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Friday, August 7, 2015



The tonal range of a picture gives it vibrancy and life. The tones produce form and  texture and are dependant on the direction of the light on a subject while high contrast is used to give a focal point to a composition. Contrast can be exaggerated by placing a light part of a painting against a dark part and vice versa.

In colour we see the lightest colours e.g. yellow as the brightest and the darkest such as deep purple as the dullest. To lighten the tone white (or water in the case of water colour) is added. To darken the colour neutrals are added such as violet, Paynes grey, sepia or indigo. Using water colour start with a concentrated mix then dilute it until the lightest tone next to white is obtained. Very little pigment is needed for this tone.

For oils or acrylic add white to the darkest tone. Acrylic paints do not have the range of intensity compared with oils but dark colours can easily be mixed eg add green or red to indigo to get a dark colour which can be used in a mix. Raw umber with cobalt and cadmium red or violet with cadmium yellow and indanthrene yellow are other mixes. In watercolour start by leaving the paper white for the highlights then add darker and darker tones. With oils and acrylics start with the very dark tones and gradually work up to white highlights.

Linda then started to complete her painting of a stream and bridge by putting in extra tones. First she mixed a variety of yellow tones to fill in the background to the foliage. She uses a light yellow/green to depict sunlight through the trees and cuts in sky areas in trees using a light blue tone. If too many highlights result from this she goes over and adds darker tones. The denser areas such as branches are painted in with a swordtail brush using green with Payes grey as an intensifier. The same mix is used to give finishing touches to the leaf area.

Paintings can be assessed for their tonal range by taking a photograph putting it into a computer and changing it to monochrome. This will show up the darkest and highlight areas extremely well. Alternatively turn the painting upside down and stand back from it.

We found this evening very informative and are grateful to Linda for making us take a closer look at our paintings and check their tonal range.      

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