A Guide to Colour Temperature in Pastel Painting

written by Sophie | Beginners, Pastel

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Colour Temperature is an important concept for painters. Once we learn to see the temperature of colours we can make our paintings look much more realistic and lively. Now we probably all know that red is warm and blue is a cool colour, but how do you actually see that in your still life or landscape, let alone in someone’s face? 

In the video below I will explain what colour temperature is, and how to see it in your subject matter. You will see that in some cases it is really simple, but often it is less so.

The one thing to look out for, when you are not sure about the temperature of a colour, is the colours around it. Always compare: is this area here warmer or cooler than that area there? You can compare it to any other area in your subject matter, but not to anything outside your subject matter.

Check the colour temperature of the left cheek in your model, with the colour temperature of the right cheek - in your model. Do not compare the colour temperature of your subject matter with anything else - only work within your image. 

Soon, but with some practice, you’ll start to see blues and greens, yellow and reds in white objects, skin tones and green shrubs, I promise!

Watch the video below to get you going:

This video is an extract from a lesson in The Pastel Place. In the complete lesson there will be more examples and an assignment for you to work on colour temperature yourself. Why not check out The Pastel Place and see if it is your kind of place?

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  1. Color temps. I will soon have an abundance of soft pastels – I need to learn-about TEMPERATURE! how to tell the difference – ((I'm afraid I'm about to dump 1000 pastels in a pile never again to know which is warm vs cool). And when to use which. And more about relationship theory -++ will your school teach me all these things?
    John Robert

    1. Yes and more! We mention colour temperature regularly in the bigger courses and there are a couple of tutorials specifically about it! In very simple terms it is not difficult: warm colours are reds, yellows etc and cool colours are blues greens. Of course some blues are warmer than other blues so it is always dependent on what else is there. Come join the school to practice!

  2. First: I hate teasers. I know why they’re used. I get it. I still hate them.
    Second: I LOVED the Pastel Color Temperature Teaser!
    Thanks, I think. (I did sign up for the newsletter and, moreover, to follow you on Twitter! So, all humor aside, thanks.)

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