Tips For Blending Traditional And Contemporary Color Theory
4.7 (38 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
1,537 students enrolled

Tips For Blending Traditional And Contemporary Color Theory

The ultimate class for developing confidence and freedom to explore color.
4.7 (38 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
1,537 students enrolled
Created by Robert Joyner
Last updated 4/2019
Current price: $139.99 Original price: $199.99 Discount: 30% off
5 hours left at this price!
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
This course includes
  • 3 hours on-demand video
  • 1 article
  • 19 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • Traditional Color Theory
  • Tips For Exploring Tries And True Color Combinations
  • Ideas For Exploring Color Using Arbitrary Hues
  • Explore Color Using Alternative Methods
  • Warm and cool primary acrylic colors plus titanium white
  • Basic acrylic painting supplies and student grade acrylic paper for painting studies
  • Must be willing to invest time to learn and complete studies

Hi, I'm Robert Joyner

And I've created How To Blend Traditional And Contemporary Color Theories for people like you that want to loosen up their creativity and make art fun!

If you've always wanted to...

  • Learn a simplified approach to basic color theory.

  • Develop the right tools for creating more dynamic artwork.

  • Eliminate common mistakes like muddy and garish artwork.

Then this course is for you!

  • Develop the necessary techniques for quality color mixing.

  • Discover practical solutions for making subjects more three dimensional.

  • Learn an easy exercise to explore harmonious color combinations.

  • Easy techniques for blending traditional and contemporary color methods.

Material List

Acrylic paint (you may use watercolor but demos are completed with acrylic)
3 warm primaries (cad. red medium, cad. yellow medium, ultramarine blue for example)
3 cool primaries (alizarin crimson, hansa yellow, lemon yellow, phthalo blue for example)
titanium white
2 sheets drawing paper (small)
3 sheets multi-purpose paint paper (140 lb. cold press - student grade)
Selection of small and medium brushes

What You Will Get

  • 24 high-quality video tutorials with detailed instructions and text breakdown for each lesson.

  • 4 Quizzes to test your knowledge.

  • Ask questions and get answers


By far my most needed and favorite class!!! This class answered my questions about HOW & WHEN to apply color, value, to be be more "artistic" with my approach. Thank you, Robert!!!!

Lisa R.

Learning the different techniques to neutralize colors was extremely helpful to me. I love the colors I can get now!

Carla Ensink

Very enlightened videos. I have a much better understanding of color now, thank you.

Marinette Wagner

Who this course is for:
  • Perfect for all levels from beginner to advanced acrylic artists
  • Ideal for those that want ideas on how to explore color combinations
Course content
Expand all 25 lectures 03:01:15
+ Introduction
11 lectures 01:26:56

Welcome to the course!

It's a pleasure to share these lessons with you but before we dive in I want share some thoughts on how to maximize this opportunity.

The first series of tutorials will help you understand some of the basic fundamentals about color. These lessons will serve you well as we move forward so long as you participate in the exercises.

Preview 03:28

If you have been around painting for any length of time you are familiar with the color-wheel. I'm certain you have seen them created or perhaps you have done it yourself.

It's important to start here even though it's common knowledge. This will lay the foundation for color and help guide us along as we move forward.

To create the color-wheel I will use three primaries.
They include

  • Ultramarine blue (warm hue because it has red in it)

  • Cadmium yellow (warm hue)

  • Cadmium red light (warm hue)

This is a simple project that you should do. It's the start of understanding color mixing and how certain hues react with others.

As mentioned earlier I used three primaries but notice that they are all considered warm hues.

Why is that important?
Because when you use three warm hues the secondary colors are directly impacted, especially the green and violet. These two are cool colors but when mixing two warm hues the results aren't as vibrant as they could be. We will take a closer look in the next lesson and you will see what I mean.

Please see attached demo image.

Preview 03:48

The main advantage of working with a split primary palette is you have the opportunity to mix warm and cool hues. The results are quite staggering when you compare the Secondary and Intermediate colors that we created in the basic color-wheel.

