In our beginning paintings, we want to create depth and distance. We know that we need to modify large areas of color so that an entire area does not appear flattened (for example, the ocean color as it stretches into the distance). We learn quickly that adding white changes color intensity (dulls it) which makes , in this example, the blue "go back" but it also lightens (changes the value) of our color. Our exercise this week explores how to change the intensity of a color without a changing its value.
You might enjoy this beginning book on oil painting which was one of my references for this exercise: “The Oil Painting Course You’ve Always Wanted: Guided Lessons for Beginners and Experienced Artists “ By Kathleen Lochen Staiger (link)
How to Decrease Color Intensity without Changing Value
1. Find the complement of the color that you need to make less bright
2. Change the value of this complement to match the value of the color you are making less intense: (eg. lighten or darken the complement with white or black). Check the value by putting this new color directly beside the starting color
3. Add a small amount (10%) of this value-corrected complement to the original color to make it less intense. (Adding too much will make a grey or neutral color). You will easily see that the original color “comes forward” and the new mixed color “goes back”.
Top: red is modified with a small amount of the same value green (the green used is shown below). This results in an equal value, less intense red. When more of this green is added, to the original red, the red is greyed down to a brown.
Below: a small amount of the same value red is added to the green. This results in a less intense, but equal value green.
Note: Burnt Sienna is the orange used to make deeper blues greyer
Earth yellows (yellow ochre, burnt umber) use ultramarine blue instead of violet (violet makes these earth yellows too warm (ie brown))
Greying a violet is easier with a grey than with its yellow complement.
Add a grey of the same value to the color you want to make less bright
Here red is modified by an equal value grey. The grey used is seen below)
Here red is modified with a lighter value grey. Therefore the resulting greyed red is lighter in value.
From: “A Proven Strategy for Creating Great Art” by Dan McCaw (link)
To lower the intensity of a color in addition to changing by adding the complement (example A), add the two adjacent colors on the color wheel
This will cause the least shift in color and value, while retaining some of the pigment’s luminosity
Using this same red, the colors on either side of it on the color wheel are orange and purple. Orange and purple are mixed together resulting in the brown color shown. This brown color mixture is value corrected to the original red. A small amount of it is then added to the starting red. This newly mixed red, is less intense than the original red color. However, it is brighter (more luminous) then the less intense reds created in either Method A or B.