The color of the background in oil painting

Many times we observe works of art with very pleasant colors and the first thing that we think is why we cannot get those colors in our paintings, possibly it is the oil brand that we use or we must apply thicker oil paint, and this has something of true but the most important factor is the contrast produced between the colors of the figure or main objects and the background.

From now on whenever we observe a painting, we must begin our analysis by seeing the colors of the background, these are the foundation, are the secondary protagonists by which the main colors are what they are, without these there would not exist those colors so nice and strength or softness that many times we think we cannot achieve.

The artist must study the contrasts of colors in order to understand how to consciously perform works with strong lived colors or soft and gentle colors.

The first step is to know that one of the main contrasts that exist is the contrast of complementary colors, which tells us that the opposite colors in a color wheel will produce a high contrast highlighting the force and intensity of the color that occupies less space.

Look at the color wheel you will clearly find three groups of pure colors that represent the highest contrast, yellow and violet, orange and blue, red and green, but this does not mean that we will only use these pure colors, for Example if we have an ocher vase, then the opposite would come to be blue violet and the same for other colors, for example a pink contrasted with blue-green, you need to use big color wheel that would help you to find more complementary colors.


For the contrast to work, one of the colors must occupy more space than the other, if both are placed in the same proportion them will fight each other and will not produce a pleasant effect.

The second contrast we must take into account is the Light-dark, this means that a color will change drastically depending on what colors surround it, if it is surrounded by dark colors this will be seen as clearer and if it is surrounded by light colors, this will look darker , Let’s look at the cube example

See how the same color is perceived differently depending on the colors that surround it and the space it occupies, both ocher squares are exactly the same color, in this example you see the importance of the background.

These are two important points that should be taken into account every time we analyze a work of art and when we are doing our sketches or when we are creating a work or putting together a still life, we must choose the elements by shape, size, color and contrast.

This is one of my paintings, the first image is the original, then I altered the background using photoshop which is a program to manipulate photos.




What you should observe calmly and attentively is how the color of the nemo changes slightly depending on the background that surrounds it, so we can vary the color of the background according to what we are looking for, either a strong contrast with intense colors or a soft contrast with more opaque colors .

In my case, this nemo was a toy of my children which I liked because of the strong color it had, so I tried putting it on different surfaces, first on the gray concrete floor of the yard of the house, then on a blue cloth, But I realized that what I needed was not only to seek contrast of color, but of texture, the surface of the nemo is very soft and the table is full of strands of wood, first I thought that this highlighted more smoothness of the nemo and the dark color of the table would also emphasize the light color of the nemo, here there is a contrast of Light-dark colors and the contrast of the surface of each object.

Renso Castaneda

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