It is important to think of color values first while you’re painting. Doing so will help you to be able to create a believable sense of light in your paintings right from the start. One of the best ways you can achieve this, is by thinking in terms of color spots.
Before we think of mixing any colors though, you first want to have a sketch made out on your painting surface. It does not need to be precise or detailed, in fact I encourage it to just be a rough outline of your basic composition.
Contents of this Article
- First Three Color Spots
- First light value color spot
- Second medium value color spot
- Third dark value color spot
- Building up more color values
- Changing and fixing color spots and color values
- Bringing the painting to a close with color spots
- Hit the play button directly below, to see how to start your painting with 3 color values!
First Three Color Spots
The next step is to figure out where a clear intersection of light and dark values are in your subject matter. It is best to start at a place where a light, medium and dark value are next to one another.
In the image above you can see how the light, medium and dark values we will paint first are all right next to one another. As a result there is great clarity in the sense of light present.
So, take a moment before you begin your painting to find an area in your subject matter where the three main values meet and intersect.
First light value color spot
You can start with either the dark, medium or light value. There isn’t a special order you need to go in, so you can choose whichever color value you wish to mix up first! In this example I start with the lightest value color that is on the right side of the petal.
For the light value yellow I mix some cadmium yellow, lemon yellow, white and provence violet bluish (light purple) together. The light purple helps to mute the color a little bit. While the white, lightens the color and makes it lighter in value.
Second medium value color spot
Again, you don’t need to go in any special order in regards to whether you mix up a dark, light, or medium value first or last. It is good to do what seems to be the best order in a given situation.
In the example below you can see the second color spot that is a medium value placed to the left of the light value color spot.
To get the medium value color I mix together cadmium yellow medium, white and dioxazine purple. The purple used for this mixture is a bit darker than what I used for my lighter value yellow color. If you want to darken a yellow color more, then a darker purple is helpful.
Third dark value color spot
Last but not least we get to our third color spot – which is the darkest value out of the three. It also happens to be an entirely different kind of color as it is part of the dark center of the sunflower that is brown.
You can see above, how all three color values are next to one another. As a result we have a sense of light in the painting right from the beginning!
Building up more color values
Once you have your first three color spots you can begin to build around them with more color spots.
In both the image above and below you can see how the emphasis is placed on value as the painting develops so that it retains a clear sense of light.
Also, notice in the painting below how the palette knife is used to soften the edges between the dark brown part of the sunflower and the shadowed yellow petals behind it.
Changing and fixing color spots and color values
Don’t ever feel badly if you find yourself needing to change or adjust a color. This is a perfectly normal thing to do – and is encouraged! Even professionals who have been painting for decades need to continually fix and remix a color along the way.
Above, you can see how I darken the outer rim of the brown center portion of the flower. The color value was not dark enough before, so I mix something up that is more suitable.
Bringing the painting to a close with color spots
As you progress with your painting you want to continue to simplify and think in terms of spots of color. Simply build around what you already have painted. If you find a color that needs to be adjusted – then go ahead and fix it right away. It is much better to fix a color that needs to be changed than to add a new one.
You can watch the full video demonstration below of how to do all of this!
It will show you how to start a painting with three color spot values that represent a strong intersection of light, medium and dark values in the painting subject. You will then see how to continue working your way through the painting (from these foundational color values) to truly achieve a realistic sense of light!
If you want to go further with the subject from the painting demonstration in the video guide above. You can follow along with the full sunflower painting tutorial, here.
Love to hear from you about your success or struggles with creating a realistic sense of light in your paintings in the comments below!