Colors used in this demo:

Warm hues

  • Ultramarine blue

  • Cadmium red light

  • Cadmium yellow

Cool hues

  • Phthalo blue (much cooler blue and doesn't have red as with ultramarine blue)

  • Lemon yellow (any yellow with a touch of green is considered a cool yellow)

  • Alizarin crimson (has a purple bias to it)

Why is this important?
It's clear to see that the cool secondary hues (green and violet) in the split-primary color-wheel are crisp and vibrant. That's because they're not contaminated with a warm hue which will give the color a touch of gray.

If you compare the green and violet from the two charts you will see the difference. Once you have this knowledge you will have a better understanding of how to mix specific hues. That's going to give you more control for mixing colors.

For example: if you were painting a landscape you may want to use a warmer green. Perhaps using a warm yellow and warm blue would work better? Or maybe you are painting a more abstract piece and would like a vibrant green. You know now that a cool blue and yellow will give you a better result.

See attached demo Image

Preview 13:31

In the demo I will use cadmium red light as an example. We will dissect three aspects of the hue and they are;

  • Hue - Red (cadmium red is in the red family)

  • Tone - Mid-tone (because if you grayscale the hue it would be in the middle of a value scale. So, not too light and not too dark)

  • Chroma - High (that's because it was applied to the paper directly from the tube)

To lower the chroma of a hue you can mix it with a second color. This will change the intensity of the color.

An experienced artist will rarely use high chroma hues unless it is applied in the focal point area, or used very strategically. Conversely newer artists will often apply very high chroma to their art work even in the early stages and continue to do so until the painting progresses.

Important: It's always wise to mix the hues in the beginning and save the 'pops' of high chroma hues for last. Again, use them sparingly so that the finished art doesn't look garish.

Please see attached demo image

Chroma 101

Quality finished art usually has one dominant hue. This creates an asymmetrical look and helps you avoid one of the traps in making art and that's equality.

In the demo I will demonstrate two examples of applying colors. In one example you will see the blue is a dominant hue. The second example has three equally sized shapes that are filled with three different hues. The result is equality. Each color is equal so the viewer has no idea of which one to look at.

We will go over this more as the course progresses. For now just know that a dominant hue is necessary for creating quality art.

See attached demo Image

Dominance 101

Value is the relative lightness and darkness in a hue. It also has an impact in other very important areas of your art. For example it will determine whether or not shapes have a three dimensional appearance, it will create depth in your subjects, and so on.

There are two methods to alter the value of a hue. They are;

  • Tint - this is when you want to decrease the value, or make it lighter.

  • Shade - this means to make a hue darker, or increase the value.

In the demo I will create two charts. One will show tints and the other shades.

To create the tint chart of Phthalo blue are created by adding titanium white. The goal is to create a tint chart that starts light and moves towards a dark value. There are other methods for tinting a hue which we will talk about in a future lesson.

To create the shade chart I will start with lemon yellow. The darken the hue I used violet which is its complimentary color. As with tints there are other hues that could shade the yellow and we will touch on this later on.

I also did a quick sketch of a cube to demonstrate how adding a tint and shade to certain sides creates a three-dimensional look.

Then I demonstrated very quickly how you can use strong value shifts to pop a color, or area by adding a dark violet stroke around a yellow square.

Important: One could argue that value is more important than color. If you get the values correct the painting will usually work. This is something else that we will look at Moore closely as the course develops.

See attached demo Image

Value: Tints & Shades

In this lesson you will learn tips for how to control hues. And by control I mean having the knowledge to shift the overall tone and hue of a color.

To illustrate how this works I will start with a hue that has a green bias. To shift the hue way from green I will use the complementary color.

In the second example I started with a dominant blue hue. To shift it away from blue I added orange which will reduce the overall blue bias to a neutral blue.

The same technique can be used for pre-mixed colors that contain white.

Please see attached demo Image

Controlling Color

Two key points about neutrals I will share with you in this lesson.

  1. What is a neutral? Neutrals are hues that are not found on the color-wheel.

  2. How to mix neutrals? To create a neutral mix equal parts of all three primaries. If you wish to push the neutral to a warm, or cool bias you can add a touch of blue, red, orange for example.

Please see attached demo Image

What Are Neutrals?

There are two methods I use for neutralizing color.

Method one - adding its complementary hue to it, or any other neutral depending on what you desire/need. This is a good method to use for desaturating a color especially in the early and mid stages of a painting.

