Monday, May 23, 2016

Reinventing the Wheel

Jessica Kirby gets credit for the title of this post because it's about color wheels.  Most don't help you with mixing I'm proposing a new one that may. I'm going to pitch it out this post and perhaps demonstrate its mixing accuracy in a future post. Here it is with my basic watercolor palette (plus quinacridone magenta, viridian and pthalo green plotted for reference):

Not quite a "wheel" but you'll see why.
 There are hundreds of color wheel schemes found in art stores or in online diagrams. Few are helpful for mixing actual pigments because they're purely theoretical or apply to light waves or something other than paint. 
 The general idea is that you draw a line between two hues and what occurs between is the mix. 
 Opposite hues on the familiar ROYGBV wheel supposedly average to grey. That pretty much works for red+green but blue+orange and yellow+purple mix to murky browns (auto correct wanted to give you Murphy Brown there).
The newer CIELAB wheel keeps the red/green combo but opposes yellow with blue. Like so:

 No way that pair will neutralize to grey. I'm given to understand it's an accurate model of how you computer views color...helps the Cyborgs but not me.

SO...I McGyvered the CIELAB wheel to reflect how pigments actually mix. It's more guitar pick than wheel, but the odd shape allows you to see where any two mixed colors plot with greater accuracy.
 Like most color wheels, the outside rim goes through the visible spectrum, indicating HUE. That rim also represents the most saturated version of the color: CHROMA. 
 As you move towards the center, chroma reduces - each hue gets less vivid, more subdued - until the center point is neutral grey.
By moving the grey center off center the blue yellow axis plots through green territory rather than implying they create neutral grey like the CIELAB wheel does.
So now when you draw a line between any two hues,  all the mixes actually plot along that line.