Color Schemes for Fashion

What is visual isolation, and how is it helpful in identifying the right colors?

To be able to mix colors with better accuracy, an important step prior to it is the identification of the true color in the subject. A little exercise for you could be to practice the technique of visual isolation on a reference image. It is very simple.

                                                         Visual isolation technique

Take a piece of paper and punch a hole in it. Move this punched hole over the area in the reference photo either as a printout or a zoomed- in segment of a picture on your screen. Now you will be able to identify the value, hue and color temperature of that segment. 

This technique is especially useful to identify the colors in the shadow region

As beginners, we often tend to use black to indicate shadow for any object. But using this simple technique, you will observe that the shadow isn’t actually black  but either a warm or cool color that compliments the subject depending on the time of the day or quality of light being shown in the picture. 

What is meant by muddy color and how to not end up mixing a muddy color (Do’s and don’t s)

Quite literally, a muddy color or murky color is an undesirable color resembling the color of mud, formed as a result of mixing colors in the wrong proportions or colors that are opposing in their inclination on the color wheel.

This is a color you wouldn’t want in your artwork as they are desaturated, dull and opaque, which kills the beauty of your painting.

To avoid such a color, pay attention to these points:

Study the color wheel and prepare a study chart for your understanding and reference.

For example,

Cerulean blue and pthalo blue have a pull towards green or, are green biased

Ultramarine has a pull towards purple.

So, if crimson is combined with ultramarine, you get a neutral purple

If Scarlet is to be combined with Ultramarine, you get a warm purple

However, when you combine scarlet red (warm red) with cerulean blue (cool blue), the resultant color would be de-saturated when compared to the others. 

The context of the application of color is important. A color might not look muddy when mixed on the palette. But, if it does not work with the rest of the color in your painting, then that color is a muddy color.

In case of watercolor, identify opaque colors by understanding the properties of a certain color and avoid their usage as much as possible.

Separation of colors in watercolor :

Some pigments that behave differently than other pigments. This holds true in case of colors that showcase granulation upon application. Common examples of such pigments are those that are found in Ultramarine blue, Burnt sienna, Burnt Umber and also sometimes in cerulean blue and raw umber.

Upon mixing one warm color with a cool color from the granulating colors, you get fascinating color mixes that appear homogeneous upon application but show wonderful separation upon drying. This is especially evident and appreciable on rough paper or cold pressed papers that do not have a smooth finish.

Try this: Mix equal parts of Ultramarine blue and transparent orange in equal parts and paint a small portion on a rough paper. This can appear to be a mistake to some but can be used to your advantage while creating interesting contrasts.

What is an undertone and what is the importance of the under-painting or lean layer in oil painting?

Undertone is the color that is not directly perceived by the viewer but influences the mass tone/ overtone that is the color that the viewer identifies. 

Under-painting is the first layer that goes on the surface that you choose to paint on and acts as a base for the layers that follow. An under-painting creates the impression of depth and richness in a painting and prevents your painting from appearing flat. Earthy colors are often used to set the stage for the layers of paint that follow in a painting due to their neutral and pleasant appearance.

Under-painting is widely practiced in oil painting but is also used for mediums like acrylic and gouache. It functions the same way as the first transparent wash in a watercolor painting.

Making different types of green

Importance of color mixing-

  • It may seem like a simple, insignificant exercise, hardly worth spending time on, but it’s the first step in a fundamental painting skill—successful color mixing theory. Put up a chart on the wall until you’ve memorized which colors are primary, secondary, tertiary, and complementary. 
  • Color mixing gives you a range of color options with a minimum number of paint tubes (very useful when painting plein air as you do not have to carry a variety of materials). 
  • If you often use a specific color, it’s easier to decide to buy it in a tube rather than mixing it up again and again. Color mixing gives an idea about the same. 
  • Pigments are expensive, and so are colors. The basic knowledge of color mixing is important to produce a particular color that one might not use often or ever again in other paintings. So, your expenditure on supplies doesn’t burn a hole in the pocket.
  • There can be an instance when the color you cooked up simply doesn’t come ready-made (mostly a particular green in a landscape). The knowledge of color mixing enables you to achieve a ready-made green to the shade you require.
  • The advantage of buying a premixed color is the assurance that you are getting the identical hue each time. But the mixing of colors can be so addictive that you might not like buying a tube and instead choose to cook up your favorite recipe of color. 
  • Color mixing is a mandatory study that one needs to do for color-making companies or people who aspire to produce handmade paints someday. 
  • Color mixing is addictive. Most artists thrive by just studying the color mixing and providing the unique recipe to the world as its scope is limitless. 

Important points to remember while mixing colors-

  • To have the brightest possible colors, make sure that the colors you use consist of only one pigment and are not multi pigmented. You can usually find information about this on the color container itself or the manufacturer’s website.
  • Remember you need at least 3 tones to make something look 3D – dark, medium, and light. That’s when a tonal study comes in handy. 
  • If you want to darken a light color, you only need a small amount of darker hue. For the other way around, if you want to lighten a color, a large amount of color would be required to lighten it.

°Be cautious when dealing with dark colors such as brown or black since a lot of lighter hue is required to alter the tone.

