Color Theory and The Human Figure - NUDITY


[left]Guys and gals,

Color Theory is a topic which has come up a lot lately, as it should, so at ericyeo’s request I’ve decided to create a Color Theory thread here which relates to Color in general, and to the Human Figure in particular.

This is NOT a formal Workshop. This is a place for people to exchange ideas, post links, etc. ~ I’ll periodically update the Links list at the start of the thread in order to make things easier to find.

Hope you guys will begin to contribute to this thread, and to help one another out by sharing your knowledge, questions, and suggestions. :slight_smile:




Color Theory Links:


 Something about color theory
 Tool for creating color schemes
 Just few tricks with color 

A great Color Tutorial / Exercise by Sheff:


Color Theory on Wikipedia:


Links to Color Theory Demos:

[[b]Demo 1: Digital - Look at the Reference Image in Different Ways[/b]](

Demo 2: Color Basics:


the following image is from:
see full article:

In this diagram from the above source, tints are toward the center, and shades toward the outer rings of the color wheel.

 According to this article: [](

[b]hue[/b] = what we think of as 'color'. 'Color' is actually defined by a bunch of different properties as described here.

[b]tint[/b] = a hue produced by adding white. 
[b]shade [/b]= a hue produced by adding black.
[b]intensity =[/b] the brightness or dullness of a hue. One may lower the intensity by adding white or black.

[b]value [/b]= A measure of the amount of light reflected from a hue. Those hues with a high content of white have a higher luminance or value.


Links to Color Theory Exercises:


Artist Links:


Color Theory History:


Demo 1: Digital - Look at the Reference Image in Different Ways[i]

This was originally posted on OFDW 009. The painting was done by ericyeo, and I just did the breakdown. Here is the same post as is on OFDW 009:[/i]

Sometimes, with respect to color, it helps to break the Reference image in a number of different ways: by desaturating the image, adding a filter to the image so that you can see the color more simply, etc. Here are a few examples of what I mean:


I think the main thing to be aware of with respect to the colors in your piece is COLOR TEMPERATURE. Colors can be either warm or cool, and while the colors in the Reference image are mostly warm, I think the colors in your image are mostly cool. This is a big thing to consider with respect to color.

Also, think of color in the body in terms of ZONES. Note how in the Reference photo, the legs and arms are warmer / darker. Darker areas of the body indicate more blood circulation at the surface of those areas. The head, arms, and legs will naturally be darker.
Notice how the torso is more pink than red / brown. This is a good rule to remember when painting people.



Please feel free to post your ideas, links, questions, demos, whatever you feel might be relevant to the topic of this thread: COLOR. This is not a formal Workshop, it is primarily so that everyone can interact and share their questions and ideas with respect to how color is used in the depiction of the human figure. The first few threads are for organizational purposes only. :slight_smile:

Please pitch in! :slight_smile:




Interesting topic … I will have to spent some time studying it … but there is so many things to study :smiley:

Here are some links that may (or may not) be interesting

Something about color theory

Tool for creating color schemes

Just few tricks with color :smiley:

  • Slux


Hi everyone,

I am so completely new to color theory and most of the time clueless or confused when it comes to color.

With the help of Rebecca I learned to actually perceive values and understood that it is value not color which defines forms. Now I am trying to understand the use of color so someday I can expand my skills and technique by applying color to my values.

As this topic is such a multitudinous one I jumped in at a basic level. With the exercises that follow this text I was trying to understand the color wheel and primary color,secondary color etc. and color pallette/color combinations, as introduced in this tutorial. It might be a good idea to keep this page open in a separate tab of your browser to compare the colour wheel info to the sketches.

I tried to keep functional use of colour in mind, too. I tried to give the faraway mountain to the right blueish hues and more saturated colours in direct lit spots.
However, that is not what this exercise is about. I just tried to learn how to combine colors. Also, this is not about handling complicated forms…

This is my sketch. Numbers refer to planned values, i.e. 1 = very high, 4 very dark…

analogous color combination:

complementary colour combination:

double Complementary Combination:


split Complementary Colour Combination:

triad Colour combination:

So, I must say it was fun to combine these colors knowing that I would use sets which are not completely chosen “out of thin air”. Feel free to comment on this, direct me to my next steps. I still feel a little bit lost in this vast topic, but will continue to hack a swath through this jungle…

Any help from anyone is appreciated!


something that added to my confusion is that my current application’s (artweaver) color wheel does not look like anything mentioned in the above tutorials like this one.
In artweaver’s color wheel, complementary colours do not lie opposite of each other,e.g.

Artweaver Color Wheel:

Looks like artweaver uses a completely different wheel which makes it hard to follow these tasks. Does anyone know what system the colorwheel of the above screenshot uses?

I am about to purchase painter. Hope the color wheel of painter correlates with the theoretical color wheels? Or can you choose from different multiple color wheels in painter?


[left]Ok, Mr. Mu, :slight_smile:

   You brought it, so I'm going to try to address it. :D
   Here, I've found a bunch of images where the chief subject is color. Large images I've just left as links.

