Hi, I'm Mary Kemp, passionate painter of anything to do with the seaside.
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Monday, 12 May 2014

The Six Primary Colours You Can't Do Without.

Colour excites me!
I'm the sort of person who goes to B&Q on a Saturday and gets lost in the paint aisle, collects those lovely little sample cards and lines them up at home just to look at them.

 And in this post I'm going to share a few thoughts about six primary colours.

OK I know there are only three primary colours, red, yellow and blue. But here I will tell you about the six true primary colours that you really can't do without and show you why.

When I first started painting I had problems mixing colours. 
I couldn't understand why red and blue didn't always make a true clear purple, yellow and green produced some dodgy greens, and why a red, yellow mix sometimes resulted in a muddy orange. 
Of course in some ways this is the joy of colour mixing,  but I wanted to make sense of it all.
I simply homed in on the colours that appealed to me and soldiered on from there.

It was not until I discovered Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green by Michael Wilcox, that it all fell into place.

So here's my interpretation of his theory, explained I am sure much better in his book, as well as in this video.

  • There are no pure 3 primary colours.
  • For the purposes of mixing there are 6.
  1. Lemon yellow
  2. Cadmium yellow.
  3. Cadmium red
  4. Alizarin crimson
  5. Ultramarine blue 
  6. Cerulean blue. 
Each one produces a clean mixture with one other primary colour.
Thus the pairings are:
  1. Lemon yellow and cerulean blue = green.
  2. Cadmium yellow and cadmium red = orange.
  3. Alizarin crimson and ultramarine = purple.
Mix them up any other way and you loose the purity of colour. Mix them all together and in theory you should get black. In practice you get sludge or brown.

I have found Michael Wilcox's book of great value, and well worth a read.

When you've read it you'll realise why 6 primary colours is not such a mad idea after all.



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