"Nobody is born a colorist. You become a colorist only after many years of looking, experimenting and painting. And painting and painting." Edward Betts

Painting With Three Colors
© 2009 Nita Leland

compatible triad colors Understand the characteristics of your paints so you can combine colors that are compatible according to intensity (purity or grayness), transparency (see-through quality of paint) and tinting strength (power of a color to influence a mixture). This enables you to work with just three colors to achieve a harmonious effect. The charts below list the colors for the six triads above, plus two new, modern pigment triads. Sort your paints into each combination and make sketches limited to three colors to see how different subjects look with color harmony palettes.

For more on compatible harmony colors: Exploring Color Revised pp. 58-75; Confident Color pp. 70-94; and Confident Color DVD.

High Intensity Colors
Low Intensity Colors
(Transparent or Opaque)
(Very Opaque)
Cadmium Red Medium or Alizarin Crimson
New Gamboge or Indian Yellow
French Ultramarine
Indian Red
Yellow Ochre
Cerulean Blue
(Mostly Transparent)
Old Masters'
(Mostly Transparent)
Winsor Red or Pyrrole Red
Winsor Lemon or Hansa Yellow Light
Phthalo Blue ( Red or Green Shade)
Burnt Sienna
Raw Sienna
Payne's Gray
High Key
Bright Earth (Unsaturated)
Rose Madder Genuine or Permanent Rose
Aureolin or Transparent Yellow
Cobalt Blue
Brown Madder
Quinacridone Gold
Modern (High Intensity)
Modern (Low Intensity)
Quinacridone Magenta
Azo Yellow
Phthalo Blue (Green Shade)
Perylene Maroon
Quinacridone Gold
Indanthrone Blue

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