Method two - use analogous colors combinations. If you remember analogous colors are located beside each other on the color-wheel. This is a fantastic method for shifting the chroma of a hue but keeping it in the same family, or without neutralizing it.

See attached demo Image

How To Neutralize Hues

This wasn't an easy lesson to include for me. I considered removing it several times but eventually decided to keep it in the course. The reason why is I have my own method for placing colors on a palette. It's very random and I really don't recommend using the method unless you are 100% comfortable with color and know your palette (hues) very well.

Apart from that I use alternative palettes as opposed to a standard wood, plastic or paper palette that many of you use. It's not uncommon to see me using scrap cardboard, foam-core and other materials for a palette.

So, just know I don't practice what I preach in this lesson. I do apologize for this. However I do recommend you start with a good, organized system that will help you master color.

Having shared that we can now move on to the lesson.

In the lesson I will share a few ideas and methods for organizing a palette. The key is to find a system that works and stick to it.

Keep in mind white is a color that can easily invade the transparent quality of a color. I've always isolated white by placing it away from the pure hues. This helps me avoid contaminating the other colors.

See attached demo Image

Palette Management 101

In this demo I will go into detail about mixing violets. It can be a difficult hue to get right so this video should answer some common questions.

For best results mix the following colors along with titanium white;
Ultramarine blue (warm blue with a red bias) with Quinacridone red (cooler red bias violet)
Ultramarine blue with Alizarin crimson (red bias violet)

I recommend you avoid the following for mixing violets;
using phthalo blue with any red because of it's green bias
using cadmium red, or any other warm red

Mixing Violets

Test how well you know the basics of color and color mixing.

How well do you know the basics about color?
7 questions
+ Value & Color Demonstrations
3 lectures 26:27

Many artists try to match colors they see in nature and their inspiration image(s). This is a battle you will lose every single time. A much better approach is to get the value and tone correct.

In the demo I will create some basic geometric shapes to illustrate how value plays an important role in your art. It shows you that if you focus on adding the correct value to a shape it will take on a three-dimensional appearance. This is really what you are after as opposed to getting the colors perfect.

We will take a closer look at this in the next lesson.

See attached demo image

Color Matching Versus Values

In this lesson you will begin to learn how value relates to color selection.

Just so we are on the same page let's define value in art terms;
Value - the relative lightness and darkness of a color

It's common for artists to not see value when working with color. After this series of value versus color demonstration you will begin to understand why value is more important than color matching.
To create the value sketch I combined all three primaries for the base neutral. From there I can add titanium white to tint the hue accordingly.

Why is this lesson so important for color?
The subject is an apple which is basically an oval. But to make it into a three-dimensional object the values need to be placed correctly. This is what gives a flat shape the illusion of depth and form.

Materials used in demo
11 x 14 inches Bristol paper
Heavy body acrylics - cadmium red light, cadmium yellow and ultramarine blue
#10 pointed round
Water reservoir

See attached demo Image

Value Demonstration - Simple Object

In this demo you will start to understand how every hue has value. Just like the grayscale value study in the previous lesson it's important to place the correct value in the right places in order to achieve a three dimensional form.

Another key point in the lesson is to focus on value relationships and not become fixated on color matching!!!

Color matching is a trap! You will always come up short if you try to match every color you see in nature.

A better alternative with a much higher success rate is to simply think in terms of value. Place the right hue that has the correct value in the right places. If you can achieve this you are well on your way to making art much easier.

I will also demonstrate how color choices are toned down and high chroma hues are avoided in early stages. This was something we touched on earlier in the chroma lesson.

As I mix hues notice how I use analogous colors to tint certain hues. You will see this in the very beginning as I mix the base red at the 2:53 mark. Later on I will use titanium white as well to tint hues but just know you can use both options as a way of tinting a hue.

Note: at the 4:00 mark I shared a tip about mixing color. The idea is when you have a base mixture down such as I had with the reds and you wish to tint, or shade it, be sure to add the new hue to the edge of the color so that it doesn't invade the entire mix.

Materials used in demo
11 x 14 inches Bristol paper
Heavy body acrylics - cadmium red light, cadmium yellow and ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, lemon yellow, phthalo blue and titanium white
#10 pointed round
Water reservoir

See attached demo Image

Color Demonstration - Simple Object

How well do you know value and color basics?

