Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Reilly Palette: The Reilly Neutrals

At the core of Reilly's Universal Palette is a scale of equidistant value steps called the "Neutral Control" values. The main purpose for using a scale of values is to help control the values in your picture, enabling you to create form, the illusion of three-dimensions on a two-dimensional surface. Getting your values correct can be the largest factor in accomplishing this. Reilly attributes 80% of our success in getting the form to correct values, 20% to chroma, and 0% to hue.

A scale of nine value steps made by mixing Titanium White with Ivory Black produces cool grays with a slight blue bias. A scale of nine value steps made by mixing Titanium White with Raw Umber produces warm grays with a yellow bias. "Neutral Gray" can be arrived at by  mixing the cool gray with the warm gray at each of their nine value steps. The full range of neutral values includes both extremes white and black. White is designated value #10,  black is value #0 and between them are values #9 through #1, comprising the eleven-step scale of Neutrals.  Your judgement of true "Neutral" (with minimal spectrum bias) might best be determined under a north-light source.

The Neutrals can also be used to control the chroma of any color without altering its hue. (Mr. Reilly preferred the specific term Neutral to mean a pigment that has no hue bias, while the casual term "gray" can imply very weak chroma of any hue)Oil paint comes out of the tube often at it's most chromatic. These neutrals can be used to reduce the chroma without changing the hue. For example, if your goal is to make a middle value muted purple (P5/6), you might take Dioxazine purple (P1/12), add white to bring it to value 5, then add Neutral 5 until it's chroma is weakened sufficiently. 

In the late '40s, Reilly contracted Grumbacher to mix and tube boxed-sets of all nine Reilly Neutral values. Sadly they are no longer available. Tubing your own Neutrals saves time and promotes palette consistency. Empty tubes are available at art material suppliers like Pearl Paint and Utrecht. 

Photo courtesy of Jerry Allison

Mixing the neutrals. 
Using Ivory Black and Titanium White, mix nine intermediate piles of paint from dark to light. Black representing the value #0 and white representing value #10, the neutral colors will be values 1 through 9. Including black and white you will have eleven equidistant values.  Next create a separate string of nine corresponding values mixing Raw Umber with Titanium White. Now, relying on your own judgement, blend these two strings together visually until they appear to be completely neutral in hue.

Jack Faragasso's 1979 book is a good reference for paint mixing.

For your bookshelp:  The Student's Guide to PAINTING by Jack Faragasso 
ISBN 0-891-34025-4 

Next Topic: The Reilly Palette: A Palette of Convenience

© John Ennis 2010 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Munsell color notation.

It would be difficult to advance with this project without offering a short primer on Munsell. Reilly adopted the Munsell Color System for his program, and an understanding of its basics and nomenclature is fundamental to the Reilly vocabulary.

Munsell divides color into three components: hue, value and chroma. 

Hue is the quality that distinguishes one color from another, i.e. red, yellow, green etc. Munsell's color wheel is a little different from what most of us refer to. Instead of three primaries of red, yellow and blue, and three secondaries of orange, green and purple, Munsell expands the wheel to 10 colors. Red, Yellow, Green, Blue and Purple are considered "Simple Hues". Between them are found the "Intermediate Hues" of yellow-red, green-yellow, blue-green, purple-blue, and red- purple. So when Reilly describes complexion as yellow-red, this is where the nomenclature comes from.

Value is the quality which distinguishes light colors from dark colors. In this system, the gradation of light to dark is separated into eleven values. Pure black is labeled 0 and pure white is labelled 10. Nine values equally distant from each other lie in between. A color with a value of 8 is very light, two steps down from white.

Chroma describes how strong or weak a color is. The color red with a chroma of 2 is a warm neutral, a chroma of 14 describes a brilliant red.

So a Munsell color notation for caucasion skin tone in the light might be described like this: YR8/4. This means the hue is yellow-red (orange) the value is 8 (very light) and the chroma is 4 (relatively weak). Reilly uses these notations through-out so it is important to be familiar with them. A premise of the Munsell system is to get us away from terms like Banana Yellow or Lime Green, and offer a more specific method of describing color, and a common language through which to describe it.

Further study of the Munsell system is suggested. There are lots of informative websites you can explore. A simple but informative guide can be found at  The Munsell Color System - Color Models - Technical Guides

For your bookshelf: MUNSELL, A Grammer of Color by Albert H. Munsell and Faber Birren, ISBN 0442255764

© John Ennis 2010

Next topic: The Reilly Palette: The Reilly Neutrals