RGB, CMYK and Golden Artists Colors’ acrylic paint

CMY and mesmerising paint effects with Golden Acrylics

You probably know about colour management and when you know about colour management, you must know about the difference between CMYK and RGB, and what each is used for. Well, in painting with pigments, it’s not that clear-cut and that has everything to do with colour theory.

Colour theory is not the same as colour management. The latter is something that became important when desktop publishing and graphic design on a PC or a Mac were developed. Colour theory, however, is the foundation of it all. Whereas colour management will let you ensure the colours on your computer screen are converted in a useful way to your output devices, meaning they will look the same, colour theory teaches you how colours are generated.

Colour theory goes back to Newtonian physics, whereas colour management was invented by the likes of Adobe and Heidelberg (you know, the printing presses). And here is why it gets confusing: in colour management you’re taught RGB won’t cut it when you’re putting down colours on a medium like paper. RGB, colour management says, is for light emitting devices only — a computer screen, projector, TV set.

But when you start painting as in plastering Golden Artist Colors Acrylics all over a canvas with a Princeton Catalyst Polytip Flat brush — to mention my two all-time favourites — you’re no longer in colour management country, but in the analogue world.

In the analogue world, only colour theory applies, and colour theory has it that you are working with RGB, not CMYK.

In art painting classes, it’s often stressed that all colours are created from the RGB triad and not from CMY (“K” represents BlacK, which is absence of light, absence of reflection and therefore absence of colour).

And I for one have learned that you can’t mix colours properly when using CMY with artists’ paints because the pigments are never 100% pure and impurity make colours go “off” when you try mixing colours using only CMY.

Now, that’s simple enough if it weren’t for Golden… They developed Primary Cyan, Primary Magenta and Primary Yellow, and with these three, you can mix colours in much the same way a four-colour printing press does. They won’t be as bright as when you’re using pure pigments and you won’t be able to create all kinds of red like, for example, Pyrrole red, which is a deep but bright red that you can only create with the proper chemicals.

But here’s what makes Golden’s Acrylic CMY colours so special: when you use these three with Golden’s glazing medium, you seem to be mimicking what happens when you’re staring at your computer screen that emits light.

The painting surface, if prepared properly with a white primer (gesso, usually), acts as the emitter of light while the glazing medium acts as the colour filter through which the CMY colour reflects the white of the primer.

I tried this out and guess what, if you brush any of the three colours in very thin layers on top of each other, you can indeed obtain many other colours, but that’s not why this is exciting. The exciting part is when you layer these colours in swirling patterns avoiding every area to be fully covered. If you do, you’ll create a glowing effect that resembles the one you can see in opal (the mineral). I tried to take a picture of it, but while you can see the colours, the glow effect is only visible with the eye.