Gamut Masking Exercises

I finally had some time to work on gamut masking. The principle is simple: take a color wheel (In my case a printed out YURMBY wheel), cut a shape our of a piece of paper, and overlay it on the wheel. The visible area is what is called a Color Gamut, containing all of the possible colors you can mix within the shape.
The most common shape is a triangle, which makes it easy to get a decent variety and have a good amount of color choices within the range.

The technique for Gamut Masking is well explained in various posts by James Gurney (I believe he kind of invented this method):
Gamut Masking at Gurney Journey

After masking out a triangle, the goal is mixing the colors you have at each vertex, called Subjective Primaries. Additionally, Subjective Secondaries (that is, colors found on each side’s midpoint) can be mixed, to further save time when painting.

Premixing is really time consuming, at least for me, being a rookie. Still, it does save a huge amount of time when painting later on. Here are my attempts:

Warm Gamut

Gamut Mask Warm


This was my first mask, pale pinks and greens, strong yellows. I actually grabbed this from Richard Robinson’s Interactive Gamut Mask Tool. But I mirrored it horizontally when printing out, as I prefer having warm colors on the right hand side.

Gamut Mask Warm Palette

I then matched the color at each end. Starting from the top left, the third yellow, the fourth pink, the third green. Then, I expanded these into 5 different values to make Color Strings. I skipped the secondaries, and painted the next swatch.

Gamut Mask Warm Swatches


Lastly, I applied it to my test landscape.


Gamut Mask Warm TestNot having any blue, I had to rely on grays to keep balance in the scheme. I am quite happy with the result, although it looks a bit muddy. Pinky shadows help green look greener (which might as well look too starking in the context, and might have been looking better if a good deal duller)

Cool Gamut

I then swapped the triangle the opposite way, and using the same complementary pink/green, I basically replaced yellow with blue. Kind of challenging.

Gamut Mask Cool Gamut Mask Cool Palette


I ended up with my blue (ultramarine plus white only) being way too washed out/ Blue having the top chroma at its lowest value, I used the out-of-the tube one for my darkest tone, and killed saturation by adding white.

Gamut Mask Cool Swatches


The resulting swatch sees blue being way inside the wheel, more than I really wanted, but I guess it’s no use with blues on higher values.

Gamut Mask Cool Test

Painting a landscape is far more complex without yellow, than without green. This type of gamut gives a very cold look to the picture, making it look like a frozen, lifeless landscape.
Here is a final comparison between the two
Warm and Cool Gamut Tests



Ths kind of landscape might in any case not be ideal for testing out gamuts, as it lacks enough hue variety in the high chroma range.


Experiments with a limited palette

Over the last few days I tried experimenting different limited palettes on the same painting. I did it as part of the course on Mastering Color by Richard Robinson, and grabbed the following image (part of one of his workshops) as reference:
New Zealand Landscape

I first made a black and white study to try to define lights and darks, then moved to a few limited palettes (and I admit the transition is more painful than it seems!).
All studies are about 6.5 cm wide. I wanted to push the middle mountain back in the distance so I also made it lighter and bluer.
Yellow Ochre + Burnt Sienna + Ultramarine Blue + White
Limited Palette NZ 1I felt too limited by the absence of a strong light color, so I switched my yellow to a Cadmium Yellow.

Limited Palette NZ 2

In the first one, I realized the middle distance mountain and tree line were way too gray, so I tuned up chroma. However, I tried getting it so green that I lowered value as well, making it look closer (#2) and odd. I then painted it all again and was quite pleased with the third one. Still, despite being the better of all tests (in my opinion), the middle distance mountain still has something wrong. Whilst the the light color is acceptable, the shade is too saturated and way too light (taking off color makes it vanish into the rest of the mountain. The scheme is nice as it’s an almost complementary orange/blue.
Gamut Test on Limited Palette

Being undecided on the warm/cool choices, I painted a study using only Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine plus white:

WarmCool Exercise 1


Yes, it makes no sense. However, by taking away any possible green I noticed I got less scared on mixing decisions and placements. Not being distracted by trying to get the color I saw, I purely focused on value (kind of difficult in this case for me to get the hang of) and warm/cool hues.
I used the midpoint grayish pink between red and blue as my neutral, red/pink for the warm, blue for the cool. It really helped me getting the feeling of which zones I can paint cool, and which warm, in my final painting.

Lastly, I added Lemon Yellow (ugh, I don’t really like it) to Alizarin and Ultramarine:
Limited Palette NZ last

The first one is really fiddled, I even scraped some colors off with the palette knife and tried again. Apart from that, it seems fairly harmonious. I was unsure about the dark brown of the tree shadow.
Limited Palette in Oils NZ Really Last
The photo here washed out my colors a bit. In any case, I was unsatisfied of the muddy look of the top one, because the shadow is way too brown and lacks the green’s complementary, purple. Therefore, I went for an almost pure Alizarin in the last (bottom) one. I am happier with the result. I also tried making the tree darker and could use a duller green, closer to the reference, thanks to the dark purple.

All in all, I still prefer the Cadmium Yellow one to this. I also went too high in chroma for the green, as Lemon Yellow heads way towards the cold spectrum. I should really get a better Cadmium Yellow Light to use in this painting.

Next up: Gamut Masking!