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~Optical Mixing~

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The term *Optical Mixing* is simply a reference to the way ones vision can produce the illusion of a third color when two hues are placed side by side or over top of one another. Optical mixtures emit an inner glow that you cannot get with physical mixtures. The colors are within and behind one another; they seem to move toward you from deep inside the picture. In particular, glazing and scumbling techniques brings out an extra dimension. Perhaps this is why the paintings of the old masters have a powerful sense of the third dimension.

~The basics of *Glazing* and *Scumbling*~

Glazing and scumbling are richer, more complex ways of color mixing. They generate far more exciting results.

  Glazing:
A glaze is a layer of transparent color applied over a dry coat of some other color, usually one that's lighter and more opaque. The effect is akin to placing a sheet of colored glass over a sheet of colored cardboard. A glaze can intensify or dull down the color beneath it. I paint with acrylics, therefore, I dilute my glazing mixtures using water mixed with *Liquitex - Gloss Medium and Varnish*. The mixtures are thinned to the consistency of watercolour. All of my paintings are methodically painted using glazes and scumbles - no visible brush strokes. Try painting a tomato - one that's not completely ripe... a bit of green in it. Paint it with premixed colors blended on the palette. Use physical mixtures of yellow, red and green. Then, paint the same tomato starting with an underpainting of yellow. Complete the painting with glazes and scumbles of red, green and yellow. When you compare the two, you will be surprised to see the richness, inner glow and three dimensionality of optical mixing using glazes. An effect that cannot be produced with physical mixtures.

  Scumbling:
Scumbling is simply a semiopaque layer of light color applied over a dry layer of darker color, usually opaque. Scumbles may be either opaque or transparent. Like glazing, this is a method of optical mixing: the underpainting and overpainting create a new color which is different from a mixture of the same two colors combined on the palette. The effect of a scumble is something like a colored mist which partly obscures the underlying color.

Whether you glaze or scumble, the overpainting appears to mix with the underpainting, and the two visually combine to create a third color. Any color - even the most opaque, can be turned into a glaze by adding enough medium / water. And even the most transparent color can be turned into a scumble by adding white, plus enough painting medium to make the color fluid. Try some experiments, like glazing blue over yellow to see what kind of green you get; red over yellow to see what orange you get. The possibilities are endless.

   My technique using oils:
There have been many inquiries with regards to utilizing my painting technique with oil paints. Yes! Simply thin your colors to the consistency of syrup using a medium. I suggest combining stand oil with turpentine - 1 : 3 ratio... then mix with the pigment - 1 : 3 ratio. You may wish to use only turpentine - that's fine! A lot of artist do. But, if you use oils, *Stand oil* is preferable. It is purer than linseed oil and does not yellow with age the way linseed does.


More Tips:
Introduction Page | Color Contrasts | Translucent Water
Hue, Value, Intensity, Color Temperature | Composition | Technical Tips | Value Scale
Red Power | Keeping Acrylics Moist | Brush Care | Color | Young/Helmholtz | Book Excerpt


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