Color Mixing Basics

The Primary and Secondary colors
The Quick Color Picker
The Color Compact

The RGB Controls
The RGB2 Controls
The Color Box controls
The Color Triangle
The Color Wheel
The Palette Mixer
The Color Harmony Panel

The Color Well
Build a Well
The Paint Mixer
The RYB (Red, yellow, blue) Mixer
The System's Color Dialog Box
What is a Histogram?

Exploring Color

Howler supports a huge number of color picking tools. Having a good understanding of color is fundamental to art, and Howler is equipped with tools to help explore color and to make it easy to select the right ones for the job.

Color mixing in PD Pro is geared toward ease of use for artists who switch colors extremely often, and mix their own colors on the fly as they work. Color mixing is out in the open where you can get to it quickly, not hidden away in a dialog box, and you have your choice of mixers to suit your needs. There are several color models to pick from. RGB is practically ubiquitous in computer graphics, however a second RGB model allows sweep style editing. There's also a color wheel, HSV style controls, an RYB (Red, Yellow, Blue) tool and paint mixer for traditional artists. Also supplied is a color harmony tool that helps pick complementary and analogous colors, as well as split complements and triad colors. You'll recognize these ideas if you've spend any time in art school.

The Primary and Secondary Colors

You have two mouse buttons, and two painting colors. Convenient!

"painting with the right mouse button can be considered erasing"

The primary and secondary colors generally work with the left and right mouse buttons, respectively. Painting with the left mouse button uses the primary color, while painting with the right mouse button uses the secondary color. The secondary color is also the color used for clearing and erasing, so painting with the right mouse button can be considered erasing unless special paint modes are in use.

When you clear an image, the secondary color is used to fill it. When you pick up a custom brush, the secondary color, if present in the image, generally becomes transparent. When you pick up a custom brush with the right mouse button, the underlying area is cleared to the secondary color. When you create a brush out of text, the transparent area is internally the secondary color.

Use of a tablet's eraser will also let you paint with the secondary color, effectively becoming an eraser.

Note, it is possible to change your secondary color after you have cleared an image, so it is just as easy to paint with a color that is not the 'background' color.

To swap the primary and secondary color just, press the little button underneath the two color boxes on the tool panel.

The Quick Color Picker

Pressing the space-bar gives you rapid access to a color picker we call the “Quick color picker.”

Sometimes when you are involved on a piece of art, it is a hassle to move your cursor over to the sidebar every time you need to change colors. This may be for every brush stroke, so it can become tedious very quickly.

To solve this problem, the Quick Color Picker opens directly under your cursor. Once you have selected your desired color, it will disappear, and you can go on with your work.

Not only that, but at the bottom of the control is a tool bin where you can store up to 4 media presets, so you can switch between them very rapidly. To save a media to the bin, right click on the desired spot to save it. To recall the media, left click on it. It's as simple as that!

Pigment Profiles

The tiny arrow at the top-right of the Quick Color Picker (This option is also available from the color tab on the sidebar) is a drop-down control with some extra options.

This menu gives you quick access to available pigment profiles. They let you limit your palette to a smaller set of colors.

Say an artists set of watercolor paints included 6 pigments: ultramarine blue, pthalo blue, rose madder, cadmium red, cadmium yellow, and lemon yellow.

These pigments could mix a wide variety of colors, and represent a pretty good section of the full color-spectrum. However, some hues and values may be still missing from this given palette. A very bright magenta, for example, would be missing, as well as a very intense orange, and perhaps some shades of green wouldn't be well represented. This isn't a big problem, as artists have been doing brilliant work for centuries despite these limitations...

In fact, art thrives on limited palettes, and they can help an artist focus the mood and feel of a painting.

Pigment Profiles attempts to simulate an artists limited palette by presenting a color model that is generated from a limited number of colors based on real-world pigments.

A Pigment Profile editor is available. With it, you can make your own profiles from a set of named pigments, which are based on real-world color pigments.

To create a profile, drag and drop the pigments from the list onto the squares around the color circle on the editor. Be sure to save your profile and give it a name when your done editing it.

The Color Compact

This panel on the sidebar is very small and uses very little screen pace, but lets you pick a large number of colors from the spectrum. Represented are Hue and lightness. You can single click on a color to pick it, or you can drag the mouse around as you search for just the right color. Pick your primary color with the left mouse button, and your secondary color with the right.

Saturation at 100%

Saturation at 50%

Saturation at 0%

It is also possible to change the saturation component of the color model. The arrow to the left of the control lets you do this.

