Making Colour at The National Gallery

Making Colour at The National Gallery

Posted 27 August 2014 by Jenny Cairns

Ever wondered why certain periods in time had distinct colours? Why is colour so important to everything we do? The National Gallery has the best exhibition on, Making Colour. This explores how colours were made, reviewing different processes and techniques used throughout history and gets you thinking about what impact this has on the creative industry nowadays.

Making ColourMaking Colour

The exhibition delves into colour and how painters used different substrates to achieve the effect they wanted. They investigate the costs, the era, why those colours were of significance and the processes used to achieve the paintings you see today. Giving you a real insight into the level of detail painters had gone into to achieve their masterpieces and how inquisitive man kind is when it comes to materials and process.

Making Colour ExhibitionThe Key Finishes to Print

Finishing is key to print and packaging that we see everyday – whether a gloss, matt or satin effect is chosen, it indicates something about that product. This is the same with painting. To achieve a gloss paint the painter would have had to mix in oil and to achieve the opposite they would mix in egg yolk, using different substrates such as crushed beetles or minerals like cinnabar and azurite. Making up their own distinct palettes of colour, like brands you see today.

Making Colour Exhibition at The National gallery

Embossing back then

Embossing and foiling was common in religious paintings. In order to achieve the emboss they would layer with muslin/material, coat the surface in special red mix and then foil block. In the picture above you can see various stages of this process. In some paintings they would create an entire base layer of gold and then paint over and scratch off to get the desired effect.

As with production today the fun is in the process, application and learning new techniques to achieve what you want, luckily there is a more varied palette available to designer and painters… so let’s make stuff.

Making Colour is on from 18thJune 2014–7th September 2014.

If you have already been then share a picture with us on Twitter @nirvanacph or Instagram @nirvanacph. What did you think of the exhibition – which piece challenged you the most? I’d love to talk about it in the discussion comments below.