|Oil Painting with Bright Colors|
- Darkening colors with black. For example, adding black to green for foliage or black to flesh tint for shaded areas of portraits. Black and any bright color often results in dirty colors.
- Tempering vivid colors with neutrals in the belief they are always too bright.
- Painting alla prima can sometimes result in an oil painting that lacks depth of color once the painting is dry.
- Over-mixing oil pigments, causing the color mixture to lose its life
- Using too many colors in a mix, such as more than three.
Paint like the Old Masters
Many beginners believe that the essence of an oil painting lies with the old masters, which are noted for heavily shaded areas, known as chiaroscuro. Early oil painters were restricted in the colors they could use, as blue pigment (lapis lazuli) was costly to produce, which is why early paintings appear subdued. In other cases, bright pigments dulled with time.
Egg Tempera Techniques
Furthermore, the precursor to oil colors was egg tempera, which is essentially ground pigment mixed with egg yolk. Mixing colors was almost impossible, as each color had to be blended separately before applying onto the panel. This meant many of pigments were necessary for painting.
The Best Oil Colors
Colors that Cause a Dull Painting
Many oil painting sets contain unnecessary oil colors, which is why I purchase the tubes separately. Except for adding bulk to paint or mixing neutrals, I have found the following oil colors often lie redundant within my painting kit and many cause dull color mixtures:
Earth colors: Raw sienna, raw umber, yellow ochre (overrated in my view), brown ochre, cadmium brown, sepia, Vandyke brown.
Other unnecessary oil colors: Cadmium orange, flesh tint, sap green, olive green, lamp black, cadmium orange, paynes grey, Naples yellow and flesh tint.
These colors however, may prove invaluable in a watercolour or pastel kit. In oil pigment terms, the only earth colors I include in my color mixes are burnt sienna, a lovely golden brown, and burnt umber, ideal for creating rich warm darks.
How to Create Depth of Color in Oil Painting
Colors often appear dulled when an oil painting is dry. Varnishing it will bring out the saturated appearance of the colors again. But an oil painting that appears flat could benefit from glazing, a technique where a thin layer of oil paint is applied over a paint layer. Glazing adds depth and richness to oil painting, but more than four glazes are probably unnecessary.
Proper understanding of the color theory will prove invaluable for producing vibrant color mixes in paintings. I always include the three primaries within my palette. In printing terms, these are yellow, cyan and magenta. In oil pigments, I have found cadmium yellow (pale), pthalo blue and permanent rose pretty close. Ultramarine, cadmium red, viridian and lemon yellow are also useful.
External Links Relating to Issues of Dull Paintings
Further strategies for creating vivid oil paintings more in depth can be found on the following links.