I aim at
providing a brief review on the information in connection with the technology
of painting with regard to spectrum, and more specifically to colour formation,
as well as writing about the basics of painting techniques.



1.1 Colour

can be taught to paint from a book as artistic work is a spiritual process
which alters the application of techniques for each individual. Guidance can be
provided only in terms of the working process which prevents beginners from
possible blunders.” 4



the complexity of imaging and the language of painting, the technique of colour
formation is placed where the “How was it painted/how would you paint it?”
questions can be answered. From colour formation techniques point of view,
approach to colours concerns practical aspects of the painting creative
process: how particular colour states can be painted and what factors determine
that.  The answers to these questions do
not lead to the specification of objects or the concepts relating to them, but
to the visual description of experiences that have visual effects as well. Kandinsky points out the
interaction between the phenomena that can be perceived and received by our
sensory organs – in my opinion – it is not only painters who are not allowed to
refuse to experience the visible and invisible reality and recognize the
diversity of our experiences. By using colours, painters visualize; as a
painter, the painting act is crucially important and indispensable, as well as the study of colours and forms available in
the nature to complete the creative process, the acquisition of using the visual language, and last but not
least, familiarity with painting
materials and techniques. If during our painting studies, we manage to
master the crafts, we will use the visual language and painting materials
without effort when – during painting – the mechanisms of the creative process
possibly direct our attention to other things and the practical and technical
questions of realization may be placed only on the periphery of our
concentration on the picture.


 It is not only about familiarity and knowledge
but exactly about what Matisse says: “I cannot make a difference between my
emotions relating to life and their ways of communication.”2 When studying the
practical aspects of the “way of communication” in connection with Painting and
Art, we always have to remember what it actually relates to. In an interview
Henry Moore gave the following answer to the question “Why does an artist
create at all?”: “I do it to get to know more about the nature and life with
the help of my eyes and hands. To get to know more about the
world, the forms, more about everything, no matter what it is.”3










regard to colour formation techniques, we can differentiate between the method of direct colour mixing (we
paint with previously mixed paint colours; and during the process of painting,
the colours blend on the canvas too), the
method of layered painting (the paint colours are painted on each other in
layers; the colour layers gain their final mutual chromaticity with the greater
or lesser transparency of colour layers), and optical colour mixing, that is the method of colour separation (the
colourful lights reflected by small patches of colour painted next to each
other blend to a greater or lesser extent during the process of vision). During
the creative process of painting the three methods of colour formation can be
used in varied compilations. Knowledge of optics and colour theory is also
necessary to understand the differences between the three methods.


“Colours are acts of light, its acts and sufferings”5

Introduction to optics and colour theory. The spectrum colours. Colour
as a perceptual phenomenon. Reflection, absorption, refraction. The colour and
colour temperature of light, natural and artificial light. The colour,
direction and intensity of the illuminating light source. Directed light, even
scattered light, backlight, grazing light. The interrelations of the local
colour of objects and illumination (illuminated colours, colours partially or
fully in the shadow, the colour of drop shadow, reflex colours). The
interrelation of the intensity of illumination and colour saturation.

 Colour mixing: light and colour

Additive and subtractive colour mixing. The change of colour saturation
during colour mixing.

 Three dimensions of colours.

Colour shade, colour saturation and lightness degree of the colour.

 Order of colours

Itten’s colour theory. Colour wheel, primary and secondary colours,
complementary colours. The relation of the colours of the colour wheel and the
paint colours.

Colour contrasts

of hue. Light-dark contrast. Cold-warm contrast. Complementary contrast. Successive
contrast, the phenomenon of afterimage. Simultaneous contrast. Qualitative
contrast. Quantitative contrast. Brushwork contrast. Paint colours in the use of
colour contrasts. According to Matisse, “relations” are the most significant in
case of colours” but he also adds that “honestly, in my opinion the theory of
complementary colours is not completely solid. The studying of art works made
by painters whose knowledge of colours is based on their instincts, emotions
and constant identification of their impressions may modify the laws of colours
at some points and extend the limits of the currently accepted colour theory.”6
I believe that the knowledge of colours stemming from our guts – that is
referred to by Matisse as well – may be a suitable measure for the personal
application of the lawfulness of colour contrasts.















Basics of
painting techniques


It enhances the use of painting materials if we can experience and learn
the tricks of the trade in practice. The structure of paintings in terms of
painting techniques: substrate, foundation and paint (pigment and binding
agent). Their interrelation determines the future durability of the picture;
their selection is in connection with the painter’s visual intentions.

 Picture substrate and foundation

Foundation of inflexible and flexible picture substrates. The absorbing
capacity of the foundation, the colour of the foundation and imprimitura.

Role of binding agents

Systems of binding agents. Egg tempera emulsions, oil paint. Order of
paint layers: a “heavier” layer rich in oil and resin is applied to a “lighter”

 Paint and their characteristics

The colour of paint, pigments and their characteristics (resistance, colouring
ability, binding agent requirement, binding agent resistance, compatibility
with other pigments). Paint in tubes and their characteristics. Compilation of
the appropriate paint palette.

