The Color Orange: Hot, Fast and Fun

By Dan in Art Tutorials > Color Theory

The color orange

Orange is one of three secondary colors along with green and purple. Its traditional complementary color is blue, which sits opposite it on the painter’s color wheel.

Lotus Elise

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What orange means to us psychologically:

The color orange is a visually dominant color, mixing the brightness of yellow with the power of red. A truly vivid orange is not a color that relaxes people. Instead, it energizes some and distracts others.

Orange is the “hottest” color, due to its association with the sun and the color of flame.

In addition, Western culture has long considered tanned (more orange) skin as healthy, attractive skin—and although we know now that constant tanning isn‘t good for you in the long run, there are still some “healthy,” or “physically fit” connotations that go along with the color orange.

Is orange a “girl color” or “boy color?”

Orange typically appeals more to men than women, and especially more to younger men. It’s viewed as a bold (even brash) and is often the color of fast cars and motorcycles, which also hold a wide appeal to the young male demographic.

Orange in society:

Harley-DavidsonAnd while we’re on the subject of motorcycles, there’s one famous orange logo that can be found on lots of them: the Harley-Davidson brand trademark.

Orange is popular around October as a Halloween color due to pumpkins and Jack-O-Lanterns.

And of course, the color orange is closely linked with the popular orange-colored citrus fruit.

If you’re interested, here’s a painting tutorial demonstrating how to make orange paint color in order to paint an orange. Sounds a little circular, eh? Well, there’s no “chicken or the egg” dilemma there—the fruit came first, and only later was its name used to describe a specific color as well.

Pigments found in orange paint:

Cadmium is a popular orange pigment, but Azo and Copper compounds are used too. More neutral oranges (tan and brown) are often made from Ochre, Iron Oxide, and other earth pigments.

The Color Orange

Common orange oil paints:

Cadmium Orange is one, of course, but Cadmium Yellow looks fairly orange right out of the tube as well. Many painters create the exact orange hues they need by mixing red and yellow.

If you’re interested you can read more about mixing orange and other colors in my color mixing tutorial.

Famous orange paintings:

To wrap it all up, here’s perhaps one of the most beautiful orange paintings in the world, Lord Frederic Leighton’s Flaming June.

Flaming June by Frederic Leighton

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