Color Triads For Watercolor Painting

This section includes videos where we create color wheels from various sets of three.  Many of these color explorations use a set of “primary” colors – a red, a yellow and a blue. Others use a variety of primary, secondary and tertiary colors and vary in their intensity.  All of them create beautiful sets of color and lively neutrals and will enhance the unity of any painting. 

Experimenting with limited palettes of color is a great way to see new possibilities for even the most traditional subjects. Often they also inspire new work as the mixtures are often new discoveries that spark our imagination and creative flow.

One of the questions often asked about working with a limited triad is “Do we only use these, or can we add other colors?”  The short answer is that you can add other colors. Think of the triad as the “key” with the three colors making up the main chord.  As in a piece of music, the composer will sometimes deviate from the main chord by adding another note that is not part of the main chord.  It is the same with a color triad.  Although you will likely stick with the three main colors or mixtures of them – from time to time you will find a place for a new, different note. By all means, add it!  And let it harmonize with the other notes in your painting. 

How many additional color notes is enough or too much?  This too varies. In my own paintings, I seldom use more than 6 or seven colors. 

These primary color wheel practices are valuable for all the reasons listed. They also have value as fillers during those times when you want to paint, but don’t have a subject or composition in mind or you don’t have a lot of time to finish. Sitting down and down and doing one of these in a half hour or so is a great way to keep the brush in your hand even when you don’t have a great deal of time to work.

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