The joys of mixing virtual colors

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A work in progress by MC

One of the many joys of painting, even the virtual, digital kind that I do, is the emergence of completely unexpected hues as one mixes colors. The science of colors and the way our eyes perceive it has always fascinated me.

This morning while doing my ritual painting using my favorite Microsoft app, the unusually brilliant Fresh Paint*, I was yet again struck by how the science of colors is so unpredictable. The base colors in the work in progress above are shades of blue, pure black black and orange-yellow. As I kept stroking the orange-yellow on the blue background all of sudden a streak of pink materialized.(See the detail below).

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I could not tell you with certainty but I suspect it is the orange-yellow being rubbed too much against the blue that caused that pink streak. I find working on virtual colors both magical and calming.

When it comes to perceiving colors we can only infer that we all generally do it the same way. Most of us would see the colors in the painting here or for that matter colors anywhere for what they are. Except for those who have the condition of color blindness most of us understand basic colors rather almost exactly in a similar fashion. This is a personal inference and not a scientific assertion.  It is only when it comes to subtle shades and hues do we run into disagreements. Even discounting for that I am sure you can see the pink streak in the detail above. Since I am on the subject of Fresh Paint it might be useful to republish my post that I wrote about it last year. Here it is:

In pursuing my fledgling career as a digital painter, I have tried many apps but the one that comes the closest to recreating the tactile feel of actual painting is Microsoft’s Fresh Paint.

It is a surprisingly versatile app that reasonably replicates the experience of actually painting without the attendant mess of a studio. Of course, real painters may consider my observation infra dig. Fresh Paint works on Windows 8 and is designed for users 12 and above. Although Microsoft does not say so explicitly, the target audience is meant to be in much a younger demographic than what I happen to be in.

Until recently, I made considerable use of the free online photo editor and paint tool Pixlr but since having discovered Fresh Paint I have almost completely switched over. Of course, Pixlr has functions that Fresh Paint does not. I find the two complimentary.

One of the joys of Fresh Paint is that the texture of the various paints and movements of the various brushes do feel like the real ones. In particular, its choice of twelve different kinds of canvas and paper is quite inventive. It also offers a wide range of background colors as well as the ability to use images as backdrops. Another cool feature is that it lets you instantly dry your paint to help you avoid smudging. The choice is entirely yours whether you want to create down layers of paints, each dried before the next one is laid on.

I remember a long time ago how excited Maqbool Fida Husain or simply Husain, arguably one of India’s greatest modern masters, was at having discovered the paint tool in Apple computer. Although he did not quite use it as much as it might have seemed when he first discovered it, he was excited about the possibilities. A couple of decades later comes this brand new tool which does a terrific job of capturing many aspects of actual painting without the spills and the smears. As I said earlier, real painters would argue that the spills and the smears are the very essence of a genuine artist’s life. I would not venture to contest that view but that should hardly prevent me from praising this app.

In the past few weeks, I find that my strokes and lines have become more controlled and defined despite the use of a wireless mouse. I suppose this app works well on touchscreen computers and tablets but I don’t have one. The friction between the mouse and mouse pad makes this app tactile in a way I like.

While using this app I am reminded of the debate over actual film versus digital that filmmakers engage in. There are many who swear by film because digital does not have the texture and grain of physical film. That is quite true, although purely as a technological advance one must unreservedly welcome digital filmmaking. Digital filmmaking has reached a level where it is no longer possible for an ordinary viewer to make a distinction between the two. Digital painting has not yet advanced so much but Fresh paint is a pretty good step in the direction. Like anything digital one of the major advantages of this app is the ability to do over as many times as you please without wasting paint, canvas and labor.

I am not a purist when it comes to experimenting with technology even though I am mindful of the strengths of traditional ways of doing things. That said one has to welcome the disruptive nature of technology. I am sure when film was introduced it was also seen as a major disruption. To make sure that I can do on actual canvas what I do on Fresh Paint canvas, I frequently draw and paint on a scratch pad. At some point soon I will create canvases of my many digital images. Until then, I am perfectly content with apps such as Fresh Paint and Pixlr.

* No, Microsoft has not paid me to write this post. There is not enough money in the world to make me write something I do not wish to write.

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About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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