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Building Blocks
Student Comments
"Thereís no
way your
paintings canít
improve after
this course"
"Iíve been painting on my own for a while and thought I was doing okay. Now that Iím taking this course I see so many things I can learn from that will make my work so much better. This is the stuff you canít get in art school anymore, sadly. Thereís no way your paintings canít improve after this course. Thatís how strongly I feel about it." ... Bob Akers., Crystal Lake, IL, United States

"...really superb"

"I find your courses really superb in two ways: first they are very complete and comprehensive, and second they go straight to the point, to the essentials. Both my wife and I paint and we both agree that these art instruction courses are one of the best sources of education for people who want to learn to paint in a direct or alla prima style" Bernado Martin, Alicante, Spain.

Erika is
her dream
"This course is truly well run, professionally handled -- and I can only echo the great comments of other students: I am glad, I enrolled in this course!! I got so much out of it already -- lots of explanations, areas to study up on, other artists to learn from. AND I am not at the end of the course, yet. I am getting more and more confident and bold enough to follow my dream -- to become a proficient and sensitive artist. Erika, USA, 2009
"...already noticed
in my work"
"In my opinion, your material is the best I have found. It builds the basics, from the ground up, recognizing that there are no short cuts.....Your course puts all the right info into one package, and even more important, it gives me an organized, building block way to get these things into my head, and I have already noticed an improvement in my work," George, USA
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Building Block: Color

Orchestrating light & dark harmony.
What is included in the Color Building Block?
Color is what is exciting about painting, and color harmony is what makes a painting beautiful. However, color is also a complex topic that can take years to master. The Color course units are the second part of that journey (the Observation course units are the first part).
Some of the things you will learn:
Grays: how to use them to make your color stand out
Color notans: exploring color strategies faster
Complementary, analogous, triadic, and tonal color schemes and how to diagnose color harmony problems
The Munsell color wheel: how to get more accurate complements
Pigment biases: how to use biases to get purer colors
Limited palettes: how to get color harmonies quickly
How does it work?
Buy Membership
  Academy membership costs $79 USD per month and gives you a private account on our system where you can access our lessons, assignments & online community. Access to the online campus means you can upload your assignments and share them with other students from across the world, as well as access to supplemental learning materials such as videos and examples. You can cancel your membership at any time.
No Risk Trial
There are no commitments to the Painting Academy. You can cancel at any time, there are no contracts. You're free to go, free to stay.
"The material is very well presented and easy to understand - no lengthy explanations but short and condensed paragraphs with a load of very valuable information. Along with plenty of illustrations, this makes it a fun and easy study."

What is included in each course unit?


Unit 1 - Key Concepts

Before you can understand color wheels, color theory and color harmonies, you need to understand the three key characteristics of color: value, saturation, and hue. Hue is what most people think of when using the term 'color' such as: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet. Value is the relative lightness or darkness of a color, as in a black and white photograph. Saturation is its degree of richness, intensity, purity, that is, whether it is a vivid hue or a more muted grey version of the hue.
This introductory course on color theory covers all the basics characteristics of color that you need to know about in order to understand the principles of color harmony. This course will give you the foundation for the more advanced courses on color. You will learn:
  • the three key characteristics of color that are critical to undertanding color harmony: hue, value, and saturation
  • the concept of a color wheel
  • the five major types of color wheel and when they are used
  • what are complements and why they are critically important for creating interest in a painting
  • the difference between the Triadic and Munsell color wheels and the advantages of using the Munsell color wheel
  • the difference between the major tube colors in terms of hue, value and saturation
  • how different pigments behave in terms of saturation changes when tinted and shaded
  • three techniques for checking that two values are the same - an important skill for advanced color work
  • how to use software to convert images to black and white and how to posterize images - useful techniques for helping you learn values

Unit 2 - Palettes & Basic Pigments

Beginners and more experienced artists alike do not always know how to arrange a palette. Indeed with so many choices of tube colors out there it can be very daunting. There are two key things you should do. First, organize the color pigments systematically around the painting palette. A good system is to arrange the hues in a spectral order, such as from yellow around the color wheel to green.
Second, organize your mixing areas logically. Reserve areas on your painting palette for dark colors, light colors, and grays, then drag your colors into the mixing area. Do not pick up small amounts of color and create lots of small color mixing areas.
Understanding the different types and categories of pigments helps you decide which pigments to use and when. It is also useful to know the specific characteristics of individual pigments to help you achieve a particular effect you may be looking for. This unit covers detailed information on pigments as well as many useful painting palettes that will help you learn and use color theory. You will learn:
  • the differences between, and when to use, dark transparent stains, non-staining dark pigments, opaque pigments such as the Cadmiums and Cobalts, earth pigments, and neutral pigments
  • transparent pigments that are good for modifying your paintings with glazes
  • how to make warm and cool grays for a monochrome painting
  • six palettes that will help you learn color theory more quickly
  • the minimum number of colors you need for accurate color mixing
  • two simple three-color palettes for traveling light and simplifying color mixing
  • the limited painting palette used by old masters such as John Singer Sargent
  • three complementary painting palettes to help you learn how to use complements to improve your color harmonies
  • how to use a knowledge of pigment biases to mix vivid color
  • best strategies for organizing your palette and mixing colors to get them to look more harmonious

