Managing values ratios in color

Dashboard Forums Drawing Questions Managing values ratios in color

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    Hi Matt,
    I would like to tell you again that your tutorial step by step is really enriching very well explained, specially managing value ratios.
    My question is how I translate the value scale in color. I know that you can’t answer in a few words to this big question. I would like to know the basic. I understand that to make the color orange for example darker you are not adding some black. I started to paint simple objets with watercolor and I feel that I am not able to manage values in colors ( I am a member of the painting site and i watched your first videos and have not enough time to do the exercises). I send you the watercolor that I just finished to explain my question.It is a life painting. Thank you for your answer. Annabelle.

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    I will do my best to answer this question in our weekly podcast today.

    Great question.


    Marjan Van der Donk

    Hi Annabelle,
    To add to Matt’s great podcast, I would like to share how I first started to learn how to tackle colours. I didn’t have a clue to be honest, and avoided doing anything colourful. Putting black into paint (acrylic, watercolour) wasn’t working, obviously. Two years ago, after a tip from a professional, I spent weeks painting large canvasses – 6 in total – each one monochromatic. I applied the principles of the colour wheel as he explained it to me. So, for my canvas in red, on top of three tubes of red paint I only added green (the complement colour on the wheel) and for effect some white in parts, thus creating vibrant reds – muted reds – and really dark red. For blue the complement is orange, for yellow – purple. And then reversed it, so for the green canvas I used red to tone down the chroma of the green, or to darken the green, et cetera. It was a great excercise and a lot of fun! I had to restrain myself and not use yellow and blue to enhance the green – that has its merits, but wasn’t part of the excercise. I just splashed acrylic red paint on my canvas, happily mixing in the greens and experimenting because ‘it didn’t have to look like anything’. And guess what: they were great! I even did a second series, and they are gorgeous – I put them up in my living room as a feature on one wall, just to celebrate I overcame my colour-phobia haha! A nice semi glossy varnish has the colours vibrant and shimmering. I’m chuffed to bits with them!
    Hope this helps,


    Thank you Marjan for this beautiful and detailed explanation and invitation to work with color. Sorry that I answered so late but the truth is that I did not see your answer. Excuse me. Do you think that one can experiment the same thing with watercolor ? I am currently working on watercolor. If not I will try to work with acrylic.

    Marjan Van der Donk

    Hi Annabelle,
    You’re welcome, and no worries about not replying 😉
    Re watercolours: I work in watercolour too, mostly in the summer when I draw the working farms in my hometown. I have never experimented in the way I did with acrylics, but knowing the materials it will be different I think. You could try limiting to the same colours on your palette as I described with the acrylics. Mixing on your palette of course, and perhaps washes over (almost) dry swatches of colour on paper? I often juxtapose colours in that way (complement colours).
    The first nice warm day that comes along I will get on my bike and try this out! I love experimenting!

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