Pastel Tutorial: #6

Rectangular Tetrad: Four choices for a more complex color composition.  We are looking at a still life with several potential key color choices. Your “key” will determine the harmony. Often, the key is subjective, or just very obvious.  Usually, the key is what attracts you first. In this case, the red might be most attractive. I decide on yellow because I am entranced by the yellow flesh of the red potato…subjective.


A tetrad refers to four. On the back of the wheel see two potential tetradic harmonies; square and rectangular. We’ll go with the rectangular: yellow (key), green, violet and red. I picked this one because it has the colors I see: yellow, red, and violet but not much green. The green will come in handy though. You won’t use all of the colors equally in a tetradic harmony.



Pick sticks before commencing.  This ensures a good value range and hue selection. Eventually you won’t need to be so analytical.  After practice and familiarization, color will become intuitive/internalized. I am working on Arches 160 lb. watercolor paper.


Tone the paper. Yellow is my key but there is not a lot of local yellow in the potatoes so it won’t overpower the piece. Mix tones and tints to find just the right ground color.


Draw in the contours of the objects. Start with a mid value, mid tone of a contrasting temperature to the yellow ground hue.


From this go darker. Because the mid-tones are already somewhat placed, it’s easier to gauge darkness.


Now, on to the next color, red.  Here see spectral red and a tone of red.


At this point stop and blend a little. There is still a lot more layering to be done and I know I don’t want yellow showing through everywhere. Close it out with a q-tip where necessary.


Looking at the still life I SEE NO GREEN…but I know green is the complement of red so I’ll use it to dull the red…Into it a bit and green becomes apparent in other areas like the yellow potato and the mirror top. Green is cool in this harmony so its’ tints and tones act to cool and dull.


Shade of green and spectral green.


At last, time to add tints! Yellow, tint of yellow, tint of green, tint of violet.



After tints, check value relationships. Some areas need to be darkened. I return to a shade of violet and red.

Goal accomplished, I spray the piece to fix it and loose some of the light pastel delicacy.  Let it sit for a bit before continuing.



  • Tetrad
  • Rectangular Tetrad
  • Key Color
  • Ground

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s