Recently I came across James Gurney’s blog and specifically his post about color wheel masking. It allows you to visually see how you are limiting your palette. You have plenty of options with this method ranging from monochromatic palettes to ones with accent colors. I had been experimenting with this idea for some time before reading his blog, but this method has accelerated the implementation. Before I had just been limiting myself to two or three colors based off an overall tone in the light and clothing. My painting “Incandescent” was completed with Titanium White, Ivory Black, and Indian Yellow.
Limited Palette Using Masks
The photo above is my color palette for a new painting I’m working on right now. One of the figures’ hair is red so I wanted a warm palette to emphasize it. After I tried on a few of the masks on my standard color wheel, I decided on what Gurney calls a “Shifted Triad,” which is basically two muted colors and one intense one, in this case…orange. In my masked color wheel my new primaries are orange (Cadmium Orange), a muted violet (Winsor Violet + Cadmuim Yellow), and a muted green (Viridian + Cadmium Red Medium). The left color wheel in the photo shows my new color wheel that I will work from. Essentially if I see a bright yellow in my composition I will be limited to mixing orange with the muted green. There will be no bright yellows in my piece.
I will basically be handicapping myself in terms of color so that I can concentrate on all other aspects of the painting like scale, application, and tone. So far this has worked out wonderfully and is a very exciting device to use. If anyone else is having difficulty in created color harmony, painting too intensely, or just feeling overwhelmed I highly suggest this.