24:34 AM

I agree w/Buffalo Bill...there is a LOT to take in & I love it..thank you.



Posted by maggie, 2/19/2007 7:44:00 PM

Thanks so much for this post, Brett! I created the chart and am applying the knowledge in a painting. It is fantastic data! Is Richard Scmind the source of the 'native colors'? I see they are arranged from cool on the outside to warm on the inside but I really want to learn more about this. Thanks!

Diane Woods
Napa, California



Posted by diane woods (, 11/26/2010 7:56:09 PM

Thanks, Diane :)

The native colors' arrangement is just the way that I set it up, but I learned a lot through it.

Nice paintings at your web site, by the way!



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 11/26/2010 8:23:51 PM

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