What I’d like you to do is not worry right away about the names of things ~ triadic, split complementary, complementary ~ these are all terms that I learned long ago, but frankly don’t think much about as I paint. It’s not to say that these terms aren’t important ~ but I think it’s better to just jump right in at first and then we can try to sort through the problem areas. Particularly as this is not really a formal workshop, just a discussion, I’d rather just takes things in a very low~jargon way. I’m no color professor. :slight_smile:

Having said that, I think a great exercise to do (and one which I did whilst a color theory student) is to copy, in whatever medium you prefer, a photograph where color is prominent.

Why not choose 2~3 images from the following group, and start working on a loose copy / painting? Don’t worry about details or getting the image to look accurate. In fact, if you would like, feel free to trace the image ~ this is not a drawing exercise, it is about color. Your final images will not be portfolio pieces ~ they will be merely exercises.

Give yourself a limited amount of time ~ let’s say 1 week ~ to get the basics of at least one image down on canvas / paper / in pixels. Then, let’s see where you’re at, and we’ll talk amongst ourselves. :slight_smile:

Now, it’s quite obvious that the Reference images are not of the Human Figure ~ but I think it’s wise to take something easier, like a landscape, to copy as it will eliminate the problem of the figure, and allow us to focus strictly on Color as a subject. The goal is to eventually be able to apply the concepts learned here to the figure in other Exercises.

Anyone else who feels so inclined is welcome to join us here in this little exercise / experiment. I just ask that you keep your images to 800 X 600 pixels or less.

   Looking forward to seeing your results! :)
   [center][b]Please choose 1 ~ 3 images from the following set to copy in any media:
   Then, post your work in 1 week from the time you start the exercise.

Please keep images to 800 x 600 px or less.

   Good luck! 
   [Image Link: >>><<<](
   [Image Link: >>><<<](
   [Image Link: >>><<<](


yea I asked for trouble, didn’t I?:scream:

feels thouroughly understood


Oh, this is going to be great! And the photos look like thy are apt to drive me insane… which, strangely enough, for this task is a good thing.:bounce:


LOL ~ it’s funny, it’s kind of a nice break to look at something besides figures for a change ~ I feel like I’ve been let out of doors! :slight_smile:

Looking forward to seeing your first posts. Feel free, as always, to post WIP along the way.

Cheers, :slight_smile:



just to let you know I started this one…

(how come all the threads I work on at the moment have turned into private tuitions? That’s somehow embarrassing…:blush: )


[left]Mr. Mu,

By no means is this a perfect or finished paintover, but here is a suggestion for the direction I think it might be better to go in ~ more blues, more deep bluish~greens, and more saturated colors generally. Take a look at the following and let me know if you have any questions. :slight_smile:

Bear in mind that I’m using Photoshop, and so have access to a broader toolset which I have employed ~ however, once you get Painter, you should have an even broader toolset than that. :slight_smile:

Reference image:

[center]Your original image.

I think the thing to try first is to lay down a more saturated base coat, and don’t go for whites. If you put whites in from the start, the effect will be to flatten / deaden your picture. Use white sparingly ~ always try to put a bit of color into your whites ~ the same with blacks. Try to avoid pure white and pure black when possible. Use shades (darkened in terms of value) of hues to create your shadow areas, and tints (lightened in terms of values) of hues to create areas of light.


Note that my steps here are kind of random:

  1. My main suggestion is to fill the entire background from the start ~ as with the black and white studies, so with color ~ all values / hues are relative and you want to establish the major key first. Here we’re thinking mostly deep blues / greens with tinges of purples and some accents of yellow and here and there some desaturated oranges.

Colors will all look differently depending on which colors they are placed next to ~ you just have to go with your gut instinct, lay down some colors, and then tweak them to make them either more or less saturated, a different hue, a different tint (lighter) a different shade (darker) etc.

The key thing to bear in mind is that you won’t be able to replicate the colors of the world perfectly ~ often you must exxaggerate and refine color relationships to get the effect that you want. Don’t try to copy the photo exactly ~ work on color relationships, and see what actually happens on the page.


I’ve added the darker and midtone values / hues first. Next I’m starting to build up the lighter areas on top.



Just continuing to refine the relationships of hue, value, and saturation…most of it is frankly mucking about, trial and error.

Here I’ve merged all of my layers in PS and increased the Brightness and Contrast.

Adding deeper blues to accent some of the midtone and light edges of the flowers.

This I would say is about a halfway point in terms of a painting ~ but it gives the basic idea. Note that there are hue contrasts as well as contrasts of value and saturation. Using Color is sort of like flying a kite with these 3 separate strings used to manipulate it. The more you work with these properties of Color, the more comfortable you will feel.

[left]Hope this helps. :slight_smile: Like I say, I’m not really a Color teacher ~ but am happy to try to help.




It looks like the printmakers colorwheel, you got an example of it on the page you linked to

The printwheel has some limitations since not all colors are possible to mix clean - feel free to disagree with me here :slight_smile:

And hi Becca!



Thanks for this! :slight_smile: Please help me out in any way you can ~ I’m no color expert, and think of colors more intuitively now than technically. So any advice and tips here is welcome! :thumbsup:

Cheers, :slight_smile:



It’s the same here, I’m afraid - I don’t think much about it when I work. I’ve been a bit into it when it comes to traditional, non-digital paint - so if any questions regarding that will turn up I might jump in. Will keep an eye on this thread for sure :slight_smile: