Monday, January 3, 2011

Color-aid -- A Terrific Art Tool

Today, my box of Color-Aid papers is my most important tool for understanding and solving specific color quandaries. While the Color-Aid sets come in many different configurations at many different price points, from small color chips to full sheets of color, my set consists of 314 colors that are 3 x 4.5 inches.

You can see the box of papers and a small section of these color chips in the photo on the right. Notice that some of the colors - Yellow and Green- are bright with no hint of white or black. These are fully saturated hues. Then for yellow and green there are several color chips
with different degrees of white in them. The oranges are mainly tints with some pastels (tones)- with both black and white mixed in with the hue.

What is so useful about the Color Aid papers is that for each hue there are systematic tints, shades and tones of the colors and the colors used to mix the color are named on the back. For instance, R-T2= red, tint two. Which means that the color is the second lightest tint of red. And another example is : YGw-P4-1. This is a tone or pastel that is four shades of darkness, one level of tint, and a warm yellow-green.
Please note that these are just a small sample of the yellows, greens and oranges in the box.

While this system may initially seem complicated, it is easy to use. I frequently consult the papers to determine an existing color that is beyond what my eye can understand to check what hue, and amount of black and or white make up the color. For instance, I was trying to duplicate the color of ripe persimmons and could not figure out what colors to use. I went through the pack of color papers and found the closest color chip. Low and behold it was a pastel (tone) of red. The combination of black and white with the red was fooling me.

I often work with complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel), and I could not figure out the complement until I could figure out the original. Other special effects can be achieved by putting different colors next to each other. Joen Wolfrom's book elaborates on some of these. Working with the pack of color chips makes the choices to achieve special effects much easier.

Your local art store may have these available or you can contact: Color Aid Corp. 38 Lafayette St. Hudson Falls, NY 12839 9212)673-500

Dear Reader, please let me know if this review has been helpful.
This concludes my review of books and tools that I use on color.

My next series will be on depth perception for both the realistic artist and the abstract artist.

Thanks for reading.



  1. Hi Nancy,
    I have a set of color aid cards mounted on portfolio pages which makes them easy to refer to. On the other hand, a friend of mine stores them randomly in a card file and likes the random combinations that tumble out. Whatever works!

  2. Loreen, I have mine in the original box. Sometimes they are ordered, sometimes not. I love playing with them. So they change.

    Thanks for reading and sharing.

  3. Great tip for choosing colors. I've also ordered a Wolfrom book you discussed, so this has been a helpful series for me. Thanks!

  4. Jeanne, thanks for reading and the supportive comment. Nancy