Ten Top Tips for Colour Blind Artists

If you’re a colour blind artist and worried about painting in colour, preferring instead the safety of black and white ink drawings then these tips are meant to bring a little colour into your art.

the-colour-wheelAll my life I’ve painted and been colourblind. I studied art at Coventry University and the Stourbridge College of Art and have never considered colour vision deficiency (CVD) as a reason not to create. Although, like all people who are colourblind, I went through a period of using monochromatic colour schemes.

This isn’t a bad thing, it develops your understanding of shape and space without the worry of including the dreaded colour. However, there comes a time when facing our demons is worthwhile.

So here are ten tips I’ve discovered over my 50 years of painting. They might not work for everyone but there’s no need to fear colour. Embrace it, use it and create your own legends. Remember, it’s only red by another name. Okay, it’s green but who’s counting.

  1. Colour is subjective. Everyone sees tones of colour differently. We are just special and see them a little more different. We all saw the green/white dress on Facebook that created a stir, well that’s our daily bread. If you see orange, it is orange.
  2. Study the colour wheel. This is your text book, understand complimenting colours, tonal opposites and contrasting hues, this is where you can build harmony, confusion or passion. All you need to know are what colours work best together.
  3. Manufacturers, they label the tubes. If you use watercolours don’t use pans, use DSCN7031tubes, “Manufacturers, they label the tubes”. This makes it easier to identify the colours in the first place. It might look green,  I have four greens and they’re all orange but at least you know what you’re dealing with.
  4. Order your palette. Yes, we have a problem but we can over come it by planning. If you order your palette in the first place, then you’ll know where you put the colours. This is especially useful as you get older. (which I am).
  5. Don’t be subtle. Pastel colours don’t sit well with CVD people, they don’t kick it enough for us. Why confuse yourself from the get go. Paint in bold colours, leave pastel for the fashion designers and their Spring collection.
  6. Work from light to dark. It’s easier to change a mistake when it’s lighter than when it’s darker. Watercolour painters traditionally work this way, while oil painters do the opposite. The good thing with oil paint is that you can scrape it off, it’s not so easy with watercolour.
  7. DotsDon’t fear colour. People who are colourblind are often afraid of colour. Don’t be! No one questions Monet’s use of colour. Who say’s Dali had no idea what he was doing in his paintings. The colour is what you see. Let them live with it.
  8. No one remembers. Worst case scenario, “no one remembers”. So you paint a pink T-shirt and it was grey. In ten years, the painting will still be great and no one will remember the colour of the T-shirt that has long been turned into rags. Go with your good self.
  9. Work on one primary colour at a time. I always start with green, it’s the mid-colour, you can go forward or backwards from there. Then blue in the background, it gives depth. Finally red for the highlights, the foreground and detail. Hey! it works for me and is less confusing.
  10. Find a style that suits. For many years I tried to paint traditional watercolours but realised I didn’t have the natural range and subtly for this style. So I went all out brash. Finally I could see the colours, only because I painted what I wanted to see.

Remember these coping strategies work for me, you may discover other methods for painting. Find your groove but don’t be afraid of the colour. We are great at light and shade, black and white, now fire up the rainbow. Happy painting.

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