Posted in art, watercolour painting

Creating a colour wheel using my watercolour paints and some tips for making your own

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

A few weeks ago, I decided to create a colour wheel using my Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolours to explore colour value and secondary and tertiary colours that could be made using the three primaries of red, yellow and blue. Although I already have ones of those little reference colour wheels that you can buy really cheaply on eBay of Amazon, it’s not made with actual paints so is of limited use. I really enjoyed the activity and the wheel will be a useful reference when I’m colour mixing and creating washes. It’s also good that it’s made with my actual paints as colours will be slightly different depending on the actual shades of the primary paint colour used e.g. lemon yellow will give different results to say cadmium yellow when mixed with cadmium red deep or a scarlet lake.

Drawing the colour wheel

My Helix circle drawing tool came in really handy for creating the wheel as I was able to draw the circles with it and also section them off using the angle measurer. I wanted to include primary, secondary and tertiary colours and also explore what happened when I lightened the colours by adding more water to the paint on my brush.

If you want to have a go at making one of this size using your own paints, the dimensions here are a circle the exact size of my Helix circle drawing tool (just over 14cm), 12 segments of 30 degrees each (360 degrees divided by the number of segments required) and two inner circles at 2.5cm in and 4.5cms in. My measurer was super helpful but you could also create one using a pair of compasses and a protractor.

Painting the primary colours

I began by painting the primary colours of red, yellow and blue. I started with the yellow segment as I read some advice that said you should always do the lighter colour first and finish with the darkest – makes total sense! To create a lighter colour value, I swished my brush in my water a little then took off some of the excess with paper towel before applying to the segment of the wheel. I then swished again to get an even light colour value.

Tip: before applying a lighter shade of the colour, dry off the segment a little in order to avoid colour bleeds.

N.B. In case you were wondering, colour value refers to the lightness of the colour.

Mixing the secondary colours

To mix the secondary colours, namely orange, green and purple (I called the purple segment violet because that’s what it said on the colour mixing wheel I purchased before), I used equal parts of two of the primary colours each time. So, red and yellow to make orange, blue and yellow to make green and red and blue to make purple (violet). I then repeated the swishing method to create lighter colour values.

Mixing the tertiary colours

Tertiary colours are those which are made by mixing equal parts of a primary colour with a secondary colour. These are then labelled with the name of the primary, followed by the name of the secondary e.g. yellow green, red orange etc. Again I mixed the colour with a little amount of water and then gradually diluted it.

Finishing off my colour wheel

I wanted to label the colours directly onto the paint but knowing that fineliner pens aren’t too good at writing over paint, I used my Dymo LetraTag on the smallest font, printing on transparent plastic tape. I think I probably wouldn’t have been able to write that small anyway!

Tip: Write the name of the paints you used on the back e.g. Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolours, and the names of the three primary colours you used e.g. lemon yellow, cadmium red deep and cobalt blue hue so you don’t forget.

The finished result

You could neaten your finished colour wheel by going over the pencil lines with a fineliner pen but I decided to leave my looking a little rough around the edges.

I hope this post has encouraged you to have a go at creating your own colour wheel. It took a while to do and I had a number of mixing palettes on the go at once but I think it’s well worth the effort. It’s also something I’d recommend doing for each of your sets of paint if you have more than one like I do as different brands tend to have slightly different colour compositions.

Posted in art, watercolour painting

Back to basics: Watercolouring Challenge Day 1

This week, I’m taking part in an online Beginner’s watercolour course called Show Me Your Florals. This free course comes complete with a workbook, daily demo videos and tasks to complete over a period of 1 week. For Day 1, the focus was on mixing basic colours to create a chart. I spent over 3 hours making it and now have back and neck ache so I hope it proves to be useful! I certainly enjoyed mixing the paints but wasn’t so keen on washing my small mixing palette repeatedly!

The full chart is made using 9 basic colours which are from my Daler Rowney tin. The artist who is running the challenge says it’s best to work with squeezy tubes of watercolour but I’ve already splashed out on new brushes and really couldn’t afford to buy more new paints so I’m sticking with my travel tin of little paint pans which I’m sure will be okay. I’ve also only got some of the suggested colours so I’ve chosen a few other similar ones from my palette.

The diagonal which goes from top left to bottom right shows the original colours and the other squares are the colour produced when mixing two equal amounts of the labelled paints. The chart has been done on Strathmore cold press watercolour paper 90lb weight and each square is 2 x 2 cms.

It was interesting to see how many different colours and shades could be created with the 9 basic ones. The artist also showed us how to can add more water to create a much paler version of the colours too.

A close up of the top left of my chart
The top right hand section
The bottom left section
And finally, the bottom right hand section

If you are new to watercolouring and want to try a little paint mixing, I can recommend making one of these charts to help you choose colours for your projects. However, bear in mind that it takes a while to make. Particularly if you only have a small mixing palette like I do and have to keep running bowls of soapy water to clean it.

Day 2’s lessons popped into my inbox just after lunchtime but I’m going to continue to stay one day behind and work on it tomorrow (I still have a couple of tasks from today to do too). Also, if each of the activities takes in excess of 3 hours like this one did, it might end up taking me until at least the end of October but I’m sure it will be fun and I’ve learnt lots already.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share pictures of the rest of the challenge but it may take a while as the light is starting to get a bit rubbish now with the cloudy weather and limited daylight hours. Have any of you done a watercolour course before? Did you do it online or did you go to a proper class with others and have personal support from a tutor?