One Way To Learn How To Paint Realistic Colours (Using MS Paint)

THAT should solve it!

THAT should solve it!

Earlier this year, there was a rather strange debate on the internet that you can read about in more detail here [warning – the linked article contains a disturbing image].

In short, the debate focused on whether a dress in a photo was gold and white – or whether it was black and blue. Because of the lighting in the photo, there was some ambiguity about this.

Anyway, when I was reading another article (I can’t remember where) about it at the time, one of the people interviewed in the article was an artist who pointed out that “artists learn to see colours as they actually are” or words to that effect.

This made me think about my own art and the subtle ways that I learn how to paint colours more realistically. When you’re new to making art, it can be easy to assume that things are a different colour to what they actually are.

For example, water isn’t usually blue. Since water is transparent, it’s either the colour of whatever happens to be above it or directly below it. So, if there is a blue sky above it, then the water will look blue. If the water is in a red bucket, then it will look red. I’m sure you get the idea.

One of the easiest ways to learn to see colours for what they actually are can – surprisingly- be found in MS Paint 5.1 (or any other image editing program with similar tools).

Anyway, MS Paint contains a tool called “pick colour” which, when selected, means that the brush colour will change to the exact colour of whichever pixel of the picture you click on with the dropper icon. In version 5.1 of MS Paint, the icon for it looks like this:

It's the icon that looks like a dropper.

It’s the icon that looks like a dropper.

One of the interesting side effects of this tool is that, if you use it a few times, you’ll quickly learn that the colours you think that you see are at least slightly different to the actual colours used in the image.

For example, here’s a photo of an old book and a DVD from Wikimedia Commons:

[Photo from NTNU Universitetsbiblioteket, released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported licence ]

[Photo from NTNU Universitetsbiblioteket, released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported licence ]

Now, if you looked at this image, you might think that the book’s pages are white and the DVD is silver. After all, in real life, DVDs are silver and book pages are white. Right? Wrong.

If you click on random parts of this picture using the “pick color” tool in MS Paint, then the results might surprise you. Here’s an altered version of the picture, showing the actual colours of parts of it:

An altered version of the image, showing the actual colours of each part. [CC-BY-SA]

An altered version of the image, showing the actual colours of each part. [CC-BY-SA]

As you can see, the book’s pages are actually a combination of white, very pale beige and green (for the shadows). Likewise, the DVD is actually a combination of blue/ green, blue, pink and pale yellow.

Even something like the faded gold embellishments on the spines of some of the old books in the left-hand side of the picture are actually more green than gold.

So, be sure to mess around with this feature in MS Paint (or any other image editing program with a similar feature) until you’ve got a better idea of what colours things actually are, and can work this out just by looking at something.

———

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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