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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Great Big Fat Crayons

My Big Fat Crayons

Remember those great big fat crayons in kindergarten.  We usually had about eight to use and looking back, that’s really all we needed.  If we knew how to use them, that should be all we needed.

All colors are made from three primary colors, red, blue and yellow and then adding white in some instances.  Black is the presence of all colors so I usually mix my own.  I’ve had the same tube of black paint for four years.  I almost never use it.

Artists spend their lives learning how to mix color and go to great lengths to understand how they work with and against each other.  But we’re going to keep it real simple here.

My pocket color wheel, seen below is pretty beat up because I always have it next to me while working.  It’s been splashed with every color on it.

Opposites Attract.

On this side of the color wheel, the color directly opposite any other color is its complement.  If you see red, green is directly opposite so they are complements.  What does that mean?  I could write volumes on it and we still wouldn’t know it all.  Mixing the two opposites grays the color.  It doesn’t make a gray color, it makes the color muted or toned down.  Let’s say you had grass and you needed a shadow on it from a tree or a cloud, add some red to the green you’re using, and you have a shadow color that works.  

That purple iris has a shadow across part of the petals, add its complement, yellow, and you will have a color you can use as a shadow on the purple iris and still be pleasing to the eye.  

Placing complements next to each other can draw your eye into a painting, but use it too often and your eye doesn’t know where to look.  But that’s a topic for another day.

Here is a color chart using just the colors I use in my group painting classes, yellow, red, blue brown and white.  I use the brown just to cut down a little on some of the mixing for my students.  This was made just mixing one color into another color, not a combination of two colors and mixing in a third color.  I also used white in the chart.  

The main colors are across the top and the directions are on the left.  The first box on the top row is yellow mixed with red, the box under that has white added to it.  Then I added to blue to the primary color on the the top, then some white and so on.  

The last row has the brown in it.   Then I skipped a row and the next row has a brown mixing all three primary colors.  Next I added white.  Color charts are very interesting when learning how to mix colors.  

Remember those great big fat crayons and get out there and create something. 


  1. Excellent post on color, Sharon! Thank you for taking the time to share.

  2. Thanks Linda. It's very basic, but I think my current students and hopefully future students will find it helpful. Appreciate the comment.


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Ghent, Kentucky, United States
I'm a nature artist and I love to paint old barns, rivers and lakes, trees and fence rows and flowers. I work almost daily. You can purchase paintings by contacting me at and there is also a tab across the top of my blog for available paintings and one for small paintings with buy now buttons. You can also purchase through my Etsy shop using the name of Fine Nature Art. . Thank you so much for stopping by.