The RGB Controls

The Color tab on the sidebar is divided into 7 sub-tabs. The first is the RGB tab. The RGB panel let you directly alter the red, green, and blue components of a color. In Howler, and often in computer graphics in general, colors are represented internally by an RGB model.
In addition to the sliders, you can also enter RGB values in the text boxes on the side.

RGB mixing basics

Red + green = yellow
Red + blue = magenta (a bright purple)
Green + blue = cyan (a bright blue green)

Dark red + a little green = brown
Blue + some green and little red = sky blue

The RGB2 Controls

The second sub-tab under Color on the sidebar, the RGB2 panel, offer a different version of the RGB controls. In this set of controls, you can sweep the mouse freely across any or all of the sliders in one stroke, making it easier to mix subdued colors. To the right is also an area for selecting gray levels.

Sweep the mouse across this control to mix muted colors very intuitively.

For example, you could swipe your mouse across the control, mixing this baby blue.

As with other controls, you can use the Left mouse button to select the primary color, and the Right mouse button to select the secondary color

The Color Box Controls

The Box panel is a larger version on the .Color Compact tab on the sidebar.

Much like the Color Compact, the Color Box lets you alter the saturation via the arrow on the right. Use the left mouse button to pick a primary color, and the right mouse button to pick a secondary color.

The Color Triangle

The color triangle presents a single hue, with all possible value and saturation levels for that hue. The right side point of the triangle represents the hue in its pure form. The bottom point represents the lowest possible value and saturation, and the upper point represents the lightest possible value and saturation..

Hue is The property of colors by which they are perceived, ranging through red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, and magenta. Hue is determined by the wavelength of light.

The 360 degrees of hue (all possible hues) are represented by a solid bar on the right.

This panel is most useful when you want to work with a single hue, but want to readily change its value and saturation components in a simple and intuitive way.

The Color Wheel

The color wheel presents the spectrum of all possible hues as a 360 degree wheel. This is very familiar to those who have used color wheels from an art store.

The color triangle presents a single hue, with all possible value and saturation levels for that hue. The right side point of the triangle represents the hue in its pure form. The bottom point represents the lowest possible value and saturation, and the upper point represents the lightest possible value and saturation.

Hue is The property of colors by which they are perceived, ranging through red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, and magenta. Hue is determined by the wavelength of light.

This panel is perhaps the most intuitive method for selecting colors for many computer artists. Selecting hue from a 360 circle is very natural, and being able to select value and saturation variations of the same hue is vary helpful at the same time. Also, all possible(give or take) colors in the RGB color model can be selected, unlike the color box models (which represent hues well, but there's a trade-off in limited value and saturation levels)

The only draw-back of this panel is that it may require more than one click to select a color with both a unique hue, and a unique saturation and value level. This can a good thing at times, but that's why we have different color pickers in the first place.

The Palette Mixer

The Palette mixer simulates a traditional palette board were color pigments can be mixed into new colors.

On the palette mixing panel, there are several tools to work with. There is an eyedropper (a turkey baster in Howler parlance,) a paintbrush for mixing new colors, an undo button (one level of undo) and a clear button.

There is also a slider for controlling the paintbrush size, and a drop-down menu with more options.

With the drop-down menu, you can load existing palettes, or save the one you are working on, or create a new palette from an existing custom brush. See the section on custom brushes to learn about them.

The Color Harmony Panel

The Color Harmony panel sub-item on the sidebar lets you pick colors, including analogous and complementary, triads, and split complements, in a way that is consistent with traditional artistic techniques.

First of all, the color model is presented in a hue-wheel. The range of hues are represented by the 360 degrees of the circle. Toward the middle of the circle, the color is blended to a neutral color. If you were mixing all colors from a box of paints, you would get a neutral color as well. This color can be light or dark, determined by the slider below, labeled Shade, tone, tint.


You may notice that in most computer programs, a color wheel generally is made from the primary of red, green, ,and blue. The secondary colors of Yellow, Cyan, and Magenta are blended from these as well.

However, in traditional art, colors are often blended from red, yellow, and blue. Secondary colors are orange, blue-green, and indigo.

We seem to have a very fundamental problem, as the computer model seems a little lopsided compared to the traditional model, or vise-verse.

To put things as simple as possible, picking a complementary color would be different on a computer color picker than it would be in on a traditional color wheel.

To solve this problem, Howler employs a very simple and elegant solution. We simply remap the color spectrum to user definable colors using Pigment Profiles. This effects only color picking, and not you image in any way.

See the section on Pigment Profiles for more information, but suffice it to say, we can now pick complementary colors in a way that is consistent with a traditional color wheel. Purple is now the complement of yellow, instead of blue, and so on. In fact, we can define exactly which colors are complementary.

