Did you know our first record of using the word orange to describe a color originates in Europe, during the Middle Ages?

Before that, the color was described as yellow.

Did you know the color purple was reserved for Roman Emperors because it took 12,000 mollusks to create 1.4 grams of pure dye?

Did you know lead white is toxic and can be absorbed through skin?

Some postulate exposure contributed to Van Gogh’s mental illness.

I love learning about colors. It is a hugely important element of art. Color is not only a tool for artists to create meaning, color by itself has different meanings and symbolism in different cultures. Some of my fun facts about color came today from a great book I own called Artist’s Color Manual by Simon Jennings. If you enjoy learning about color, I highly recommend his book (affiliate link).

Now, let’s celebrate color. Creating assorted color charts can be really informative for an artist (and fun!). I once made my students mix 50 different browns to help them develop a better understanding of color. You see an example of this in this article. Today, I call on you to do the same, but I’m going to give you a bit more of a choice in the matter: choose your favorite color.

Now, some tips and tricks on color mixing to get you there…

    • A color wheel is a chart that helps explains relationships between colors. Use a color wheel like this one to help you consider color relationships.
    • The most difficult colors to select for this activity are the primary colors. Primaries (red, blue and yellow) cannot be created by mixing other colors together, thus, there are limited options when creating 50 versions of the color blue, for example. If you seek a challenge, or are more advanced in your knowledge of color theory, try today’s activity with a primary color.
    • If 50 versions of a single primary color doesn’t whet your whistle, then select a single secondary color (purple, orange, green). Secondaries are created by mixing primaries together. This gives you more to work with when you are mixing multiple versions of the same color.
    • And if this whole idea sounds intimidating to you, select a neutral color, either grey or brown. Grey is created by mixing all three primaries together, or all three secondaries together. Brown is created by mixing complementary colors (colors opposite each other on the color wheel). Both brown and grey require more colors to start, which will give you greater flexibility for your task.
    • Another way to get many versions of a single color is to create tints and shades. Tints of a color are created by adding white, so pink is a tint of red for example. Shades are colors created by adding black. Both tints and shades of a single color can create many new versions of your selected color.

“Did you know our first record of using the word orange to describe a color originates in Europe, during the Middle Ages?” (Click to Tweet)

    BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Tell me one thing you wish you knew more about regarding color in the comments below.  

Color makes me happy. Enjoyed the art detox webinar today! 🙂 go team Art Detox! A photo posted by Carrie (@artistthink) on

If you enjoyed this activity join me for a free webinar workshop All About Color on Wednesday March 11, 2015 at 1 PM EST. In the workshop we will (1) Create a color wheel (2) Learn important terminology for color (3) discuss the assorted meanings behind different colors and (4) Learn a new activity for applying color theory to art. Click here to learn more and sign up.

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