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Washed out photo?

Hi. I've been working on a portrait. I mixed my flesh tones and they seemed pretty accurate as I was mixing them, but now that I am putting the colours on the canvas they seem very white. The "photo" I am using was printed on my colour laser printer. The girl's face is very pale, but it doesn't look washed out or anything, but the paint colours do. I am confused. Since the picture looks okay, and the colours I mixed appear to be pretty accurate, why do they look so pale on the canvas? It looks like I'm painting a ghost, lol!


  • @Robert is correct, it may be an illusion. One thing you could do is post a single image that shows both the source photo and the 'in progress" painting so we can see what's going on.
    [Deleted User]
  • Thanks for the comments, Robert. I have painted some of the area around the face - she has dark hair. My canvas is toned to mid-value grey. the original photo has a pale background- that could be part of the problem. My room is light from a ceiling light (10 foot ceiling) and 6000 k bulbs. It does tend to bounce off the ceiling and down, but the lighting on the print and the canvas is the same. I will try taking the canvas outside and looking at it.
  • Thanks opnwyder - I'll see if I can track down my camera and post a pic.
  • edited June 2013
    I don't know at what level you paint or how many paintings you've completed but I can tell you that when I did my first portrait ( I was using Mark's method), I painted the dark areas first and nearly threw the painting away because it looked so wrong. I kept painting the rest of it though, and by the time I had added in all the other paint, the darks looked right. I bet you will able to see for yourself in the shot that you take of the painting and the source together. Taking that photo and looking at it on the computer is very informative. I do it all the time just to have a fresh look at the values and such.

    -Scot White
  • edited June 2013
    Dandelion, Have you looked at any of the videos? On quite a few of them, Mark repeatedly cites his experiences of students and beginners calling him to moan and groan about how wrong their painting looks in the early and middle stages. He tells them that it is normal for their paintings to look wrong in the early stages, and that the worst thing the students can do is to try to "fix" what they think is wrong before the painting is finished. Many students continue to argue with Mark, claiming that he doesn't understand their particular problem and stubbornly insisting that their painting couldn't possibly be right and that to continue would be a waste of time. Invariably, if they resist the urge to "fix" the color and wait until the painting is finished, it magically turns out correct.
  • I'd forgotten about that comment in the videos about students wanting to "fix" the paintings. I have actually been painting for many years, so my old habits are probably interfering with doing something new. It's funny, because I teach psychology for a living so I know all about light and colour constancy and how the brain tricks you - but it's still really difficult to stop that nagging doubt in your brain telling you "it's wrong!". I'll keep searching for my camera and look at the painting on my computer - good tip, Scot - thanks. Thank you all for the advice. I'll keep you posted. Hopefully there will be a happy ending:)
  • This discussion reminded me of my favorite example of colour constancy (I haven't tried attaching an image before, so I hope it worked). I had to actually make photocopies of this and have students cut out squares A and B and put them next to each other to prove that they are the same colour. No one would ever take my word for it. It's no wonder I'm having doubts about my colour mixing, lol!image
  • you mean they're the same color?
  • Make a little circle with your index finger and thumb, just big enough to be able to see the "A" with a little color around it. Then just move the circle to look at the "B" and note that the color is the exact same. It's a true testament to the way colors can be deceptive in certain context.
  • Everyone here is correct and if you are mixing colors accurately little by little, as you add more sections; the painting will start looking as in your reference. Our eyes tend to play tricks on us that is why artists use a midtone color on their canvas and palette to be able to judge values and temperature more accurately. Some people go crazy just trying to match colors from the palette to the canvas when using a black or dark background on one surface and a white or light background on the other.
  • that's just craziness weird
  • edwardedward -
    edited July 2013
    I'm glad somebody posted this - it's a GREAT example of how you can't believe your own eyes. Squares A and B are absolutely the same color, but as much as I know that, it is still hard to really believe. It should be used as a selling tool for the Color Checker!
  • lol, so true Edward! I love the colour checker. Mark's tools make so much sense. The proportional divider helps with other visual illusions like perspective and foreshortening, and the colour checker solves the colour/brightness constancy illusion.
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