Additional colour exercises

I have been wanting to try several exercises from Nita Leland’s book ‘Confident Color’ for a long time but never seemed to have the time or inclination!   Whilst doing the set exercises in this part, I decided now would be as good a time as any to give some additional tests a go.

  1. Down the scale – light to dark
Gouache painted vertical scale

We are often told to use colour wheels however it’s interesting to look at the hues stacked up on top of each other, to see the natural progression from white to the darkest black.   Yellow is a much lighter (almost the lightest) hue compared to violet.

2.  A bit of ‘Albers’

Different intense colours on the same pure hue background to judge contrast.    I think this exercise would have worked better with acrylics, as the gouache does not give a fully saturated background colour.  I might try this again when I can find some time.

3.    Darkening colours with Burnt Sienna

Burnt Sienna is probably the most useful colour in a palette, it is so versatile.    In this exercise, I used oils, so that the initial pigments were really intense and clear (laid down first on the top line), then added just a tiny amount of Burnt Sienna to see how this would darken the first pigment.   Whilst I often do this instinctively when painting, it was really interesting to see the effects obtained and again, this enabled me to create many  lovely ‘earthy’ tertiary colours.  Rembrandt used a palette like this:

‘Old Masters’ Wheel

There are many other examples of wheels in Ms. Leland’s books, focusing on different colour ‘triads’

Colour triads

Ms Leland discusses various colour schemes in her book, including monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split- and near- complementary; as well as primary and secondary triads, tertiary triads, modified triads, adjacent-complementary tetrad, cross-complementar tetrad, split-complementary tetrad and analogous-complementary.

Split- and near- complementary colour scheme example.

I found another colour wheel, which clearly shows the tertiary and secondary colours from Greg Albert’s book, the simple secret to better painting.

Colour wheel – with tertiary and secondary colours labelled.


Leland,N. Confident Color Northlight books, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Albert, G the simple secret to better painting Northlight books. F&W Publications. 2003

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