 Coating and glazing painting

Coating and glazing ability of paint. Coating and glazing paint, typical
glazing colours. Methods of coating painting and glazing. Light effect depth. The
role of binding agents and painting substances. Combinations of coating and
glazing painting (diluted, dry, wiped back, continuous and discontinuous

The role of brushwork in colour formation

The possibilities of paint application and brushwork formation in the
practice of painting.


Methods of colour formation in practice

 Method of direct colour mixing

In case of direct colour mixing, the shades of colour previously mixed
in the palette are applied on the painting surface (more or less) in their
final state, and during the painting process the colours blend with each other
on the canvas too. Regarding the relation of colours, we should attempt to mix
the shades of colour that roughly match with each other. Numerous shades of
colour can be created with two or three colours. The use of alla prima painting
technique is recommended for beginners of painting studies. We can gain direct experience
in the field of the characteristics and mixing of paint colours, brushwork,
paint application and dispersion. The role of foundations containing oil in
terms of the plasticity and convertibility of oil paint. Correction and
repainting after drying. The colour shades may be mixed preliminarily during
the layered painting technique and separation of colours.

1. Colour formation possibilities of direct colour mixing. Pigment-based
colour mixing and colour mixing practices involved in the studies. The
importance of direct experience in the practice of colour mixing: the specific
tasks to be solved, the recording of visual impressions, the observation of
visible colours of the nature may encourage us to mix the colour shades as
accurately as possible, to assess the power relations of colours and to
recognize new colour relations.

2. Primary
colours (the different pigment-based versions of red, yellow and blue and their
characteristics). Whites and blacks. Secondary or mixed colours with two
components (typical pigment-based versions of orange, green and violet and
shades mixed from primary colours). Earth pigments and their mixtures. Brown
and grey mixtures. Quantitative proportions of colour mixing. The change of colouring,
colour saturation and degree of lightness during colour mixing. Colour mixing
with white and/or black. The change of colouring, colour saturation and degree
of lightness during colour mixing with white and/or black.










Layered painting technique

When applying the layered painting technique, paint layers of different
quality and/or colour are applied on each other resulting from the painting
process; the final colour state is created based on the greater or lesser
transparency of paint layers. In the practice of painting tradition, the
layered painting technique implies continuance and permanence.

1. The tradition of layered painting. The layers of foundation. Colouring
and insulating function of imprimitura. Similarities and differences between
the Dutch and Italian layered painting. The use of egg tempera paint; the
interrelation of painting methods and colour use. Toned underpainting that
spread as a continuance of the Byzantine tradition. Methods of skin colour
painting: skin colour mixture applied on a white base, and contrast skin colour
painted on green earth underpainting. Varnishing and oil glazings; transition
between tempera painting and oil painting. The role of drying oil and resinous
binding agents. The technique of van Eyck brothers. The spread of the use of
oil paint in Italy and Europe. The possibilities of flexible canvas substrates.
Giovanni Bellini, Leonardo. The working method of Venetian painters living in
the 16th century, Tiziano, Tintoretto. Rubens mixed the colour formation
solutions of the Flemish and Italian tradition.

2. The colour formation possibilities of layered painting and glazing.
The transparency of paint layers. The relation between the colours of layers
applied on each other. The role of the colour of the foundation. Obscuration
and lightening with layered painting. Monochrome underpainting. Underpainting
and glazing applied on it. The order of colour layers. Layering of various
yellow, red and blue colours. Combinations of colour layering. Layering of
complementing colours.

3. Optical colour mixing or the method of colour separation

The method of colour separation is based on additive colour mixing;
colours are broken into components and painted in small patches of colour next
to each other on the picture surface. Each quantum of colour reflects
separately the rays corresponding to its colour; these mostly mix with each
other when reaching our eyes during vision, therefore we perceive the mutual
colour of their overlapping or the particular colour elements separately.


1. The manifesto of optical colour mixing.7 “The divided patch of
Neo-Impressionists (…) is the same process as Delacroix’s lines and the
Impressionists’ commas. Each brushwork has the same purpose: by the optical
mixing of paints placed next to each other, ensuring the largest possible glow
of the colour and create colourful light.”8 Although Signac emphasizes the use
of clean shades of colour, in practice we do not have to forsake the colour
shades with multiple components or less saturated shades that can be created
with direct colour mixing; Picasso and Seurat applied these among others.

2. Colour
formation possibilities of colour separation. The characteristics of simple
colour elements making up complex colours (colouring, saturation, degree of
lightness, size, shape, brushwork). The interrelation of colour elements (their
separate state or blending) as a result of the similarities and differences
between their pictorial values. The role of contrast effects in the structure
of complex colours, particularly in terms of complementary and simultaneous
contrast. The role of monochrome-type complex colours, paint application, brushwork
differences and qualitative contrast. Van Gogh, Menyhért Tóth. Clean colours,
different pigment-based versions and shades broken with white and/or black. Rufino
Tamayo. Colour separation with primary colours. Complex colours with two
components that can be created from primary colours. Colour separation with
complementary colours and the role of simultaneous contrast. Seurat’s working
method for painting. The size and shape of colour elements. The interrelation
of colour elements and the quality of their mutual complex surface. Creating
transition with colour separation. Rippl-Rónai. The extent, delicacy of colour separation,
the number of colours, the association of colours.  Jacques Villon, Sándor Molnár.

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