Compound colours are all the earth colours, browns, ochres etc. They contain a mixture of all three primaries.

A helpful technique when working with watercolour is to begin working with compound colours and slowly work towards more saturated colours. This allows for much greater control over colour harmony and gives the more saturated colours greater impact

The colours above start as a compound neutral tending slightly towards red and move progressively towards a saturated cool red. The saturated cool red lies somewhere between red and violet on the colour wheel and contains no yellow. The compound mixtures contain increasing amounts of yellow as they move further away from the saturated colour.

This painting was started with washes of closely related compound colours. As the work progressed more saturated colours were introduced. Most of the paper was covered in the early stages of the painting allowing the neutral colours to establish the tonal arrangement 

It is important when working this way to vary the tone and colour of the compound colours. In this example the neutrals drift from dark to light tone and there is a slight shift between warm and cool. Without this variation the painting could become lifeless and uninteresting.





To become familiar with compound colours and to practice mixing colours, try this exercise


back to painting lessons



Home  I  Lessons  I  Blog  I   Gallery  I  Store  I  Bio  I  Contact   I   Copyright