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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Taking the Mystery Out of Underpainting Colors

'Peaceful Journey' 16x20 pastel ©Karen Margulis
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How do you decide what colors to use in an underpainting? This is a question I hear a lot. Unfortunately there is no quick answer. There is no real formula for choosing the right colors. Your goal should be to do enough underpaintings using different approaches so that your decisions will become intuitive. There are a few different ways to approach color choices and in today's post I will share one method...Using color to set up your painting for aerial perspective.

Watercolor Underpainting on UArt paper. Click on picture to see the drips.
  • Using colors to set up a feeling of depth or aerial perspective is especially useful for landscapes.
  • I decided to use the local colors for the watercolor underpainting...meaning the sky is blue, the bushes are green and the rocks are orange.
  • To get a head start on aerial perspective I used lighter,cooler, bluer color on the distant cliffs and warmer oranges on the mid to foreground cliffs and sand. I also made sure the distant land masses were softer and less detailed than the foreground.
  • I used local color for the sky (blue) but I used a darker cooler blue for the sky at the top and let it get warmer blue as it came towards the horizon.
  • I used local color for the bushes (green) but I kept the distant greens cooler and put the warmer yellow greens in the foreground bushes.

Using local colors that reflect a feeling of aerial perspective is just one approach to color choice in an underpainting. I will be sharing more approaches in future posts. By the way, I also chose to do watercolor for this painting because I thought that the loose quality and drips and blooms would give me a head start on the look of the desert cliffs and shrubs. I tried not to cover all of the watercolor with pastel in the painting.

If you would like to learn more about watercolor underpaintings you may wish to see my post regarding tips for a watercolor underpainting HERE and a finished watercolor demo HERE.


Bethany said...

I've been enjoying your posts so much! You inspired me to do some more watercolor underpainting for my oil pastels...very happy with a house portrait I just finished! Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

Karen said...

You're welcome! I'm so glad you find my posts helpful. It is my pleasure to share. I hope you will continue to visit!

AnfinsenArts Alive said...

Thank you for the lesson and information. The last couple years I have been using an acrylic underpainting for my oil paintings. I love the technique. It saves time.

I just started using pastels and your tips were very helpful!

Karen said...

Thank you Carol for visiting my blog and for your comments. Welcome to the dusty side! I hope you will come back often for more of my daily paintings and tips!