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Watercolor Techniques Using Color & Light For Ultra-Dramatic Paintings

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Introduction to Color and Light in Painting: Part One, Step One

Key Principles for Seeing and Painting with Color and Natural Light

Color and Temperature of Light

The most important principle for painting with color and natural light is to understand that light has both color and temperature.

  • Physics and Painterly Effects: The illustrations below show the color of light in degrees Kelvin.


  • As you can see, natural light has many colors. Light can also be represented in a painterly manner to create different emotions and effects. Virgil has illustrated some options for using color to represent different lighting effects, i.e., neutral mid-day, early morning, and late afternoon, plus atmospheric effects such as mist and fog.


While colors may be classified as either warm or cool, it really is the color of the prevailing light and reflected light in the environment that sets the perceived color and temperature of a subject and a painting. Even local value is affected by the color and intensity of the illuminating light and the surrounding environment.