Color Wheel and Issac Newton



Sir Issac Newton developed the Color Circle in 1666.

Newton set up a prism near his window, and projected a beautiful spectrum 22 feet onto the far wall.


Smithsonian prism


The prism can be used to split a narrow beam of white light into a spectrum. It can also be used to reverse the process. One way to do this is to produce a spectrum with a prism, and then blur it by rocking the prism. The prism is rocked by turning the crank.

The device above is in the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution.

His most useful idea for artists was his conceptual arrangement of colors around the circumference of a circle, which allowed the painters’ primaries (red, yellow, blue) to be arranged opposite their complementary colors (e.g. red opposite green)




Today the arrangement of colors around the Color Wheel is in correspondence with the wavelengths of light as opposed to hues, in accord with the original color circle of Isaac Newton.


Color Terminology

Primary Colors:



Those colors that cannot be created by mixing other colors. Red, Blue & Yellow.




Secondary Colors:




The colors you get when mixing two primaries. Orange, Purple & Green.




Tertiary colors:




The colors achieved by mixing primary and secondary hues.




Complementary Colors:




The colors located opposite each other on  a color wheel.





Analogous Colors:



analogous, color wheel


The colors located close together on a color wheel.


Color Relationships:


Color relationships can be displayed as a color wheel or a color triangle.




The painters color triangle consists of colors often used by a paint contractor. These are the colors we learn about as children. The primary colors of red, blue and yellow.



The color purple was associated with royalty because only aristocrats could afford the expensive pigment.


purple shirt "fear the purple"


During Roman times, the color  came from a dye made from the mucus glands of a tropical sea snail known as the Murex. The Latin name was purpura, which gave us the word purple. This discovery is attributed to the Phoenician god Heracles, the guardian deity of the city of Tyre. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean. One day his dog bit into a Murex shell and its mouth immediately turned purple. His companion, the beautiful nymph Tyrus, declared she would only sleep with the god if he dyed her a garment in the same shade. Heracles obliged and the famous Tyrian purple dye was born.

Tyrian purple was worth more than gold: a pound of it cost three times the yearly wage of a Roman baker.

murex shell from which purple dye was obtained

The Phoenicians were known in classical Greece and ancient Rome as traders in purple because of their monopoly on the precious dye of the Murex snail.  Major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean where the Murex was located.

It took 4 million crushed Murex shells to create one pound of pigment. The preferred method was to collect vast piles of shellfish and to allow them to decompose in the sun.

This color is the hardest  for the human eye to distinguish.

Samuel Jackson would only play Mace Windu in Star Wars if he had a purple lightsaber.

This is the color for epilepsy awareness because of it’s association with lavender, which is a traditional treatment for the disease.


Chalk Paint

Chalk paint has become very popular recently. It was created by an English painter named Annie Sloan in 1990.

Chalk paint is not chalkboard paint or paint with chalk added to it. What exactly is in it is a mystery to some extent. I could not obtain a data sheet on the product and, of course, an msds tells you very little about what’s in it. A quart has some weight to it so the solids content is high. What those solids are is anyone’s guess.

There are a lot of claims about chalk paint. Some true and some false. There are different manufacturers out there so I decided to test the original product; Annie Sloan’s paint.


annie sloan chalk paint


It has a beautiful matte finish and the choice of colors is nice. Unlike traditional paint, the different colors are obtained by mixing paint from the colors available. This is an interesting approach to developing a color. You can change the color without changing the consistency as you would by adding tint or pigment. I imagine you could change the color in the more traditional way (by adding tint) if you chose to do so. Here is an interesting site that offers a neat program to see how the various colors will look when you mix them together.

I have worked with chalk paint before. It was on a piece of painted furniture. It worked well and was easy to use.

This time around I decided to test some of the more extreme assertions. There are lots of “crazy” claims out there concerning chalk paint. That it will stick to glass, laminate, plastic, metal, floors….. That you will rarely, if ever, need to sand or prime. It sounds like a miracle product. I don’t think you have to be a paint contractor to know how difficult it is for a paint to adhere to glass or laminate.

I will start by saying that I wanted the claims to be true, but sadly they were not. I did not test the product on all the various substrates but I did on two. A stained and lacquered door and a piece of laminate. The lacquered door was lightly sanded and I brushed on one coat of chalk paint. After 24 hours the paint could be fingernailed off. Very weak adhesion. When trying to brush or roll some urethane on the door it would lift the chalk paint. The door was sprayed with 2 coats of lacquer and you could still fingernail off the paint.


stained and lacquered door with one coat chalk paint


Next was the laminate. It had no prep work other than cleaning it. It got one coat of chalk paint and the results were the same. On one side of the picture the paint was sealed with wax. On the other lacquer. The results were the same.


laminate with chalk paint and sealer


So what would work? Well, the doors were part of  a project for a customer, so we achieved the results she was looking for by mixing Break-Through (a Pittsburg Paint product) with about 20% floetrol to make it more manageable. We lightly sanded the doors and rolled them followed by back brushing with the grain. We then sprayed 2 coats of clear satin Break-Through. Great adhesion, great results!