Unit 3 - Grays

Many paintings you see in galleries will have vivid colors all over the canvas. However, to make a vivid, saturated color stand out more, place it against a field of low saturation, grayed colors. These low saturation colors will give life and excitement to the main color interest in your painting. This is one of the most important principles in color theory. In the painting of the boat, notice how the orange buoy stands out against the surrounding blue grays.
There are four ways to get grays. The main approaches are: adding black and/or white (quick), mixing two complements (automatically gives you warm/cool color), buying a tube of gray and modifying it (unnecessary), using your leftover muds (can harmonize a painting). I use all of these methods with the exception of buying tube grays. Any complements will mix to make nice grays. For example, red and blue-green, yellow and purple-blue, purple and green-yellow, turquoise and orange, blue and yellow-orange.
Mastering the use of grays is the most important thing you will learn about in color theory. Without beautiful grays you cannot create beautiful color. You will learn:
  • how to use a low saturation field to make your color interest more vibrant
  • Godlove's principle: which combinations of tints and shades look best together
  • which value range is best for colorful grays
  • four strategies for mixing grays
  • four approaches for mixing browns
  • how to mix dull versions of your primary colors
  • why you should never throw away your leftover paint, and what to do with it
  • how to use complementary contrast to further focus your color interest

Unit 4 - Color Harmonies

Look at any Old Master painting and you will see they have not used every color under the sun to create the painting. They made good use of color harmonies. A harmony is basically an orderly relationship of colors, just as a musical harmony is an orderly relationship of notes.
Color harmonies are commonly described using a color wheel, which shows the relationship of the hues. There are five major types of color harmonies you need to know about. They are: balanced, complementary, analogous, hybrid analogous, and complementary. Balanced harmonies use colors evenly spaced around the color wheel. The number of colors is usually three (a triad) or four (a tetrad). For example, this painting of the gondolier uses a balanced primary harmony that consists of the three primaries blue, red and a dull yellow.
In this course you will learn all about the different types of color harmonies. Each harmony is described using a series of color charts together with an example of its use. You will learn:
  • Balanced Color Harmonies
  • Primary Harmony
  • Adulterated Primary Harmony
  • Secondary Harmony
  • Tertiary Harmony
  • Tetrad Harmony
  • Complementary Color Harmonies
  • Basic Complementary Harmony
  • Split Complementary Harmony
  • Double Split Complementary Harmony
  • Analogous Color Harmonies
  • Analogous (Narrow Range) Harmony
  • Analogous (Wide Range) Harmony
  • Shared Primary Harmony
  • Hybrid Analogous and Complementary Color Harmonies
  • Analogous with Complementary Accent (Narrow Range) Harmony
  • Analogous with Complementary Accent (Wide Range) Harmony
  • Shared Primary with Complementary Accent Harmony

Unit 5 - Poly-Isochromes & Spectrum Palettes

Color wheels tell only half the story of color harmonies, because of their limitations in being able to describe the other critically important characteristics of color. Saturation and value in addition to hue, contribute to color harmony. You need to understand how to differentiate between these attributes of color to create beautiful color harmonies. One technique that is very powerful is tonal influence, where you introduce one hue into all the other colors you use in the painting.
There are four main ways of doing this: single color - physical mixing, single color - optical mixing, color of light and shadow, and single bias. Here is one example. This painting of Segovia uses the third option. The subject is in cool light, with a touch of blue added to all parts of the painting in the light, and a color of the opposite temperature to all parts in the shadow.
In this course unit you will learn:
  • how to use Birren's color triangle to understand how saturation and value are linked to color harmony
  • the Ostwald and Munsell tone scales. Two methods for creating color charts that scale from pure hues to gray
  • how to create a constant value scale - possibly the most beautiful scale of all
  • three full spectrum palettes that you can use to create these color harmonies

Unit 6 - Advanced Color Strategies

If you have two shapes in a painting that have highly contrasting colors, the transition can sometimes be too abrupt and harsh, such as the horizon line where the sky meets a mountain. In order to soften the transition, create a color bridge between the two shapes. A color bridge visually overlaps the two shapes, and that reduces the single large step in color contrast to two smaller steps. The color bridge may be visible in nature or you can invent a color even if it is not there in reality. In this painting of Big Sur, the cliff shadow softens the transition between the dark cliff and the light beach. The beach also softens the transition between the cliff and the ocean.
In this unit you will learn some advanced strategies for using color theory to enhance your painting, as well as how to create certain special effects that are extremely useful in lighting situations such as evening scenes. Some of these effects can create the most beautiful paintings. The painting below uses the technique of irridescence, a technique used a great by William Ritschel, a California Impressionist painter who lived in the early 20th century and painted the effects of light on the sea. You will learn:

  • beautiful effects of luster and irridescence and how to create them
  • how to create color threads to maintain your viewer's interest in your painting
  • how to use complementary half tones to make your whites glow
  • what to do when you need to reduce the emphasis on a part of your painting without a major re-design
  • how to use color bridges to soften harsh transitions between shapes
  • a technique you can use to create visual interest in otherwise smooth, flat backgrounds
  • information on what colors people prefer and why
  • how to create luminosity in paintings
  • using transitional halftones to make your whites glow
Our comprehensive 4 year program of study
for all levels

The Painting Academy is designed to be both suitable for beginners and professionals alike. If you are serious about improving your painting skills, no matter your current level, and you want to become an excellent artist and you are looking for a comprehensive in-depth program of study that's expertly organized, then look no further. You will get immediate access to:
192 Lessons
340 Assignments
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