Since the colors are never what they look like, It’s useful to understand the color in two ways : the RELATIVE color and the ABSOLUTE color.
The Relative color is the color as it is seen, according to the perception of the eye and the translation from the brain to the mind.
The Absolute color is the color as it is, in reality.
This is part of the colors relationship, and the contrast of the colors.
To be able to get the right relative color (meaning without any false notes), it’s crucial to know what its absolute color really is.
For example, the absolute color of grey is very often the relative complementary color of its surrounding color.
Depending of the kind of picture and depending of your color’s intentions (that is off special effect or narrative effect),
using an absolute complementary (that is, for the previous e.g, a true blue) in direct contact to its surrounding colors may easily create
a so much strong contrast that the mind will perceive it as a false note, then causing a global unbalance on all other colors in the image.
E.g, here is the page 05 from “Detectives” vol.02 (Hanna/Sure/Lou, ©Delcourt editions)
The “grey” panels 05 and 09 have a cold vibration, almost blue, because they are in a direct relationship within a yellow hot tan.
This two panels, in minority, are also secondary in the narration of the page.
Using a true absolute blue would reverse this narrative order because the color contrast would became so much strong that they would became the primary focal point of the page.
Let us look a little closer at the 3rd strip.
The mind read the left panel as cold, in a subtle blue. The shirts are read as white, and the bottles of champagne as greenish…
…but by isolating the absolute colors, in comparison with a Titanium white, none of this previously mentioned relatives colors exist in this picture.
…And if they were, the balance of the colors would be broken, and the falses notes would be made.
Notice how the eye now read differently the picture, it can’t stop looking at those white shirts and then those bottles.
It almost forget to look at the balloons and the characters. ( i’ll talk about the narration through the contrast of colors later, in another post)
It is the same for the values.
A relative value defines itself compared with its surrounding values.
Let’s look back at our 3rd strip.
Watch the contrast between the shirts, and the light jacket in the front, how they seem to be so much lighter in comparison with the other clothes.
When in reality, if we compare them to each other, the difference became a lot more subtle than it seemed to be.
This is a side effect of the relative color.
The mind analyzes et translates a color based on its database stocked in its memory, trying to identify the color in the most simple and efficient way possible.
The shirt itself is light indeed, and white. But it’s simply its “name”. Its “classification”, its “identity” (see the flat step of my quick step by step).
What we’ll ask in a store.
In reality, this shirt is not white, and not much lighter than the light face of the grey jacket or the blue shirt.
But for our mind, white means light. Lighter than everything.
However, a white shirt in shadow is often darker than a back shirt in the light, whatever the mind is saying.
So, compare, isolate, compare, isolate, compare, always.
You can change your “mind database” with some practice.
By using a paper sheet with holes to isolate outside colors. ( grey paper is best)
Or by opening some pictures in a software and use the color-picker to learn what is going on with the color relationship.
Testing yourself to find out the absolute color of your surrounding whenever you can.
Then, colorisation will become much easier, and like a musician able to reproduce a song he heard a the first try,
you’ll develop the Golden eye.