Not Everything is Black and White

I think the best advice ever given to me was to never use black and white.

Why? Because it takes away from the vibrancy of the color. They dull things. Sure, it’s fine to use black to darken or white to lighten—if you need a specific color.

Now, this isn’t a written-in-stone kind of rule. Or really a rule at all.

Simply good advice.

How can you accomplish this? Pretty simple actually. Just use a lighter color out of the tube.

Need a lighter blue? Get a lighter blue.

Need a darker green? Get a darker green.

Mixing can help as well. If you happen to have a lighter color and a darker color you can mix them together to get the shade you need. As long as they’re the same color, of course.

Now you may be asking: but, you still need white and black for, well, black and white, right? Not really.

Of course you can. It really depends more on what you’re painting. I’ve painted several paintings not using black or white at all. But I’ve also used them on others as well. Plain white paint is definitely a good color to use for extreme highlights. But also not necessary.

I’ve used this before in another example. But this is a painting I did back in college using the same technique I’m teaching you now. It was more of a study on warm vs. cool colors, but it’s still the same idea. For this, I used bright yellow for the strongest highlights and dark blues and purples for the darker parts. Which leads me to another great tip: how to mix your own black paint.

This was (and still is) one of the coolest things I have ever learned. To make black you simply mix dark blue and dark purple together. The darker the original colors are the better. I use “dioxazine purple” and “french ultramarine blue”. These two make a beautiful dark velvety-black color. Of course you can get it to be more blue or purple if you like (and less black) depending on how much of each you mix together. It’s good to test it out first to see if it’s the right amount you need before you start painting.

I prefer mixing my own black instead of using black. However, like I said earlier, there are other circumstances that call for black. But use your own judgment.

This is an unfinished painting that I’ve put off for some time. I’m using this as an example because I used the purple-blue technique for the background. Simply because the dragon is going to be blue. I wanted to stick with the cool blue/purple color scheme. Black would’ve worked here as well, but it wouldn’t have “mingled” as well.
Here, I just used plain black for the background. I believe the purple-blue would’ve worked here too. But I cared less about integrating the background with the rose, since it was the focal point.

Overall, the best way to use this information is to just use your better judgment. Sometimes going color-crazy is the best route for what you’re looking for and other times you might need it to look washed-out and dull.

As always, I hope this little tid-bit of information was helpful to you. Be sure to check me out on facebook, Hayley Boothe Art.

Happy arts-ing!

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