Value & Color Quiz
5 questions
+ Color Mixing & Combinations
5 lectures 26:19
The Value Sketch

In this lesson we will start to explore some tries and true color combinations. This is a more traditional approach to discovering combos that work and will help you build a solid base and confidence. These will bode well for when you are ready to explore and take some risks.

Analogous Colors
If you were paying attention you remember that analogous colors are situated beside each other on the color wheel.

Using two analogous hues is perhaps the easiest method for simplifying a palette.

In the demo I will use blue and green as my two hues. That and some titanium white which will help me tint hues along the way.

Note that I'm also aware of value placement. As we discussed ion the last series of tutorials every color has its own unique value. Where we place them is important. Even though my subject is a simple landscape I'm cognizant of value and how they relate to each other.

See attached demo image

Analogous Combination Demonstration

In this demo I will switch to a complementary color combination of red and green. As with the previous demo I will also employ titanium white to tint hues.

Complementary Hues
If you remember correctly complementary colors are situated opposite each other on the color wheel. These make fantastic starter combos that work and have a little punch.

See attached demo Image

Complementary Combination Demonstration

Now things get a little more interesting as we explore using three colors. But not just any three random colors will do. Instead I will opt for a triad color combination.

Triad Color Combinations
Any three evenly spaced colors on the color wheel are considered triads.

In the demo I will use the three primaries but mix warm and cool hues. It's okay to mix the hues to achieve other colors as well. You will see how I mix a violet in the demo. So, you don't have to be so rigid with only using the three primaries.

See attached demo Image

Triad Combination Demonstration

For the final color combination demo we will look at analogous complementary combinations. If we break this down it would be two colors beside each other (analogous) along with their complementary (located across from each other on the color wheel) colors. That and some titanium white.

I opted for blue, violet and their complementary hues which are yellow and orange. I will also mix these hues to achieve some neutrals which is perfectly fine!

See attached demo Image

Analogous Complementary Demo

Test your color mixing and traditional combination knowledge.

Color Mixing & Combinations
5 questions
+ Blending Traditional & Contemporary Color Theories (Arbitrary Colors)
6 lectures 41:33

A short intro video about this section.

Introduction To Contemporary Color Mixing Techniques

Now it's time to blend good fundamentals with some contemporary techniques. There are many ways to get there but in this lesson I will explore arbitrary colors.

Arbitrary colors are hues that do not necessarily exist in the subject. So we are going to substitute our own hues instead of using what's what's really there.

The key to making this work isn't in slapping any color down. It's actually far from that and requires you to pay a lot of attention to value.

As we move forward you will see how I paint for value and not to color match! Color matching is when you are trying to replicate the colors you see in nature and your subjects. I talked about that quite a bit the the value versus color lessons.

In this quick demonstration I will use an example of painting a flower. But this idea can be used on just about any subject. There are situations where it may present more of a challenge to pull off but more often than not it works.

See attached demo Image

Arbitrary Colors
Blending Color Techniques Demo - Part One
Blending Color Techniques Demo - Part Two

A few key points from the lesson:

  • Once the second layer is 100% dry I can start to focus on bringing the art to a finished stage.

  • Here are a few key points from the lesson:

  • (0:06) It's very important to assess the painting between layers!!! Take note of how the painting and colors are looking and try to zero-in of making good decisions on where it needs to go! This is a great way to eliminate overpainting and will give you more clarity on what to do next versus randomly adding brushstrokes.

  • (0:26) Fresh water !!! Always monitor how contaminated you water is and change it often. Dirty water will ruin your colors especially when painting with acrylics.

  • (4:55) Note how I use complimentary hues to neutralize colors. We discussed this in the color-wheel lessons and it's applied here in the demo.

  • (5:38) Since I have reserved the darkest darks for last I can start shaping the flowers by adding them to the background area. This is exactly why I try to avoid using hues that are too dark and/or light in the beginning first few layers.

  • (5:59) Trust your vision and try to make decisions based on the artwork! Basically you want to avoid trying to replicate what you see in the image at this point because the painting itself is what matters most. That's what needs to work.

See attached demo Image

Blending Color Techniques Demo - Part Three
Recap & Closing Thoughts