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Color Fundamentals

Lesson 21 of 22

Demo: Utilization of Opaque Color

Mary Jane Begin

Color Fundamentals

Mary Jane Begin

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Lesson Info

21. Demo: Utilization of Opaque Color

Lesson Info

Demo: Utilization of Opaque Color

Let's mix up some opaque color. The way that I'm gonna make it opaque is I'm going to add some white. White is opaque. You can't see through this color. If it's densely made, I'll show you. I could show you in the piece. Well, you'll see it in just a second. It's a super opaque color, you can not see through it. Let's scrub out those little bits first. I have a lot of highlights on the pepper. Then I'll pop some intense color. Some intense saturated color, and super opaque color. You have to pull it off, and then clean your brush. Otherwise, the color just goes right back onto the surface. I'll highlight right there. I can sorta see it underneath my picture. Then there's a couple little highlights over here. The green is still buried under there. It's interesting. It didn't go away. We can't see it all that well, but it's still in there. I think just for a guideline, I'm going to just pull off a little bit of that color, and a little of this color. In order for me to put some saturated...

color here this needs to be a little bit, a little bit dryer. Let's just test it and see if I can get some opacity, because I want you to see what happens when opaque color sits next to the transparent color. Like you saw with the pumpkin. I'm gonna use a slightly smaller brush. So cad red when used thickly, like this, it's really thick. So you really can't see much through that. If I add white, you can't see much through that color. That is a really important aspect to this. I'm gonna add a little yellow to it. I'm gonna use the color both thickly and with a little bit of white. And that's where your opacity comes in. I'm gonna use this on the upper side of the pepper. So it's still a little bit wet. It's still blending with what's underneath it. As you can probably already see the saturation is more potent on the top part, because it's reacting to the sorta neutral color that's next to it. I'm making tiny little strokes. It is the way I paint. Typically, is I paint in big broad shapes and then I come back in and I use little tiny marks. I paint with what I call strings of color. I'm starting to use the strings of color to tell us about that form. I'm working with the shadow underneath and I'm gonna build on this. Let me put another bit here. I'm also gonna pump the light of those lit areas of the pepper so that you can see the highlights. As this surface starts to dry it's a little easier to see the saturation of the color that I'm trying to save for the lit areas. I don't wanna use it on the underside, because if I do that it will flatten the whole form out. There we go. I have to deepen this to the value of this, and the shadow needs to be a little darker. I'll layer that up in a minute. I wanna get some of the really vibrant color with the white in the high lit areas. Let's try that right now. On our highlight area I sorta mixed a kind of pinkish white with a little bit of pink in it, because I think that reacts to the green in a nice sorta way. That little highlight there. I also see it... It's really kinda pink down here. It's not really white it's almost like a... I'd call it a pale pink tone, because it's white mixed with that cad red. That's all I have here on my brush. That shape is right under here. I want that cad red to be, like I said, more saturated. As the surface dries I'm able to get more... You see the kick of that color. It's getting more vibrant because what's underneath is drying. This red is really sitting on top of that green and reacting to it, because their compliments. I'll put some here. This is where the light source is coming from. I'm leaving all of the opacity. Just like with this, the black and white. The opacity is happening on the top part where the light is. Even that ridge has some light too. I'll put a little bit there. I'm saving the opacity which is a combination of the white mixed with the cad red, and then just pure thickly laid down cad red. Saving it for the lit areas, because that's gonna react to the transparent neutralized shadow underneath. It's starting to feel dimensional to my eyes. Although I feel like that... What it needs right now to help the dimensionality would be a shadow color. That's gonna be made from a little bit of the cad red. I think I might need to add a little bit of the blue just for value sake. To kick that color a little darker. Might even add some purple in. As I access that. The purple blue of the fabric is reflecting into the shadow of that pepper. I don't want it to be too purple, because I don't want it to look the same as the surface of the cloth. I'm just laying this down super quickly, but you can see all that I've used here is purple, and cad red, and I think maybe a tweaky bit of permanent rose. That's the shadow color right here. It feels distinctly darker in value than what's in the light. I'm gonna do one more thing. I do wanna capture a few notes of that vibrant purple on there so you guys can see that. So again, as this dries we can see the form with opacity and light, and transparency in the shadow. Let me just hit the top part. There are a couple of things to make this more dimensional that I would like to show. Again, the light is coming from the left. So I'm trying to establish that. I'm trying to save out my lights, my highlights. There we go. I need to deepen that shadow to create the crease there. I'm gonna hit this with some purple to show you that vibrant purple texture. Let's just hit the highest light, which is my focal point. It's probably somewhere in here. I have to choose. I have light all across this thing, but there's a couple of spots that's it's more distinctly light. That is across these two shapes right here. Then we wanna show a shadow shape on the pepper. I will once again use my purple red, and push these creases. Little dense... A little more purple. Get through here. Just so we feel that form a little more clearly. On the underside. This is a really simplified version of what we're seeing. It can get really noodley. Analyze every aspect and turn of that color. This is just like a quick study of what we're seeing. Capturing the essence of what's happening. Now, one more thing I wanna do before I show this stuff on the iPad. Is I want to show that beautiful purple. Which I have to kinda make a little bit again. I'm gonna add some fresh white. I wanna show you, I might just even lay a patch on it. So you can see what happens when you take... I've lost some of my permanent rose. Let me just add a little bit more to that. I'll make a fresh little patch of purple, but this is gonna be super opaque. I'm adding water to it, and I'm gonna make is super thick. That's how you make it opaque. I'm gonna pop it on there so you see yumminess of the purple against this neutralized version. And how it creates a sense of light. I'm gonna exaggerate, the light isn't super strong there. I'm gonna exaggerate it pretty distinctly so you can really see that reaction. I'm gonna make it a little more blue, a little more cool like the light. Maybe a little more lighter. That's such a yummy color. Let's imagine that there's some light on this form landing around it, and it's creating a sort of... Maybe there's light happening some light here. So let's imagine most of the light is happening on this side, because that's where the lights coming from. Look at how that purple that's essentially opaque, translucent to opaque, is reacting to the purple around it. If I load it up, I'm gonna load it up right along here. We'll pretend there's like a really high light on that pepper. Suddenly, the green with the purple, becomes a really beautiful shadow color. Can you see that? I wanna make sure it's... I'm exaggerating what I'm seeing there. I'm doing what's called dry brush, I'm doing it super dry textural mark. Again, because I know that this velvet is textural. It's not quite a smooth as the pepper. You can kinda see how suddenly the opaque treatment feels like light and it feels really different than the shadow color, but it feels related to this shadow color. It makes the shadow appear to be shadow, because it's neutral but it's connected.

