WCS Continued Education: Beyond The WynnColor System
Maximizing Use Of WCS & The Raw Color Code.
Sit right back and relax,
You’ll hear a tale of tiny color crew…
I created the WynnColor system (so cleverly named as an homage to the iconic Abbott Wheel that paved the way to my work) because this color stuff was hard for me to learn and even harder to apply to body art. I can still make it harder if I feel like it, but if I use the strategies in WCS it’s all just easier…
It’s easier to think about, easier to use. It’s about using color in practical ways to increase the quality of the artwork and all without stressing myself out. And because color is the best part of my job, using it this way, I enjoy it even more and get better results. And it has lots and lots of creative room to grow into.
In the WynnColor System we learn to mix 23 hues. Now, technically, if we split the 12 sections of the wheel into two we get 24, but we fudge it a little to make the analogous trios work and are able to include brown, black & white.
HEY WAIT! Those hues look a little shifty...
Now I want to touch on these trios, and why they are super important because it’s a built in warm hue shift.
A hue shift is when the color of an object or form shifts in hue as it’s getting lighter or darker.
Light sources are generally warm… the sun, lights, fire.… so fire and anything warm are seen as yellow.. orange… red… which are just below infrared light.. infrared light is light humans need special goggles to see… even though some animals and insects sometimes see this way naturally…I.E. it’s “heat vision”.
So let’s assume for now forms tend to shift towards warm colors as they are coming into the light… as the warmth of the light hitting the object warms up the object color just a bit. Red will turn fiery orange-red like Raw colors such as Ladybug, Burnt Orange or Sunset.… Violet will turn Red-Violet (I.e. purple will turn pink)… so every color will have a hue shift towards warmth… or towards red, orange and yellow, as it crosses middle gray and enters the light. So all colors ultimately head toward orange, it being the warmest color as it’s a mix of two other warm colors with no cool blue.
This warm hue shift is a powerful trick as we will see next.
This is how and why the WCS analogous trios are setup the way they are… and why the mixing strategy is set up in the WynnColor System the way it is. It’s a built in warm hue shift with an incremental value lightening from deep to medium to light happening at the same time.
We can even embellish this by using our complimentary color as our shadow values (the dark/black values). I.E Instead of using an orange-shaded mixed-black and desaturated dark for an orange object… we instead mix complementary color blue shadows and create a hue shift from blue to orange right through the center of the color wheel at middle gray in order to enter an orange form shadow. This may take a minute to get used to but…
This makes our shadows and forms… pop! This can make objects easier to read and make more colorful and vivid artwork.
It’s a trick used by a lot by impressionist painters like Monet. A movement known for replacing gray and black shadows with complementary colors.
So we have this huge hue shift from blue to orange, making our shadows and forms pop out next to each other… and let’s note that warm colors inherently pop out in front of cool color.
Because warm colors are bold! Important! Excited! “Look at me!” they scream! While cool colors relax nearby… “What’s up with warms? Why can’t they chill out? There’s enough light for everyone”.
And then as we cross from cold blue shadows to our warm orange form shadow… and we use our analogous trio to shift from hard orange, to soft orange, to yellow-orange… warming up the form. OR maybe we want a longer hue shift and we go from Ladybug to Agent Orange and then jump all why to a Bright Yellow. It all depends what’s happening on the other side of the form or what effect we want. Or maybe how MUCH light/warmth I want to show at that point.
And once I do this with complementary colors… why not Triadic or Tetradic? By not going through the middle of the wheel we get a greater amount of hues coming through. Using Green or Pink in the shadows of an orange object… now we’ve entered into a huge number of color hue shifts.. and this gives artwork a “shimmer” and makes it look more real.
This is exciting and intimidating.
If you pair WCS with the Raw Color Code, a lot of cool stuff happens… but first I want to tell you a bit about why I created it all this way.
What the hell is Object-Oriented Programming?
In what feels like a past life, I went to school as an object oriented programmer and web application developer. I coded browser applications… sites like Amazon, YouTube, Later, Facebook… browser based apps… all using a text editor.
A programming “object” is just a bunch of related information fields…. Like a “tattoo shop object” is a little database of info about a shop… It might have child object of “staff”, “hours”, “financials”, …
So you end up with lots of separate objects like “Tattoo Shop” “Tattoo Brand” or “Tattoo Convention”… and then create functions or actions, which are little programs, used for calling and getting object data that other objects and applications can use…
It’s all eventually just a way of structuring the organizing, processing and using data, which is all stored inside huge server side databases.
If you’ve done spreadsheets… spreadsheets are just mini personal databases. When you have multiple tables in a spreadsheet calling each other.. that’s getting more like Object-Oriented Programing. Now imagine you have 30 thousand spreadsheets in play… or with a browser app like Amazon, 30 bazillion.
How do you decide how to organize the objects, variables, data, functions and ultimately use all that stuff to create an application
You hire an object-oriented programmer to create some kind of streamlined organization “system”… that will best be suited to do whatever job you are trying to accomplish. Better the system, the easier and more efficient the program will be.
What I’m getting at is the WynnColor System was developed as though it was an object-oriented program.
It’s primary objective or goal, was to mix and use color more easily and effectively in tattoo work.
The purpose of this objective was to make working in color easier and much more accessible.
So everything is broken down and simplified to achieve that one goal.
The true purpose of WCS & The RawCc has always been to promote accessibility in working with color.
How does all this help you, the end user?
It takes Light, Color, Schemes, Composition, All of it… and they are simplified into “objects” that fit into a color mixing system that makes tattooing in color that much more accessible than I ever had it.