  • While mixing colors and painting on a larger surface, mix the colors in larger quantities, so you don’t have to prepare it again while painting. Also because the next time you mix the colors, you don’t obtain a color different from the original one. Most of the time’s artists mix the colors based on instinct. 
  • It is important to identify the warm and the cool colors before mixing. For example, to create a warm blue sky, if you combine two warm colors, the results also shall be warm, while combining a warm color with a cool color gives a result in a relatively neutral color tone. 
  • One of the most essential information on parts of color mixing is two jars of water, one for warm and the other for cool colors. This is to be sure that the colors don’t turn muddy. 
  • If one color seems too intense or bright, one can soften it with a complementary color or a little brown. It is called ‘tint down,’ which helps the colors not look dull and vague.
  • It is always recommended to test the mixed colors on paper or canvas from time to time because the colors on paper have a different appearance. You wouldn’t want a different color on the final piece than what you had imagined. 

Color mixing challenge: Going the extra mile! Print out the color mixing challenge from Google and start mixing in the primaries to achieve the colors, both warm and cool, and challenge yourself. You have a lot to pick up from this activity. And it further evolves your knowledge on how colors work together in the medium.


1.How to obtain colors combination with Higher Intensity? 

Answer: Limit the number of colors with pure pigments while mixing colors. This results in higher intensity.

To make lighter or pastel colors stand out more, paint them next to a contrasting darker color. For example, dark green will be more intense if it is surrounded by a light color like lemon intensity.. 

  1. Can we mix acrylics and oils?

Answer: While painting on any porous surface, a layer of gesso or acrylic is applied before painting, or the surface needs to be primed. So while oils can be applied over acrylics, one should never use acrylics over oils. Also, never mix oils with acrylics while painting on any surface. This is because the acrylics can dry and seal the moisture while oil takes a longer span to dry, resulting in either decay or cracks of the painting. 

3.Would you mix the whole colors in that row onto your palette in readiness, or do you mix them as you need them? Do you mix large amounts of each – enough for the whole painting? Being the one who doesn’t like to waste expensive paints, what do we do?

Answer- In the case of oils, colors can be batch mixed at the beginning of a painting. They are slow drying and there is plenty of time before it dries. Also it is motivating to keep going and finish the painting. But if you plan to suspend your work, You may cover the palette lightly with cling wrap and put the mixing dish / palette in a refrigerator for storage. Unless the paint is spread very thinly, it will stay moist for a good 7-10 days.

Acrylics can be kept wet by mixing in a shallow plastic file case – just keep them wet by giving a light spray of water now and again and when you want to finish the session, make sure they are wet and then close the lid.

With watercolors, you can just let them dry and re-activate them with water when needed. Most convenient medium. 

  1. Could you please tell the accurate colors for peacock, especially of its head and feathers?

Answer- A peacock has a blue to turquoise gradient on the neck. Turquoise can be formed by mixing Prussian blue with a deep yellow. Alternatively, you can pick from these colors: ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, teal, and viridian. Also a touch of phthalo green and burnt sienna would be required to balance out the blues. 

  1. What is the most important tool while choosing colors?

Answer: The contrast in tone (light against dark) is the most powerful tool in painting. So if color is a problem, just choose one color plus black and white and try that for a while, an opaque medium. Later on, choose 2 colors plus black and white & so on. This way, you will stay in control of the composition.

  1. Does color combination differ with not only the temperature of color we use but also vary from brand to brand?

Answer: Colors are named differently by various brands, especially in acrylic ranges. Even in the case of watercolors, the appearance of a color may differ from brand to brand. For example, Payne’s grey by one brand may have a bluer tint than by a different brand. 

Colors can also vary depending on time of the day and atmospheric conditions. Selecting the right colors depends on whether you are painting something from life or your reference of a place you know well. Close observation and plenty of practice of mixing colors – mixing warm tones and cool tones, varying the value are the keys to your success.

  1. How do you mix your colors? 

Answer: The paints can be mixed on the palette, creating different colors on the palette itself before applying it on the surface, can be a canvas, paper, or any other surface. Either that or it can be mixed directly on the surface such as an impasto art piece or wet on wet or wet on dry techniques. 

It also depends on the medium and techniques in use. Opaque or heavy body paints like acrylics or oils can be mixed with the help of a knife with an elevated handle or brushes, and water-based mediums like watercolor can be combined with wet on wet technique on paper or with brushes on the palette. It’s a style embedded with the artist and the colors he/she would like to choose. 

  1. How to create the perfect purple? 

Answer: The trick to getting an excellent purple range is to use a red and a blue that does not have an inclination towards yellow in them. If a hint of yellow is in there, the result will be more of a brownish-purple or a grayish-purple.

How to use Color Relationships

While there are no hard and fast rules when choosing a color relationship, you should consider the overall feeling you are trying to convey.

Color relationships such as Monochromatic and Analogous are generally easy to harmonize and apply. Additionally, they are calming and conservative by nature. However, they have very little color depth which can lead to lack of contrast if not properly considered.

Compliment, Split Complement, Double-Split Complement and Triad combinations are rich in color depth and have high contrast which make them more dynamic. However, this can lead to color saturation if not applied appropriately.

Color Moods and Meanings

Colors can also have both positive and negative psychological effects on people. This is referred to as color moods or meanings. The table below provides some common examples:

RedComfort, Blood, Beauty, Love, Heat, Passion, Aggression, Battle, Anger, Hunger, Negativity
BlueCool, Peace, Faith, Knowledge, Clean, Coldness, Depression, Detachment
YellowWarmth, Hope, Wisdom, Happiness, Caution, Warning, Jealousy, Envy
PurpleLuxury, Sophistication, Wealth, Excess, Mourning, Indulgence
OrangeSocial, Energy, Vibrancy, Health, Loudness, Low Class, Crass
GreenMoney, Joy, Healing, Nature, Poison, Greed, Envy