Color Theory Tutorial for portrait artists - lessons on using color for portrait art.

Color Tutorial

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Color scheme - purpleColor scheme - brown

Now, here's the same color study principle being used, but with a more purple color scheme (left), a brown-reddish color scheme (center), and with more subdued umbers (right). They look just fine - they don't look overworked, or too drab. And yet only a FEW colors were actually used. Sometimes, simple is better, and less is more. Don't think that you have to use every color in your paint box for each painting. You don't.

I will mention right here, before I go any further, I am not a big fan of the use of straight black in color mixing. The straight black that was used in the previous color studies "doesn't count," because the black is limited to the underlying ink sketch. I wasn't trying to blend a black color in with the other colors.

In my opinion, a major problem with many newbie artworks is that they go crazy trying to mix the black color with all the other colors. So often when people mix black paint with other colors, all they end up doing is giving every other color a grayish, muddy tone. And then the whole painting looks gray and muddy. Not very attractive.

I'm not saying that you can't get a good painting if you use the black tube of paint, though. I'm just saying that it can be a HUGE stumbling block for many artists, especially newbie artists. An artist needs to understand how to use the black paint properly. Helen Van Wyk's Color Mixing book will help teach you how to do that. Basically, you can't just mix black with everything that needs to be darker, and think it'll look OK. It probably won't. Other colors might need to be mixed in also. Or, sometimes the black paint isn't the appropriate choice for darkening certain colors.


Black is tricky. Personally, I have just gotten used to not using it, and I don't miss it. My first art teacher, (Shirlee Prescott Morgan) taught all her students not to use black. (Since her paintings had the most vibrant and beautiful color in them that I'd ever seen, I was inclined to follow her advice!)

Well, I'll conclude the "black paint" tangent now, and continue with the tutorial!

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