What colors make brown?

Painting Yellow Lemon

In the color article I defined what a color is and I defined its three dimensional nature.  Moreover, I said, at the end of the article, that to understand the color of an object you must always ask yourself four questions.

Painting Yellow Lemon

In figure you can see a lemon resting on a table with a neutral background. What is the lemon, table and background color? Probably your answer to this question is: lemon is yellow, table is light brown and the background is dark brown. However, terms like “light brown” and “dark brown” are vague and do not help you to understand the true nature of the colors.

So the first thing you have to establish is the hue of the colors you want to identify. There are six possibilities: yellow, orange, red, purple, blue and green. All colors you see in nature are a variation in tone and saturation of these six colors. A tone is how light or dark a color is. Sometimes for tone also the term value is used. Saturation indicates the purity of a color. A high saturation color is very bright while a low saturation color is almost gray.

Lemon is a yellow; its value is light and its saturation is high. A pigment with these characteristics is cadmium yellow light. Table is orange; its value and saturation are medium. A pigment with these characteristics is raw sienna. The background is yellow; its value is dark and its saturation is low. A pigment with these characteristics is burnt umber.

Browns are colors in the yellow/red range having medium or dark tone and medium and low saturation. In order to mix these colors you can use whatever pigment in yellow/red range (i.e yellow ochre, burnt umber, raw sienna etc.) and variate it in tone or saturation.  How to change the tone and saturation of a color will be the subject of a next article.

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