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Masters' Painting Secrets: Leonardo’s portrait colours and tips

Although Leonardo Da Vinci lived in 15th century, his masterpieces still admired for their mystery and unique style. Let’s take a look at what colours Leonardo appreciated most of all and used for his paintings.

Leonardo said that number of colours is infinite; however, he emphasised eight basic colours essential for every painting:

  • White that stands for light
  • Black that stands for shadow

Leonardo admitted that white and black colours are not elementary ones, since the former is nothing and the letter is everything. At the same time he called them the most important colours, because every painting must have light and shadow.

  • Blue
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Ochre, or lion colour
  • Morella (Magenta) 
  • Red

He mixed these colours in different proportions to get the right shade.

Leonardo in his works shared some secrets how to improve portraits. For example, he concluded that black clothes make human body look lighter and white ones, on the contrary, darker. Yellow apparels intensify skin colour, while a face surrounded with red seems paler. 

Also Leonardo left some suggestion on how to paint skin. If a body or a face is pale, we should add some colours from surrounding objects or background, because white colour as a colour doesn’t exist and just reflects all the colours from around. Also he recommended using blue shades for cast shadows. 

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Leonardo

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