What Is Color Temperature And Why Is It So Important

Just red

Color temperature effected my first foray into the art competition world, when I submitted a painting for jurying into an art show only to be rejected.

Not only did the sting of that first rejection stick with me but also the critique from one of the jury members completely confused me.

As she patted me on the back with congratulations of a good effort in my 1st painting, she said that my painting did not have a “push or pull”.

For years, I struggled to understand what the heck she meant.

Now I realize, she meant depth. There was no visual vibration in my painting. And yes, she was correct, there wasn’t, even though I had painted a pathway leading into a forest. The colors lay flat and lifeless on the surface.

So how do you paint a “push and pull” or depth into a 2-dimensional surface?

It wasn’t until I read the book Making Color Sing by Jeanne Dobie (you can purchase the book herethat I learned about using color temperature to create the illusion of depth in a painting.

Warm colors tend to feel like they come forward in a painting, whereas, cool colors receded. This is what gives the illusion of depth.

(To understand the difference between color temperature, watch this simplistic youtube video.)

But to quickly sum up the video, warm colors are reds, oranges, yellows and hues that remind us of sunshine, fire and warmth.

Cool colors are blues, greens and purples or colors that make us think of grass, water or ice.

When you use warm and cool colors together in a composition, there is a visual vibration that occurs and a “push and pull” is created.

However, with this simplistic interpretation of color theory, a problem arises. When we apply this theory to RED, specifically, the problem becomes glaringly obvious. (see my blog post The Color Theory Blog Series focusing on JUST RED)

RED, technically, is a warm color but it can lean towards RED-ORANGE, which is warm or RED-VIOLET which is cool.

How is it possible that RED can be both – warm or cool? And how do you resolve this so that it can be used in a painting?

Visit my blog post How to Mix Paint Colors without Creating Mud to find out.