Getting Technical – Colour



Colour swatch of my chosen palette painted on Bockingford Not 140lb  56 x 56 cms

Hansa Yellow Light                  PY1          Daniel Smith (DS)

New Gamboge                            PY150    Winsor & Newton (W&N)

Burnt Sienna                                PR101    W&N

Winsor Red                                   PR254    W&N

Perylene Maroon                       PR175    W&N

Quin Magenta                              PR122    W&N

Opera Pink                                     PR122    W&N

Winsor Violet                               PV23      W&N

French Ultramarine                  PB29       W&N

Winsor Blue Red Shade          PB15       W&N

Winsor Blue Green Shade     PB15       W&N

Antwerp                                           PB27       DS

Cerulean Blue                               PB35       W&N

Winsor Green Blue Shade     PG7          W&N

Viridian                                             PG18       W&N

Alizian Crimson                            PR83       W&N

Phthalo Turquoise                      PB16       W&N

Green Gold                                      PY129    W&N

Olive                                                    PR101 PY65 PB15:6  W&N

Jadeite                                               N/A            DS

The pure colours were painted across the top.  The top colour was then painted in the top of each box below it, with the each of the pure colours across the top, painted in the bottom half of each box.  Some combinations clearly don’t work, others do, and I will be further investigating those that work, to better understand and consider their application to my work going forward.

Principles of Harmony & Contrast of Colours and their Application to the Arts – Michel E Chevreul  First edition in French in 1839

Chevreul, a French chemist, born in 1786, discovered the way in which colour is perceived, which became know as The law of simultaneous contrast.  Simply stated this is the visual phenomenon related to the juxtaposition of two colours.


Reproduced from Georges Roque’s publication Chevreul’s Colour Theory and it’s Consequences for Artists 1, based on his presentation to the Colour Group (GB) in Paris in 2010.

When two colours of similar hue are placed side by side as above, the light colour, top diagram, left and centre, appears lighter in the centre, and the dark colour, centre and right, appears darker in the centre, especially around the borders.  The bottom diagram shows the effect known as ‘Chevreul’s Illusion’, where the stripes seen from a suitable distance resemble channelled grooves, more than flat surfaces.

It becomes interesting when two colours are juxtaposed.   Compte de Buffon 2 had observed in 1743 that after staring at a red dot on a white background for a while, it assumed a green halo.  If we then stare at the white paper an after image of a green dot would be seen. Green and red are complimentary colours.  There is a similar result with  blue/orange and yellow/violet, also complimentary colours.  Chevreul’s research led him to conclude that the juxtaposition of complimentary colours enhance each other, a conclusion readily explored by impressionist painters.

1 Roque, G Chevreul’s Colour Theory and it’s Consequences for Artists, Colour Group (Great Britain) 2011

2 Buffon, « Sur les couleurs accidentelles », Mémoires de l’Académie des Sciences, 1743, reprinted in J.-L. Binet and J. Roger (eds.), Un autre Buffon, Paris, Hermann, 1977, pp.138-149.




Author: susanmilleruk

Watercolour painter living, working and loving Hastings and St Leonards on Sea. MA in Fine Art.

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