Learn how to create an airbrushed color wheel for a better understanding of the relationships that colors have with each other.
Vibrance of color is what draws the most attention to any artwork in airbrushing. Creating a detailed and technically challenging image is great, but to an on-looker who knows nothing of your craft or who has no appreciation for art will say “Oh! Look at the pretty purple color!”.
Like all things in airbrushing, the correct application of color has definite rules and it can only be done a few ways to achieve either the most accurate, or most vibrant colors.
This page is going to give you a quick overview of a color wheel – what you can learn from one and how you can use it to your advantage.
To create your own color wheel guide, click on the link just below the video at the top of this tutorial. Once you have this PDF in front of you or on your computer screen you’ll realise that it is fairly self explanatory.
You are going to need 3 primary translucent colors and from these colors you are going to need to mix three separate secondary colors – an orange, purple and green.
Keep in mind when mixing these colors that blue is stronger than red, which is stronger than yellow. You will need a higher ratio of the weaker color to mix an accurate secondary color i.e. when mixing your orange, add approximately 3:1 parts yellow to red.
Lay down your colors as shown on the color wheel to the left(top) taking care to blend the colors out. Because of this heirachy of color strength you can blend your yellow further than the red, which can be blended further than the blue as demonstrated in the video tutorial.
You can either lay down each of your primary colors first and then the secondaries, or start with one color and blend your way around the color wheel exactly as demonstrated in the video tutorial.
Your end result should resemble something like the color wheel above (top-left).
Great! How do I use it correctly?
The color wheel shows you what results you get when mixing certain colors together and how much of a certain color should be added to match a desired color. The video tutorial uses skin tone as an example so let’s do the same!
How can we find out what colors we need to mix together to achieve an accurate skin tone?
After pin-pointing the color you want to mix, observe which is the most influential color and this will obviously be your base color to start the color mixing. As this color lays in the yellow zone then it is safe to assume that this is the base, heavily influenced by red with the slightest influence of blue.
By mixing an adequate ratio of each of these paints together, the result should be an accurate skin tone color.
When more than 2 primary colors are mixed together, this tends to ‘dirty’ the color making it appear ‘muddy’.
The reason for this is because the color is shifting towards brown.
Black is another option to add to color if you’re trying to achieve a dirty or muddy look, however alot of care must be taken when darkening colors with black. The more colors you mix together the muddier in appearance they become. Be as minimal as possible when mixing colors and remember the golden rule of airbrush color mixing (this applies only to automotive airbrushing):
It’s recommended never to mix black and white together to tone a color.
You may have been taught this in art class however it is a no-no with automotive airbrush airbrushing as people react mainly to vibrance, however ‘toning’ gives the opposite effect! Instead of using grey to dirty a color, simply use all three primaries and decide whether you need to add black OR white!