Painting Tip r Tool

Q: How do I paint realistic shadows? At 10:30 in ‘Plein Air Painting Indiana White River Fast Motion w/Voice Over Instruction’ you start to darken up the shadow parts on the right side. I see a sliver of the real thing in between the painting and it’s clearly black/dark green but you use a purple/magenta mix.

Why is that? Is it because purple is the reflective shadow color of green?

It works great, I’m just curious on how to think about it when I paint.


A: Great question!

Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson Permanent are the base for my deepest dark values. After those I modify the color by degrees based on whether the shadow is warmer or cooler.

With the shadow under the trees along the right river bank, the shadow is cooler as it comes out into the river because it is a direct cast shadow on a warm-light (the sun) day, so I add more blues (ultramarine or phthalo blue) or greens (phthalo green) to the shadow color.

As the shadow approaches the base of the trees it gets warmer because it’s affected more by ambient light than direct light and ambient light is generally cooler (like north light), so I add warmer colors to the mix like transparent oxide red or a touch of cad red medium – maybe even sap green (warmer green than phthalo).

Complimentary colors and warm/cool color temps are fun to play with, and the warmer reds in the shadow color works well with the cooler green foliage placed on top.

Want to enjoy the full Plein Air Training?

Click HERE to learn more about the East Coast Plein Air Training – it includes the Indiana River mentioned in this post as well as training from 3 other beautiful locations!


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