Arriving at neutral flesh tone versus purple tone

Dear all, I am struggeling with arriving at a certain color hue/chroma. I use titanium white, burned umber, ultramarine blue, pyrrole red and cadmium red (all Cobra WMO) trying to keep in mind Mark's color wheel (or any color wheel in general that is).

Most of my color strings however end up with a purple glow inside which gives me the impression there is too much blue in the mixture. Starting off with only cad yellow and pyrrole red, the purple appears still to be there (faintly) which is confusing at least (a dirty brush I cannot fully exclude but with repeated mixing, this should diminish rapidly I assume). I'm uncertain if the picture provided illustrated the point clearly. Is my yellow leaning cold? Or is my titanium white leaning cold?? 
Thank you in advance!


  • The yellow and red you are using are high chroma so you should be able to hit the colour you are aiming for judging from the photo. What about your lighting? Are you using a cool temperature (6500k) in your lights? That would make things look more bluish.

    Can you post the colour you are trying to mix?
  • you can also use a hint of the complement to reduce the prominence of a color. 
  • Hi @Richard_P and @MikeDerby I am unsure about the light source but this might be a contributing factor. I have a window (there is clouded grey weather outside most of the time this year) but also a lightbox that is supposed to wake you up and mimic the daylight.  
    Just to be sure, the complement of a purple would be my cadmium yellow right? 

    I've included a picture here, I'm trying to practice brush handling, paint handling and getting the right value from a BW picture (left) but would like to have neutral tones as on the right. Thank you in advance!

  • edited November 13
    @JerryW, I think the first thing to mention is that it's the values that are most important. If you get the values right, and get their placement right, the result will look right even if the hue is a bit off. And no one (except people here) will ask for the reference to compare your painting with. However, since you are trying to match the overall colour, (hue, value and chroma) I would say that you have put a touch too much yellow into the mix. For example, the area on his forehead above his right eyebrow is too yellow. I think you're close but just need to ease off a bit on the yellow.
  • @JerryW
    You are working from inadequate reference to start with. The above photo is only value with a dye tint. It may be a tinted B&W? Painting from historical photos is challenging. They are often PR or contrived somehow to tone down the subject. 
    The only color images of Churchill that I can find are very poor quality color. The state of color photos at the time. So the question is do you just copy bad color or do you break down the man by what's known about him. How would his personality affect his skin tone. He was by all reports a drinking man. Ruddy cheeks and nose contrasting to flush. So I asked AI to make a Churchill image painted by Freud. A drinking man's complexion for sure. 
    I wouldn't paint this but would certainly study the complexion. 

    You cannot separate color and value.

  • Dear @tassieguy thanks for your help, I think you are also basically saying that with the limited colors I have, most hues would in fact be possible to attain. Even is the hues would be off, values that are right would still make the portrain work. Based upon the fact that hues in fact do not matter so much, I will focus on the values instead! Thanks 
  • Dear @KingstonFineArt thank you for your delightful and insightful response  =) 
    I am indeed working from a B&W and could only find colored versions of the B&W original to give some sense of color (artificially). I had however not anticipated working from B&W to be so difficult as it provides (or it seems to be so to me) a reference to value easily but none whatsoever to hue/color. I appreciate you analysis, probably Churchill was by no means a pleasant person to be with, yet that underlying state of being sort of permeates his features which your AI combination of a Freud painting of Churchill captures quite beautifully. Thanks for helping out! I will try and finish this portrait on values, not hues and will base myself on color images next! Thanks!
  • Just wanted to post the end result here. I continued after a few days so unfortunately no real alla prima but perhaps in two sessions close enough.  Colors are off but it was fun experimenting.  Any suggestions to improve are appreciated! Thanks. 
  • You've really sculpted out a dimensional and painterly face, exploring the facets and flesh tones. Before I did portraits I puzzled over what constitutes likeness. What puzzled me were political cartoons that grossly distort those characteristics and yet are instantly recognisable. I find I can get a reasonable likeness initially but then have to correct, tweak, constantly asking myself what is different - curve of an eye, turn of the lips... I don't have quick tips, I just working at it until I see it. On saturday I'm going to turn my own portrait upside-down - something I haven't done for years and years - and compare to source just to see if something jumps out at me.
    You're not far from the zorn palette, which only has four tubes of paint. The lack of a blue in Zorn puzzled me - it uses ivory black only for cool colours. It surprised me to realise that most blue eyes are painted without blue, even by artists who have blue. It encouraged me to neutralise my colours more.
  • I like the loose brushwork, @JerryW and the color and values are not exact, but they work in the painterly, sculptural style you've adopted here. If you're aiming for a really close likeness, then there is a slight problem with form. The jaw/neck, for example, is a little too square. But if you were not really concerned about getting an exact likeness, then it doesn't matter.

    Getting a good likeness takes lots of practice - especially drawing practice. It doesn't matter what you draw with. I draw with the brush because I find a line drawing hems me in and causes me to paint too tightly. If you want to keep your loose, painterly style then practice drawing with the brush.

    When I first started out learning realism, I found portraits too hard for me because one needs to solve so many problems at once. That's why Mark advises starting out with some simple forms - a pear or mug, for example. With these simple forms the drawing is not too hard, and so we can focus on other things like color and value. But if you really love doing portraits they can be good practice, too. 

    You're doing great. I went in and had a look at your other work and your Breitner Girl with Kimono is very good and Lucien Freud would love your profile portrait. Keep going. :)
  • edited November 17
    It looks like you cured your purple issue but to answer your question, yes, yellow is opposite.  So I am sure you have Marks color wheel but if not, its available on line to screen shot. I agree with the other fellas esp regarding your reference.  Colorizing a BW photo is harder than painting a color photo.  
  • Thank you @Abstraction for your kind comments. It was certainly a lot of fun during the painting and at some point it became more and more apparent that I had lost likeness to the photo. Because I wanted to focus more on the fun and experiment part, I used the photo as a guide at that point than rather as something to copy. I really love the limited palette as it ties your colors into a bit more harmony on the canvas by itself (or so it appears to me) but I probably would be lost when not using a pinch of ultramarine blue but next time I will certainly give this a try. Thanks  =)
  • Hello @tassieguy thanks a lot for the kind comments. I made mistakes frequently not drawing with a brush only realising later that pencil lines would show through my paint... the horror!!  :persevere:
    On a more serious note, drawing with a brush is a lot more fun as well, I never really dared to just start doing it but by now I guess I do and it is a lot of fun using relatively dry/thin paint (works perfect for me using WMO). 
    Regarding likeness I lost it but by that stage decided that was of no big deal anyway, the picture developed by itself in a somewhat stereotype of a dominant looking man. Thanks for your comment, this is certainly a new direction but it becomes less scary to just start covering the canvas and see what happens. Also what was in a way mind blowing was the tip to use enough paint or at least put it on your palette, I'm not there yet, but these simple tricks improve your way of handling paint tremendously.  =) Thanks!!
  • Hello @MikeDerby thanks, yes I found out by now coloring a BW picture is not actually that easy. I was pleased by the immediate effect putting a green background in had on the head that suddenly became a lot less "flat" and appeared to have better color as well. Something I should have done earlier. I have Marks color wheel on the wall and made it with the same colors I use so I know what "muted" colors all should be within reach.  :)  
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