Sunday, 28 September 2014

Oil Pigments Color Temperature, Paint Transparency and Hue Saturation

The artists’ first encounter with oil painting will be presented with a vast array of oil pigments in art shops. Many blues, browns and reds could cause confusion on which oil pigment to choose for painting. The cost of art materials will also influence the number of oil tubes to purchase. Which are the best oil colors to buy and how does each oil color differ regarding color temperature, coverage and intensity?

Different Blues in Oil Colors

Types of Pigments in Oil
A walk into the art shop will educate the artist on the number of art pigments available in the art shop. For instance, in regards to blue, the following can be found: French ultramarine, cerulean, Prussian blue, Monestrial blue, Pthalo blue, cobalt blue and more. The same applies to reds, greens, yellows and browns. I avoid packaged sets of oil colors, which do not work out cheap in the long run, as unnecessary hues are often included (and often the omission of an essential color). I will purchase the tubes separately, creating an essential collection of oil colors that will be used.

Pigment Temperature
Which Oil Pigments to Use

Most artists will use just a dozen or so oil paints (as do I) which includes a warm and cool version of the primary colors (red, yellow and blue) as well as earth colors, a few extras and white. I find the following oil pigments will mix just about any color needed for painting: Titanium white, French ultramarine, Pthalo blue, permanent rose, cadmium red, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow (pale), burnt sienna and burnt umber. The following are also useful extras: cerulean blue, viridian and alizarin crimson (an old favorite).

Using Oil Paints for the First Time

A good way of learning about the nature of each pigment is to apply each alone on a primed piece of card. The video clip informs on how each oil color differs in translucency and color temperature (how warm or cool it appears). Nothing quite equals trying out each color for yourself as opposed to reading about them, but basically, each color will have its own intensity, opacity, temperature and translucency. Find a YouTube clip on how I applied each oil pigment neat onto white card.

Translucent Blues and Reds

Color Temperature of Blue and Red
French ultramarine is quite a translucent color, not having the opacity of cerulean or cobalt. Pthalo blue is also quite translucent. Both require a little titanium to add coverage, but the addition of white will change the nature of the blue a little, killing its sparkle. The close up image shows translucent and opaque blues and reds. See how the translucent paint allows a little of the white gesso to show through, leaving a patchy feel to the paint layer.

This can be seen with viridian, which is also a transparent color. I applied it neat, and then with a little titanium white.

Opaque Pigments in Oil Colors

Color Temperature of Yellow Brown
Again, we can see here that lemon yellow and burnt sienna are rather translucent, where as cadmium yellow and burnt umber has more coverage. Translucent colors when applied over a white surface will appear vibrant. Opaque colors has good coverage but lacks this vibrancy.

Colour Temperature of Pigments

How warm or cool does the color appear? This is known as colour temperature. A warm color will be bias towards red, a cool colour will be bias towards blue. French ultramarine has a violet cast, meaning it has a warm colour temperature. Cerulean blue and Pthalo blue appears cooler. Cerulean has a slightly greenish tinge. Again, cadmium red has an orange-glow, giving it a warm cast. Permanent rose and alizarin crimson are cooler reds, having a violet cast. Similarly, burnt sienna is a warm, toasty brown; burnt umber is cooler. 

Guide to Oil Pigments Transparency and Colour Temperature

Adding White
To summarize, find a guide to the nature of each oil pigment below:

French Ultramarine: a warm, violet blue, tends to be translucent
Pthalo blue: a cool, deep blue, tends to be translucent
Cerulean blue: a cool, greenish blue, tends to be opaque
Viridian green: A sharp green, tends to be translucent
Permanent rose: a cool, violet red, tends to be translucent
Cadmium red: (deep to pale can be found) but tends to be orange-red, rather opaque
Alizarin crimson: a deep, violet brownish red, tends to be translucent
Lemon yellow: a pale, acidic yellow tends to be translucent
Cadmium yellow: (deep to pale can be found) but tends to be warm, orangey, rather opaque
Burnt sienna: a warm toasty brown, tends to be translucent
Burnt umber: a cool, coffee brown, tends to be opaque
Titanium white: a brilliant, opaque white. Will add opacity to any pigment it is mixed with.

More Articles about Art Pigments

My Science of Color site
Recommended Oil pigments for painting
How to make oil painting cheaper


Unknown said...

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