Colour Theory – Exercise 1



We recently looked through some very basic colour theory. I am writing these posts as I study too so I guess it must be quite helpful for absolute beginners. Even if not everything is absolutely clear; at least these articles should be providing a starting point for further research and study. Also I am aiming to create an organised file of articles for someone to follow; then it’s up to you to further expand your knowledge.

Today we will do our first exercise, applying the knowledge we obtained about the Colour Wheel and Complementary Colours. If you haven’t read these articles yet, I strongly recommend you do before starting with this exercise. It will be much easier for you to understand what we are doing and why things happening.

Quick Summary:

  • Step 1: Starting the Exercise: Outlines
  • Step 2: Adding Background
  • Step 3: Base paint for the fruit
  • Step 4: Adding secondary and complementary colours
  • Step 5: Adding Shadows
  • Step 6: Adding highlights

Some advice before you start painting; be patient between steps and let layers dry before applying the next ones.

What will you need?

  • Acrylic Paints: Blue, Yellow, Red and a tiny amount of White.
  • Pencil and Eraser.
  • Canvas (canvas board or some thick paper will do alternatively) and brushes.
  • Finally, it will be very helpful for you to have a reference photo. I literally put two bananas a tomato and a green apple on my kitchen’s counter, used some spot light and click a picture. If you can’t do this…feel free to use this photograph below:DSC_0074f.jpg

Step 1: Starting the Exercise: Outlines

First of all you will have to roughly sketch the shapes of your fruit. Use your pencil for this. No need to spend ages detailing the fruit; remember, everything will be covered in paint anyway. What is important though is to double-check that your proportions are correct. Make sure that your tomato is not very small compared to the apple or the bananas too long compared to the other fruit. No need for precision but be proportionally correct. Allow for 20min maximum (if you spend much more than that you will start overworking the outlines which you don’t want).


Step 2: Adding Background

With your outlines roughly sketched we are ready to start painting! Grab a thin round brush and load it with some diluted blue paint. Draw a lines which separates your background from you foreground. Again, you can experiment and see where you like it more. Once you have made this decision you can start blocking in with colour the surrounds of the fruit. Remember, the background will be darker than the foreground. You can apply more than one layers of colour until you achieve the desired density and thickness.


Step 3: Base paint for the fruit

The background and the foreground are now ready and the separation with the fruit is already obvious. We need to provide a nice light base colour for the fruit. I have chosen yellow for the bananas and the apple as it is very easily covered by any other colour. For the tomato use directly red…


Step 4: Adding secondary and complementary colours

For secondary colours have a look here. Mix some blue with some yellow to create a vibrant green. In reality there is no right and wrong amount of colour. Add a little bit of both until your green satisfies you.  Paint your apple with that and also paint the edges of your bananas. It is important at this stage to define the different planes (top of bananas, sides  bananas). To do this just add a little bit of green to the side of the banana-this difference in light will immediately inform your eye that this is a different plane. Read below for the shadows.


Step 5: Adding Shadows

If you are aware of the complementary colours,  adding shadows on the fruit is actually very simple. (If you haven’t heard the theory do take a look here). Take some green and mix it with a tiny bit of red  This will create a darker green which you can use to add a shadow to your apple. Similarly, take a small quantity of green and mix it with red. This will create a dark, muted red (adjust the amounts of paint to achieve the desired dark colour-you might need bigger amount of green here). Use this one to add shadow to your tomato. The green darker areas you have used on the bananas will serve as shadows. A trick here is that you can add some orange on the bananas, reflecting the red colour of the tomato. (See photo above).

We also need to add shadows on the table behind the fruit. To do this simply mix some purple. Again do not go crazy. Adjust your colours as you don’t want a very deep dark shadow behind a small tomato which is lit uniformly.  Similar for the bananas. Be careful with the proportions of the shadows too. Don’t make them huge or too small; they are connected to the size of your fruit.


Step 6: Adding highlights

This is the final detail and here is where we will need the small amount of white. Before you apply pure white for the highlight we need to brighten the areas around that dot of light. For your apple you can mix some of your green with some extra yellow and little bit of white (mixing with white will be looked at later. If interested you can read the theory here). Do the same for your tomato; mix some red with a little yellow and white.. You only need small amounts and you don’t want to make it stand out too much; just prepare the ground for the light. Finally, drop a touch of pure white for the light concentration reflection.


As mentioned above, this is an exercise…do not expect to create the most beautiful painting of your artistic career! Focus on learning and applying the theory!


The Artist says:

28407451_1162363890564038_455176961_o“I have been passionate about painting since I remember myself. I started by just eexperimenting with colours, colour mixing and colour application. However , it’s not always easy to achieve what you want unless you know exactly what you are doing. Techniques are different for different media; colour theory though is the basis of painting and is the same for everything! I decided to teach myself the basics; and here I am sharing that with you!

Art is more fun when you meet the artists themselves! Visit THE ARTIST…


Love Sketching & Painting


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