Its monumentally easier to learn to use color effectively this way… so by setting up an organized color system, end users (tattoo artists) are able to process light and color information in a tattoo designs quickly … to make easier, better, consistent artistic decisions.
That’s all we are really doing as artists... making decisions to solve problems. And being unsure how to solve these problems is what will slow us down or make us fail… and we want to avoid making bad decisions or stalling at all costs…
This means always making good decisions quickly and efficiently.
The WynnColor System is my solution, and in my opinion, it’s an elegantly simplified and fun to use one, that makes color tattoo work significantly more accessible to EVERYONE by making these mixing and design decisions easier and more effective.
But How does The Raw Color Code fit in?
A peak inside my brain may help you to learn…
How To Decipher and use the RawColor Code.
[Value 4-6] Middles - The truth about adding White
Any color coded around a 4-6 in value out of the bottle is probably going to have white ink in it already and will make a great middle value. It’ll mix into shadows but not like two Deep inks can because of the white.
And it can be easily turned into a light value with more white, as we do in WCS.
We don’t think of colors like Light Red or Teal or Agent Orange as having white in them in the WynnColor System because it’s too confusing, so we think of them as “pure”, but that’s more about color intensity than anything else. Anytime you’re trying to hit a 4-6, assume there’s white in play already or some might need to be added if you’re mixing a middle from a deep color.
[Value 7-9] Deeps - Pure Pigment
Deep colors are either full intensity or desaturated. To tell, you just have too look at each color. If you are not sure, look in the RawCc Lookup mixing directory on WynnColor.com. Each RawCc LookUp “Hue Group” section talks about the hues and mixing groups overall “mood”.. while each “Mixing Group” section talks about the individual color and how they fit in with the WCS mixing strategy. This includes saturation level.
I call pre-desaturated Deep inks “Shadow-Makers” because you can make shadows without complimentary colors. A color like Blue Haze can mute any blue or blue-green color and pull it into dark shadow without having to introduce a complementary orange. Ladybug is technically a shadow maker. As is Red Wine. Though they are not super deep, but they make Dark Values easily by mixing with colors in the same “Hue Group”
[Value 1-3] Brights - Opaque Pastels
Anything around 1-3 is probably a tinted pastel, some pre-muted, some not… value 3 being the darkest of the pastels, meant to be used as Light value…and 1 being the lightest pastels available, or xtra-light really. 2 is between them. So any Raw Pigments Color that’s coded with value as 1-3.. can be used out of the bottle as a premixed WCS light value or extra light value respectively. The lower the number the greater chance that it’s muted, as it’s meant to purposely clash with skin tones and make these extra light colors actually show up. Since these colors are pre-mixed to go in skin, it can be easier to use them out of the bottle than mixing them yourself,
Note as colors get cooler, the colors shift deeper in value…. Just like the analogous trios do. So a violet pastel like Amethyst is much darker than warmer pastels like Mellow Yellow or Sunset… pastels of Blues or Blue Greens or Pinks will be somewhere between the two. like Mr.Rogers, Baby Blue, or Cotton Candy
In addition we have colors with black undertones like Plum or Raw cocoa, and we also have color concentrates which are more highly pigmented like OG Green and Phthalo Blue. A little goes a long way in mixing these, and when putting them in skin.
And here’s a final mind-f for you…lots of artists in all mediums of art, don’t believe in adding white to warm colors because white is blue based and a cool color which will simply ruin the vibe of any warms. So you can instead use yellow and orange (with no added white) as your lights/highlights for your warm objects and add white only for cool object highlights.. this brings the cool colors down to match the lower values warms.
Whew. Are we on color theory overload yet?
At the end of the day, it’s just so cool that I can look at the RawCc Poster (or the RawCc Color Coded Palette Cards in Procreate) and know what to do with any coded color. If I get stuck I look it up in the RawCc Lookup, because I was doing a deep dive into each color at that time. Yes, I use it too! I forget stuff sometimes… if I have a tattoo with a lot of green coming up… I check out the Green section of the Lookup for color inspiration and ideas... a gift from my past research.
So colors from Raw that are premixed are such amazing and beautiful colors that can be mixed seamlessly into WCS mixing strategies.
And they’ve been tested to work well in skin. Before coding the full line I was afraid to try many new colors I had on hand. Now I can practice with the actual real colors tones in my design phase and move seamlessly to using and mixing them during the tattoo. And I can even mix colors from other colors I have on hand if I run out.
I.E. Add white to OG Green and you get a lighter emerald… available premixed as the color Raw Green. Add a drop of Yellow and you turn this Raw Green into Secondary Hulk Green.
So the RawCc turns the 30-bottle WCS base set (combined with the Raw6 Black Set, and RawCc Lookup Mixing Directory)… into a roughly 100-bottle simplified and fully usable, and easily mixable color system… simplified to work just by looking at the color code numbers in Procreate or quickly checking the RawCc value grid.
So First, we unlocked the freedom of color in WCS….
And now we leveled up and unleashed the full Raw Pigments ink line by creating the Raw Color Code.
What’s next for WCS & The RawCc?
Well… I’m currently trying to learn more about light and forms still, and practicing and getting better at free hand drawing and sketching…
But I’m also looking into multiple and colored light sources. There’s always so much more to learn!
But for now, that’ll do pig, that’ll do. (“Lonesome Dove” Quote fyi )
Signing off, but I hope your next tattoo WINS IN COLOR.
- Faith Wynn
Wynn Color Systems, LLC
Vero Beach, Florida