Colour Temperature Theory – Oil Painting

Love Yourself You Sh*t – Framed Original

Alright folks, if you’ve been on the hunt for some free online studies on understanding oil painting – this here, is exactly for you.



Let’s talk about colours!

One of most fascinating and yet basic aspects of oil paints is appreciating how colours work with each other. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner looking to learn more about the medium, or whether you’re simply here to purchase oil paintings. A little bit of colour theory will help you understand and appreciate the finer aspects that go into creating a masterpiece.



But first, let’s talk about colour temperature.


This techy-sounding, slightly-daunting term is merely a fancy way of referring to the percentage of yellow or blue in a colour. For example, if you look at the colour wheel below, the colours closer to yellow, contain a percentage of yellow in them, and are therefore warmer than those closer to blue (which contain a percentage of blue) and are therefore cooler in comparison.

This brings us to temperature relativity – another fancy term, but in essence what it means is that the warmth or coolness of a colour or hue is relative to the colours around it! So we can have both a warm blue, and a cool blue, a warm red and a cool red! In some ways, that’s a lot like us humans isn’t it? We become more like the people we hang around with, which is why it’s so important to pick our circle wisely!



It’s all science baby!


Anyway, I digress, but here are a few more things to blow your mind further – Did you know that it is the temperature of colours that allows our eyes to perceive depth or proximity in an oil painting? So basically, if we look at a painting that consists of both cool and warm colours, the warm colours tend to come to the fore while the cooler colours tend to recede, thus creating depth. This is because our eyes see warm colours sooner, while the cool colours have a shorter wavelength and are seen later!



Feeling blue?


On the same vein, there are no prizes for guessing why colours are capable of triggering emotions – yes indeed, it is all thanks to our good friend colour temperature! So, the next time you see an oil painting that energises you or gives you a rustic, earthy vibe, stop to examine the painting closer – I bet you’ll find, the painting consists primarily of warm colours! Likewise, if you find art that tends to have a more calming and meditative aura, you’ll discover that it’s dominated by cooler colours and themes!



My top tips?


Understanding how warm and cool colours work with each other is important. Slap them on top of each other, and you could have a rather muddy and dull mess on your hands. Tiptoe around them, and your work could give off a rather awkward vibe.


My top tip for new artists is:

1. Keep your temperatures separate. By doing this you will ensure that your warms stay warm, and your cools stay cool. You will avoid any muddy flat colours that make your artwork look dirty.


2. Things that are supposed to be further back, paint with cool tones, things that are supposed to be closer to us, get those warms slapped on baby! This is not to say that you only paint things further back in blue and things further forward in red. Remember! There are cool and warm versions of every colour.


3. When setting up your pallet, make it easy for yourself. Put all of your warms towards the front of your pallet, and all of the cools towards the back – this way you will never forget which one is which!

You will be able to create depth in your paintings that no one can get with just playing with tone!


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