Virtual Art Academy

Avoid Over Saturation of Color In Nature

painting lesson on saturation

What is saturation of color?

Saturation is a property of color that measures how intense or pure that color is. Grays are low saturation colors, and vivid colors are high saturated colors. Another name for saturation is ‘chroma’. For more information see the three components of color.

It is very easy to over exaggerate the saturation of colors in nature. In this student painting the ocean is far too blue.  This is an extremely common painting problem, particularly with inexperienced painters. But there is one handy tip that will help you identify and fix this problem.

How to fix the problem

In the student painting below, you can see that the blues are too saturated.

If you sample the colors using a digital painting tool, you can see the true saturation of the ocean. In this case, when you sample the color of the ocean, you find that it is, in fact, much grayer than the color the student used to paint it.

Of course an artist might want to change the color for artistic reasons. But generally, when you are starting out to learn painting, you should learn to be able to match the colors as accurately as possible. Only once you have learned the color matching skills, should you experiment by altering the color to see if it better suits your artistic intent.

To sample the colors, most digital painting software, or image editing software has a tool called a ‘color picker’. This tool usually looks like a dropper. You click on an area of a picture and it changes the current color you are working with in your software to the color under the dropper.

painting lesson on saturation
Saturation of colors in nature

In the above picture, I set the image to be a tracing layer in ArtRage, then sampled the water so you could compare the predominant color in the painting with that in the original photograph.

For more information on saturation, see lesson B06 What Is Saturation? in the Year One Apprentice Program.

For more information on how I use ArtRage, see the ArtRage add-on in the Virtual Art Academy online painting classes. I used it for planning large paintings, as you can explore multiple compositional ideas very quickly.

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