I would recommend chalk paint for the neat effects and unique colors. You can achieve nice results with the product; however, you should keep in mind that this is not some miracle product that will stick to anything. Good results require good prep!



Why Painters Wear White

I am often asked why painters wear white or more specifically white pants.

White is the uniform of the professional painter and there are many theories why this is the case.
Many trades in the past and today have a standard color or uniform associated with them.

The 1900’s “Big Yank” blue chambray work shirt. Favored by the auto labor unions, which coined the term “blue Collar”. *
The Sweet-Orr & Co. blue pin stripe overalls worn by train engineers. *
The Brown Uniform of UPS.

A painter wearing white was actually a pretty good choice many years ago. Painters were around traditionally white products like plaster and spackle. White lead powder was mixed with paint paste to make paint. The mixing process produced large amounts of white dust. Whitewashed houses and fences were common.

why painters wear white painter guy


The first documented use of white pants as work dress comes from the early 1700’s.
“Sailors needed loose fitting clothing for moving around rigging comfortably, but it could not be something that would cause them to trip or get caught up in while moving around. Thus, sailors adopted three types of lower garments. First, and most widely worn, were slops. Available from the ship’s slop chest, these were loose fitting trousers, generally made out of white canvas or old sail cloth (heavy linen). **

The most popular fabric for sails through the mid-nineteenth century was finely woven linen made from flax. *** Light weight and very strong it made for great work clothes. It is believed that in the 17th and 18th century painters made their pants from the same strong canvas material.

In the 20th century as there was a push for organized labor unions the union painters began wearing white pants with a white shirt and black tie. This was a sign of solidarity to set themselves apart from the non-union colors of the blue and white painters.


painter guys


The white pants we wear on the job leaves little doubt as to who we are and what we are there to do. On any job-site big or small everyone can always pick out the professional painter. Wearing “whites” says a lot about your level of professionalism and customer service. How we look when we arrive on the job-site matters to consumers who take note of our appearance and conduct from the minute we arrive at their home or business. Wearing white is a tradition we continue at The Painting Company.

1. *
2. **
3. ***

Make any Room more Interesting

An accent wall can add excitement to any room. Accent walls are generally painted in a deeper, bolder color than a room’s walls and ceiling. This design technique can bring some definition to an otherwise featureless room, or it can enhance a focal point already present in a room, such as a fireplace or bay window.

Uniquely Yours

Although going with a darker color is the “norm”. This is an opportunity for you to express your own taste and personality. It is quite common for us to adjust a particular color on the job site making the color uniquely yours.

Feeling and personality

Accent walls suggest a particular feeling and personality. A vibrant bright wall might energize a room, while a softer shade might create a sense of tranquility. If you want to define a separate space within a room – a reading area, for example, or a sunny area – an accent wall can do the trick.

Basic color theory

color wheelWarm colors—orange, yellow, and red—tend to pull the wall towards the eye, which makes a space appear smaller.

If you decide to use a warm color on your accent wall, consider using a wall that can handle being foreshortened. A good place to use a warm accent wall is in a long, narrow room — by painting an end wall it will create a more balanced space.

Cool colors—green, blue, and purple—tend to pull the wall away from the eye, which makes a small room appear larger.

By using a cool color on an end wall or side wall in a room, you can make a small room appear larger, or make a skinny room appear wider.

An accent wall can make a large room feel cozier, or a small room more expansive. There are many reasons to create an accent wall, but the process isn’t quite as simple as it seems. Choosing the right wall is Important, as is selecting the right color. Painting an accent wall is the kind of project that provides a lot of return for little investment – as long as you do your homework.

Find a wall that stands out

Many people believe that the first wall you see when you enter a room is the best one to accent. The best accent wall is the wall that stands out in the room. It’s the wall you are drawn to when you enter the room. If you are unable to determine which wall stands out in your room, ask a friend or family member to walk into the room and let you know which wall seems to draw their attention.

Accent walls are often without doors or windows but I have found that the right color can also make a unique wall even more attractive. For example a wall with a fireplace in the middle of it can be perfectly framed with a bold color that reflects upon your decor. Accent walls are an area of decorating that blend perfectly with experimentation. There really are no hard rules in my opinion just general guidelines. Be bold and express yourself.

It is best to choose a wall that may already be a focal point, if one exists, like a fireplace wall. Accenting a wall in a room that already has a focal point can create confusion and weaken the aesthetics of the room. You don’t want two walls in a single room competing for the eye’s attention.


An accent wall’s color is meant to stand out from the remaining walls. There’s no reason, however, that the two colors can’t be related. A common practice is to paint the accent wall the same color as the primary walls, but two or three shades darker. A room’s existing furnishings may provide inspiration; throw pillows or drapes often suggest an accent color.