Hi, I could use some advice on painting with oils

JSteamyJSteamy Registered User new member
edited June 2012 in Artist's Corner
I have been trying to practice with oils but I can't the hang of it. Every time I attempt to create a painting it seems as if I can't achieve the correct colors I want.
I was wondering which colors I should use/mix to create the colors in this reference photo.

Here is a picture of my painting.

I have only been painting for roughly 2 months and have only attempted probably 6 paintings but never finished any due to the fact I have no idea what I am doing.
Also, I'm going for a more detailed painting. But I've figured out that it is much more complicated with oils rather than pencil and colored pencils.
Any tips would be much appreciated.
Thank you for helping!

JSteamy on


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    miscellaneousinsanitymiscellaneousinsanity grass grows, birds fly, sun shines, and brother, i hurt peopleRegistered User regular
    Hey, I'm not really an oil painter, but this color wheel might help you find the pigments you're looking for.
    The rest of the site has a huuuuuuge amount of information on color, this page on color mixing is a bit overwhelming but it's all very solid info.

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    Angel_of_BaconAngel_of_Bacon Moderator Mod Emeritus
    Judging from your photo, you're trying to think of the skull too much as being "white"- the reference really doesn't have any pure whites or greys, it's all yellows, oranges, and brown-reds. If I were starting a painting like this, probably the first thing I'd do would be to wash a thinned out yellow ochre or orange mixture over the entire canvas and let it dry a bit, so I'd be able to judge my colors against that general range of color, rather than against the stark white of the canvas.

    One of the dangers of using white (or black) too heavily is that it can wash out your colors very quickly into "muddy", grey tones- which is sometimes what the picture calls for, but a lot of the time finding a pigment or a mixture that doesn't involve white or black will give you a stronger, more suitable color.

    Color sampled the ref in photoshop to show what colors are truly there, and what pigments I would use to try to mix them (though I don't claim a level of color mixing expertise that I'd expect these mixtures to be 100% dead on, they should at the least get you in the ball park. It'd probably be worth your while to cover up the side with the skull on it, and just spend some time concentrating on matching the colors in those circle blobs on your palette, so you can just focus on being precise in your color choices- without worrying about your left brain yelling at you, telling you that "skulls are white, dang it!", because in this instance that just isn't true.)


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    Nineteen HundredNineteen Hundred Registered User regular
    This is only based on the one painting you're showing, but I think your main issue is that you're not trying to mix the color you see, you're trying to mix what you think the color is supposed to be. That skull is not white, it's red, with some yellow. What you've got on the canvas looks like tube white, with a few other colors mixed in making it just grey. The photo has a ton of saturation, and you've taken it all away. Protip: Do not use white until you absolutely have to. If you need to increase value, use a color with a higher value, like yellow or something. May not always work, but experimenting is how you'll figure out what does. Also, never mix more than 2-3 colors together. Any more than that and you just end up with mud.

    There was something important here. It's gone now.
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    JSteamyJSteamy Registered User new member
    edited June 2012
    Thank you so much Angel of Bacon! That really did help. One of my main problems is I'm not all that good at mixing colors, most of my art work is done in pencils. I guess I just need practice on mixing colors.
    Nineteen Hundred, I was actually trying to combine the colors I was seeing, but I'm not very familiar with the color wheel :P . Also I was using a TON of white but thank you for the tips.
    Another question I have is should I put down a base color before I started painting and then build up to the correct colors? Such as say I cover the whole top half of the skull (the lightest part) with yellow ochre. Then add cadmium red etc. a color at a time before the yellow ochre dries? I've watched videos and it seems as if they first place down maybe the mid-tone color and then keep adding colors to build it up over time? Thanks for the advice guys!

    JSteamy on
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