The Color Wells and Color Related Tools

On the bottom of the tool panel is the color Well. You can place any color here you like for later use. You can use Drag and Drop to manage the colors here, as well as dragging to and from the primary and secondary colors. You can save a well when you're done with it.

As with other controls, you can use the Left mouse button to select the primary color, and the Right mouse button to select the secondary color

Clicking on the button at the bottom will let you load in a new color well. There are many presets available, but you can also add your own well file (.wl)
To do so, Right click on the mixer button on the bottom left. You will see a menu like this one
Select Save well...

You can build a gradient from the popular colors in an image.
Select the 'Build gradient from colors in the image...' option from the mixer menu.

The results will be fairly choppy, but you can smooth them out by holding the Smooth button on the gradient panel.

The result of the Smooth operation.

Picking Colors by name

Many programs will let you pick colors by name. Howler lets you pick colors, not by arbitrary names, but by the names of pigments you might find in an art store.

You can also automatically build your own well from the colors in a picture by using the 'Build palette from colors in image...' item.

This tool will find the popular colors in an image, and organize them into a well for you. You have several methods for sorting the color based on value, hue or saturation. Click “Ok” to keep the well it has generated, or cancel to restore your previous well.

Original image used to generate a well.

Note that you can continue to refine your palette using the built in copy and blend functions. The blend function creates a color ramp between the two colors you then select.

Using the Paint Mixer

The color mixer (or paint mixer because it resembles an artists palette) lets you mix colors like traditional paint.

The mixer has two modes, Pick , and Mix .

Using the pick tool, the mixer is simply used to pick colors on the palette.  Using the paint tool lets you mix new colors.

The slider lets you set the size of your 'brush' used to mix the paint. There is also an undo (with one level of undo) and a clear button when you want to start over. Click the menu button for more options.
From here, you can load in palettes (.mix) files that have been previously saved, or save the one you are working on.

The 'Use brush' option copies the current custom brush into the mixer in case you want to work with the natural tools inside of PD.  See the section on custom brushes for more information on how to select them.

RYB Mixing - The Red, Yellow, and Blue Mixer for Artists.

The Red, Yellow, Blue mixer is designed for traditional artists who are more familiar with mixing traditional paint.

The tool presents Red, Yellow, and Blue as the primary colors around the wheel.

Tint, Tone, and Shade are present as a slider that alters the value of the colors on the wheel.

Analogous colors, as well as complementary colors are at the bottom.

See more about the RYB mixer.

The wheel can be shown tiled, or smooth, or you can work with a more typical RGB wheel.

Changing the Tint, Tone, Shade effects the value of the wheel.

Analogous colors are colors that are closely related on the outside of the color wheel (related in hue)

Complementary colors are colors that are opposites on the color wheel. It must be stressed that mixing complementary colors always neutralizes the result. Mixing complimentary colors (or opposites) on a computer always results in gray. Mixing complementary colors of paint in the real world can result in gray, a brownish color, or a dark gray, bordering on black. This is because pigments are not pure colors and don't always produce perfect results.

The 'Show Triads' menu option lets you see the Triads of your color selection. Triads are similar to complementary colors in that they are useful in selecting a harmonious color scheme for your artwork. A triad is the 3 colors pointed to by a triangle on the color wheel. The Split complement is similar. It is the color you have selected, and two analogous colors of it's complement.

The System Color Dialog Box

On occasion you may want to use a system color, or enter color with Hue, Saturation, and Luminance components. For this, you can use the systems color picker dialog box. You can open it by right clicking on the mixer button, or from the Utility menu.

Another option is picking colors by hexadecimal value.

What is a Histogram?

A histogram is a useful tool for digital artists and photographers. It is a graph of the usage of light values.

The graph presents all the values from darkest (left side) to lightest (right side) and the vertical lines represent how often that particular value is used in an image.

The histogram, at a glance, can tell you how well value ranges are distributed throughout an image.

So, an ideal image may very well have the largest weight of vertical bars in the center of the histogram, and fall off toward both sides, with no empty space on either side.

In the case of a histogram with values that do not go all the way to either side, means that your image is not using the full dynamic range available to it. (meaning from 0 to 255 steps) A simple dynamic range compensation may do the trick, or you can manually stretch out the levels with a simple Value filter adjustment.

Before adjustment

A histogram with values weighted to the left side, means that an image has a large percentage of area that is very dark, and may need some adjustment. for example, a large area in the photograph may be hidden by shadows, and a gamma correction filter or curve adjustment could help lighten up those areas and bring out their details.

After adjustment

On the other hand, a histogram with a lot of light values (long vertical bars on the right side) may mean that too much of the image is “blown out” with too much light. Again, a curve adjustment may solve the problem.