Thursday, May 5, 2022

Color Wheel Masking Basics

Color wheel masking helps you create new color schemes that feel complete but are really limited.

The mask reveals only the colors we want in the picture and leaves out the colors that are absent. That selection is called a "gamut." Consciously leaving out sectors of the color wheel is what produces interesting and subjective color environments.


You can create these subjective gamuts digitally or with painted colors. Thinking about color in this way is especially helpful if you're creating an animated film, an illustrated storybook, or a graphic novel.

The mask can also be a small triangle in one part of the wheel. Here I’ve taken two paintings from Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara and mapped out their color schemes by digitally defining a shape on the wheel and ghosting the rest.

The swamp scene has dull yellow-greens and browns (browns are really dull oranges). The colors can be contained in the small triangle.

I explain and demo this idea in my book Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter.


Abrown said...

Hi James,

The open-source paint program "Krita" features a "gamut mask" option in their color selector.
Details of the tool are provided in the documentation here:

The user can choose from a variety of built-in mask shapes, or make their own.

vatch said...

hi James, i bought your book twice, the first time, i had to sell it, and the second time i bought it, it doesn´t come with the usefull poster, there is anyway that we can get that poster, is very handy. greetings.

Virginia Rinkel said...

Hi James, I too bought your book a couple years ago, and I didn't get the useful poster either. Is there a poster available. I would really like to get one. Thank you.

James Gurney said...

When the book was released 12 years ago, there was a small edition of those posters released for the book convention. They didn't come with the books as a normal thing.