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Jacqui by Secret Pond

How to Capture Light and Shade with Color Pairs

When objects are viewed in bright sunlight, for each local color you need to get the relationship between the light and shade colors precise. The good news is that you only need to get a few of these relationships correct to give your painting a true feeling of light. The bad news is that it takes a lot of work to get these relationships just right – this is because there are about a million potential combinations at the very least! My key discovery was that you need to spend more time on getting these color pairs correct than on any of the other colors in the painting.

Color pairs tip #1

Girl in a Meadow by Barry John Raybould
Girl in a Meadow by Barry John Raybould

I did this small color sketch of a girl in a meadow on a small 6×8 inch pochade box, after hiking up an hour into the California hills in search of a hidden pond someone had told me about. The color study only 20 minutes and I focused on capturing just a few light/ shade color pairs: the hair, the shirt, and the legs and face. That is all that is needed to create a convincing illusion of form and to capture the feeling of the springtime light in the meadow.

Color pairs tip #2

color pairs
Main Figure – The Boating Trip

In “The Boating Trip”, to make the painting work all I needed to do was work out the two color relationships on the main figure and a couple more color relationships on the gondola. Those were the main colors in the painting. The rest of the colors were muted blue grays to give the painting an atmosphere of mystery.

For beginners

To get started in how to learn color, see the lessons on Color in our Apprentice Program

For intermediate and advanced artists

To learn how to match colors accurately and capture the true feeling of the light, see the lessons on Color in our Apprentice Program.

The Boating Trip by Barry John Raybould
The Boating Trip by Barry John Raybould

To learn the secrets of how master colorists turn forms using only color, see the lessons on Hue Changes in our Apprentice Program.

How to Capture Light and Shade with Color Pairs

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