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The basic principles of what colour to use for shadow and highlight ?

Discussion in 'Painting Techniques' started by DBenz, Aug 10, 2019.

  1. DBenz Member

    Modelling with oils, though this may also apply to acrylics (do say if it does).
    I am remembering back to a forum called Historic Modellers forum, in the days of forums being just text sites such as rec.models.scale accessed via an email system !
    I learnt that to add shadow to a yellow flag one didnt use black ! I am needing to refresh my knowledge on what colours to add to the midtones for the following :-

    I have drawn this up so far, please correct it.

    Green cloth, highlights add a yellow, shadows add a blue.
    Reds, highlights a yellow, shadows a blue
    Blue, highlights add a white shadows add a black, or maybe a darker blue from another tube.
    Yellow, highlights add a white, shadows add a red
    Violet, highlights ..dont know...shadows blue
    Purple, highlights add a red, shadows add a blue
    Black, highlights add white, black add black, so make the midtones a dark grey !
    Brown, highlights add a yellow (or maybe some red) shadows black or a darker brown from green and red.
    Flesh (caucasian) highlights add a white, shadows add raw umber.

    ..and now I see this excellent video on the oils section of Planet Figure:-

    where it says to make a colour darker add blue or brown or both.
    To lighten add white or yellow or both.

    so for yellow shadow it would seem to be brown (which is sort of red but also green as red and green = brown). I see there is no black. I recall in nature there is no black, am I right ?

    but then for a lemon yellow in another video its green added in:-

    which would be the blue of the above theory in the limited palette video.

    So taking the midtone oil pile that has been divided up into thirds, sitting on its sheet of cardboard overnight to allow oils to wick away/escape.

    For a Russian soldiers green tunic, add in a bit of yellow to one of the midtone pile that is intended for highlight, then apply to highlight areas and blend edges in. (or white or both according to the video)

    Luftwaffe tunic grey blue (more grey than blue) mix white to the midtone highlight pile, mix and apply and blend edges in. Shadow add black (as in this case its a darkish grey blue) to midtone shadow pile and apply then blend edges.

    Sky blue, for shadow add a darker blue from a tube to the shadow pile apply and bend edges in.

    For those wondering on oils blending method...vital the midtone is applied to a totally cured surface such as OLD humbrol, then as much as possible removed with a dry clean flat brush ! Then using a clean 'damp with odourless thinners' (enough to leave a shine when drawn across thumbnail) windsor and newton series 7 brush size 0 or 00 blend the edge out with a stippling twirling action of its tip, then cleaning the brush and making sure its 'damp' blend the mixed area out further, then repeat, etc, progressively weakening the highlight edge strength as more midtone is mixed in until the edges are a superb airbrushed finish. An edge results which is as per reality in nature, no 'tide marks'. Such a refined edge is rarely seen with acrylics. 3 days to blend it, and drying time can be dealt with in a warm environment, left in a box with holes around it covered in felt vapours out but dust cant get in, or wood box with elec lamp inside and maybe felted vent holes. You decide on whats safe, dont blame me ! No point in wishing for fast drying and going with acrylics when needing lots of lovely relaxing time to blend colours !

    Jeff T, Nap and Viking Bob like this.
  2. hypertex Active Member

    I love Paul Foxton, who made that video you embedded.

    Here are the basic principles that I follow for mixing lights and shadows, in order of preference:

    1) Add a lighter or darker color of the same hue. E.G. use a darker yellow (yellow ochre) to make a yellow shadow.
    2) Add a lighter or darker color(s) of a nearby hue. By that I mean nearby on the color wheel. E.g. orange is near red, purple is near blue, etc. And use a good color wheel, if your color wheel doesn't have cyan and magenta, it is wrong.
    3) Add a complimentary color or black, but re-saturate the shadow with a brighter color of the same or nearby hue. The bright color must be brighter than your original base color, therefore you should not use your brightest color as your base color.

    Let me take you through an example. Let's say we are painting a tan object, such as a khaki military uniform. Khaki is orange in hue, with a very low chroma. So to mix a shadow color, we start with option 1, a darker color of the same hue. So we need to add a dark orange, with low chroma. So we use a brown, such as burnt sienna. Everyone knows brown is orange in hue, right? So we are using a dark orange (brown) to make a shadow for light orange (khaki). To make a "highlight" you'll have to add white, but the resulting color will probably be too low in chroma. So we can add chroma by a tiny amount of a bright orange. And when I say tiny amount, I mean tiny.

    Some versions of khaki are yellow, not orange. So what do we do then? First choice would be a dark yellow (aka olive drab) for the shadow. If you don't have a dark yellow, you can move to option 2, and use a nearby hue, such as orange. Dark orange is brown, so you can use a yellowish (not reddish) brown such as burnt umber. Again, mix white for your "highlight" but re-saturate with a small amount of bright yellow, such as cadmium yellow or hansa yellow.

    This formula works for any color.
    theBaron, Jeff T and Nap like this.
  3. fogie A Fixture

    A good starting point is to get hold of a colour wheel, and try shading a hue with its complimentary colour (the one opposite
    on the wheel), you can vary this by using a tint (lighter) or a shade (darker) of that complimentary... play around and see for
    yourself how it works.....enjoy !

    theBaron and Nap like this.

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