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Color Tricks, Tips and Recipes

One of the bewildering things for someone just starting out in almost any artistic endeavor is that colors don't mix in the same way that popular wisdom would have you think.

An excellent book for teaching about color theory is called "Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green," by Michael Wilcox. Another by the same author is "The Artist's Guide to Selecting Colors."

We aren't going to go into that depth, here, at least, not for now. I will say that there is a dazzling array of luscious colors available in all the brands of polymer clays and tell you that even though it would be great to have them all handy, it really isn't necessary. You can learn to mix any color you choose with a smallish selection of pure colors, and will be adding to your capability and skills as well as saving your checkbook.

We're going to take a look at a basic color wheel, and I'll suggest a starting "shopping list." It's not that big a list, which you might guess if you've already read my suggested beginner's tool shopping list.


Warm<--->Cool

Violet


Blue


Green


Warm<--->Cool

Red


Orange


Yellow


Looking at the color wheel, you can see that every primary color is opposite a "secondary" color, a color that is mixed from two primary colors. Any color's opposite serves as it's complement - an accent color within a piece, such as small bunches of turquoise forget- me-nots in a bouquet of peach roses. Within a clay mixture, a color's complement is also it's "dimmer." If a red is too dark, for instance, you can "dim" it's chroma by adding a touch of green. Adding a color's complement creates a clearer color than the "dead" mixes that can result from adding black to darken a color. Mixing nearly equal parts of a color and it's complement will usually create brown tones.

When you've dimmed a color to the brightness that you want, you can then add white to create different "tints" of that color, more amounts of the complement to create "shades" of that color..... they will all work together in a piece. A monochrome piece would be one that uses only these tints and shades of the same color.

Make a complementary scheme by using tints and shades from two complements. Usually one group of colors will be dominant in any piece, the complement acting as an accent.

More complicated color triangles would involve selecting one color and adding the two colors that flank it's complement, such as having violet as the main color with touches of yellow-green and yellow-orange for accent. (Mardi Gras = purple, green and gold) Or one color plus it's complement plus the two that flank either the dominant or the accent color, such as blue with aqua and blue-violet, with shades of orange as accent.

Please understand that these are beginning guidelines, and there is at least one way to break any "rule" you can think of, and still get excellent results.



Color theory is so complicated that volumes have been written about it, so I'm not going to attempt to cover much of it here, but one other important point is that colors have a perceived "temperature," warm or cool. We think of the reds, oranges and yellows as being warm colors, and the blues, violets and greens as being cool. However if you look again, you will see that some reds are on the "cool" side (burgundy, for instance,) while some greens fit nicely in the "warm" range. The reason that this is important is that if you're trying to mix a warm blue with a cool yellow, you will get very different results than you would from mixing cool with cool. Of course many other factors have effect on your results, such as opacity, room lighting, etc. Having a feel for a color's "temperature" just gives you one more idea to work with.



Suggested Beginning Shopping Lists

Below are two lists that you can copy and paste into a notepad and print out to give you an idea of what might be most helpful when you're looking for colors to add to your collection. The list on the left is primarily for jewelry making and surface techniques and includes some inclusions and embellishing products which are covered more completely on the inclusions page. It's important to purchase the richest, most saturated colors you can find, instead of the pastels. You can create any pastel that you want to from the strong colors, but you cannot restore that high saturation to a color that is pale and washed out and full of fillers and opacifiers.

Suggested colors are followed by naming the colors of the brand that meet the listed characteristic... you may be able to find others that meet your criteria within the brand of your choice. You can freely mix among brands of clay, remembering that different clays have different working and curing characteristics. After some practice, you'll be able to exploit the differing qualities of the brands and colors. See "Comparing Brands" for more information. The items listed with an asterisk* are not necessary but nice to have. Take a look at "Basic Color Recipes" to see how these colors will work together in a palette.


Jewelry Interests

White (at least 2)
Black (at least 2)
Warm Blue (Premo Ultramarine)
Cool Blue (Fimo Blue #37)
Warm Yellow (Premo Cadmium)
Cool Yellow (Fimo #1)
Warm Red (Premo Cadmium)
Cool Red (Fimo #23)
*Magenta
*Leaf Green
*Orange
*Warm, rich brown
*Premo Pearl White
*Premo Pearl Gold or Silver
*Fimo Art (#00) or Premo Translucent
*Leafing Foil in Gold or Silver
*Embossing Powder or Fine Glitter


Modelling and General

White (at least 2 - you will always
use more than you think you will)
Black (at least 2)
Warm Blue (Premo Ultramarine)
Cool Blue (Fimo Blue #37)
Warm Yellow (Premo Cadmium)
Cool Yellow (Fimo #1)
Warm Red (Premo Cadmium)
Cool Red (Fimo #23)

*Magenta
*Leaf Green
*Orange
*Warm, rich brown

For figures: Super Sculpey, Premo Beige
or Fimo #43 as a "flesh" base
Be sure to add at least 10% white to avoid
"plaquing" and other colors to create the
particular ethnicity that you're trying to achieve.










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Elizabeth Campbell 1999 - 2004