Project 1 – Exercise 3: Broken or tertiary colors

Broken and tertiary colours = ‘Produced by the mixture of secondary colours, tertiary colours are often very dull and tend to be variations of greys and browns.‘ (Oxford Art Online).


Make a scale between orange red and green blue with consistent tonal values. Mid point should be grey

For this range I wanted to understand what red-orange and green-blue means regarding the mixing of tertiary colours.

I started with:

a) Using my defined primary yellow, red, and blue from Ex2. Mixing red-orange (mid range between yellow and red) and a green-blue (mid range between yellow and blue)

=> The red-orange turns into olive green hues with a touch of brown in mid-scale.

I found that the green-blue was rather too green and decided to do another scale with a stronger blue hue by mixing more of my primary blue into it:

b) Same as a) but with a more blue hue (between midpoint of the yellow-blue scale and the blue end)

=> The two colors are one farther away from each other (color wheel) and the mid hues become more brownish and at an earlier stage.

Now I was wondering what would happen if I choose new primaries than selected in Ex2 with the purpose to give both a stronger hue and by that more chroma: more saturated red orange and green-blue. I believed this would make the mixed tertiary colors different from a) and b). But I was not sure in which direction.

c) New colours:  Red-orange mixed from Cd yellow med (orange hue) and Cd red med (yellow hue). Green-Blue mixed from Cerulean blue (green hue) and a bit of Azo Yellow (green hue).

=> The purest of the three scales, more chroma even in the olive greenish hues towards the blue end of the scale.

=> Scale b) is the most desaturated scale and scale c) the most saturated one from all three.


Ex3 - Tertiary or broken colours_Stefan513593_Page_1

With these three scales laid out I continued to make scales with consistent tonal values:

=> Especially with scale b) the olive greens and browns with a green hue became more distinct with a slight drift into grey. Scale a) remained with green hues. Scale c) had some grey tones towards the blue end.  I am surprised that scale a) did not make stronger browns when mixed with white. Also I am surprised how intense the mixed colors in scale c) still are. Is the orange still too yellow and by that close to the blue?

Ex3 - Tertiary or broken colours_Stefan513593_Page_2


Make a careful graded scale between a pair of secondary colours (orange to violet or green to orange or violet to green) with consistent tonal values.

For this I decided to experiment also with my tube colors:
– scale d): orange and violet
– scale e): emerald green and violet
– scale f): sap green and violet


Ex3 - Tertiary or broken colours_Stefan513593_Page_3

=> Orange and violet makes warm brown tones. Emeral green (blue hue) and violet do not produce brown or grey tones. My reasoning would be that both colors are too close to each other on the color wheel. Sap green (already desaturated) as a good secondary color and violet makes cold grey tones.


  • Red-orange and a green-blue makes olive green, brownish greens, and green-browns
  • I can adjust the hue of the tertiary colors by adjusting either the chroma of the secondary colors or by modulating the distance of the secondary colors on the color wheel.
  • The range of tertiary or broken colors mixed from secondary colors depends on the saturation / chroma of the secondary color. The more desaturated the secondary colors (e.g. Sap green) the more greyish or brownish the mid hues.
  • When mixing certain secondary color that are too close to each other, the mixed colors are not broken (e.g. emerald green and violet)
  • With more practice I felt more comfortable with mixing colors, achieving consistent tonal values and be more effective in my working method with wasting less paint.
  • Overall, I am not satisfied with Photoshop ‘desaturation’ filter, my own perception of tonal values seems to be different. I am wondering how other would perceive those value scales. I perceive especially the blues as darker (scale d) and  the right of scale e) seems for me lighter than Photoshop wants to tell me. I think in the future I will trust more my eye perception with more practice.


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