Color Review

by Kathleen Huebener in Painting Tips

With all the information flowing through the artist brain, serious painters from time to time take time to review their art notes. The reason for this is that the complete process of creating art requires the best we have. Today I have chosen to view a few of my color notes. Perhaps it will be a handy review for you also.


To begin, most successful paintings have a Dominant Color. When deciding what dominant color to incorporate into one’s artwork, it is important to consider of each color/hue:

1. Color Value

2. Color Intensity

3. Color Temperature

Successful artworks have all these three related.


Value refers to the darkness or lightness of the color and includes tints and shades.
Adding white to a hue, one makes a tint. The color “Pink” is a tint of the red hue.
Whereas, adding black to a hue, creates a shade. When viewing the color wheel, one can readily see that the yellow hue is the lightest value and purple is the darkest. However, green and red have a similar value, which is trouble to people with red/green color blindness.
If you have difficulty seeing values, get yourself the “Gray Scale and Value Finder” at
Dick It is a die-cut card, which you place on a color to determine the value.
The 4” x 6” card shows ten values from 100% black to 10% black. This card is INVALUABLE and a definite MUST HAVE for value studies.
The list price is around $2.59.
  Link for the Gray Scale and Value Finder is at the end of this article.

Color Intensity

 Intensity refers to the saturation of color – its purity, brightness, or dullness. The brighter a hue/color is, the more energy it creates. High intensity excites the senses by its brightness, strength, and “cleanness”. Low intensity of a color is “dirty”, dulled, and muted. One mutes a high intensity color by adding its complementary color or gray.

Color Temperature

 Color temperatures affect emotional responses immediately and with great impact!
Warm Colors:

Red – passion, action, energy

Orange – vibrancy and health

Yellow – laughter, happiness, warmth, sunshine

Cool Colors:

Green – tranquility, harmony, growth

Blue – space, coolness, truth, calming

Purple – inspirational, religious, soothing

For beginning artists, here is just an art tidbit: Mixing equal parts of primary and adjacent secondary colors will produce exciting tertiary colors:

Red and purple make crimson

Blue and green make turquoise

Yellow and green make lime green, which is simply delicious to look at!


There are warm and cool variations within each hue. An example for a comparison, cerulean blue is a warmer blue, whereas, ultramarine blue is a cooler cast of blue.

Beginning artists may ask why this is. It is all due to the formulas when producing the colors. Here are some interesting facts that I find fascinating about certain colors:

Ultramarine blue has red in its formula.

Phthalo blue has yellow in its formula.

Alizarin crimson has blue in its formula.

Cadmium red light has yellow in its formula.

Cadmium yellow medium has red in its formula.

Lemon Yellow has blue in its formula.


Use colors to enhance the desired mood. For accents in a calm cool painting, perhaps using a red that leans toward the cooler end of the red range, instead of a shocking orange, would further the mood you desire.

There is much to consider about color choices.
I cannot stress the importance of keeping good art notes
and reviewing them from time to time.
This guarantees one’s artwork to be the best it can be.
Time to go paint!