Class Description

This class will give you an overview of color principles and demonstrate how to apply them. Instructor Mary Jane Begin is an award-winning illustrator and author of children’s picture books, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate and professor in the Illustration Department. 

In this class she covers: 
  • The elements of color, including value, temperature, saturation, hierarchy, complements, light, harmony, and contrast 
  • The use of color complements in image making 
  • The relationship of color to the medium and expression 

Through a series of demonstrations, you’ll learn how to work with color and ultimately make better color decisions. This class covers color theory foundations that applies to all image making, in design, art, illustration, photography, and beyond.


Anna Kotzè

I really liked the informal demonstrations and I also liked the way she set out her pallet with warm and cold colors. This was not only an informative class but inspiring. The casual and relaxed working style, encourage playfulness. Thank you for an awesome class.


I’ve had foundations in many of the color instruction that was presented here so the information was a very good revisit. I also think it was explained better in this presentation than in the other training I’ve had. I enjoyed listening to the lecture, thankfully they weren’t drawn out until you want to stop listening. The demonstration was best after we moved off the charcoal drawing (although that was interesting to watch) because using the paints really brought home to me the application some of the lessons learned. I wish that part would have been more robust so that all of the elements in the lecture could have been directly called out in the demonstration. The instructor was most effective when not trying to multitask too much. Overall, I recommend this course.

Robin B.

I had previously learned basic color theory, but this instructor took my knowledge beyond with layered instruction about value-contrast-complements-hierarchy, etc., and she does it in such a fun way with her own examples of work and great stories! I like her poise and confidence and think this series is a terrific value.