Color Visibility Under Water
 

As light travels down through the water, colors are filtered out. The following chart shows the depths where each color disappears in clear water. For more information on color visibility in water, including which colors are visible to fish, read below.


Mixing Paints - Color Theory for Fishing Lures

 

For those of us who don't have a master's degree in art, the craft of mixing paints can be - to put it mildly - frustrating. We know what colors we want to create, but we have absolutely no idea how to make them! Luckily, there are few basic principles that we can follow to make the task a little easier.

What is Color Theory?
In a nutshell, color theory is the "science" behind mixing and using colors. Understanding color theory will help you create new colors and then use those colors in combinations that are appealing to fish (and fishermen).

But, before we dig into the details of color theory, it's important to understand that there is a difference between combining colors and mixing colors. When we talk about combining colors, we mean using multiple colors on a lure. When we talk about mixing colors, we mean the physical blending together of colors to create a new color.



Combining Colors
The foundation of color theory is the "color wheel" - many of you will remember this from your grade school science classes. The color wheel is a tool used to show the results of mixing together different colors.

The Color Wheel
The wheel consists of "primary" colors (P), "secondary" colors (S), and "intermediate" colors (I). The primary colors (red, blue, yellow) are the building blocks for all other colors (Figure 1). You cannot create a primary color by mixing other colors together, but you CAN create other colors by mixing the primary colors together. When you mix two primary colors together, you get a "secondary" color (Figure 2). The color that results from mixing two primary colors together is shown in the color wheel. For instance, orange is between red and yellow because that is the color you get when you mix red with yellow.

In addition to primary and secondary colors, there are also other colors known as "intermediate" colors (Figure 3). To create an intermediate color, you mix a primary color with a secondary color. For instance, to make pink, you mix orange and red.

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3

Neutral Colors
There are three neutral colors: white, black, and gray (note: brown is occasionally included as a neutral color). These neutral colors are created by mixing together equal parts of red, blue and yellow (the primary colors) and then lightening it as needed with white.

Tints, Shades, and Tones
"Tint" is a fancy way of saying "make the color lighter". "Shade" is a fancy way of saying "make the color darker". "Tone" is a fancy way of saying "make the color a little more subdued". You can create thousands of new colors by making a color lighter, darker, or more subdued. To tint a color, you add white to it. The more white you add to the color, the lighter the tint. To shade a color, you add black to it. The more black you add to the color, the darker the shade. To tone down a color, you add gray to it. The more gray you add, the more subdued the color becomes.




Color Schemes
Now that you understand how the colors on a color wheel work, you can use the color wheel to figure out which colors look good together. There are many ways to do this, and many different color scheme approaches.

Monochromatic Color Scheme
In this color scheme, all of the colors on the lure are made by tinting or shading a single color. Here is an example of a monochromatic color scheme on a lure (see image to the right). Notice that the entire lure is painted using versions of green. To create this type of lure finish, all you need is green, black, and white. Using different ratios of white to green or black to green will give you all of the color variations you need for the lure.



Complementary Color Scheme
In this scheme, all of the colors used are opposites on the color wheel. A sample lure painted with complementary colors (purple and yellow) is shown in the image to the right. You'll probably notice that this color scheme tends to stand out more than the monochromatic colored lure. This is typical of lures painted in this fashion - people notice them (and so do fish!). The human eye tends to be drawn to items that contain complementary colors. Keep this mind when you're designing fishing lures to sell to the public; if a monochromatic lure is sitting on the shelf next to a complementary colored lure, the fishermen is more likely to buy the lure with complementary colors (assuming the paint job is good of course!).

Analogous Color Scheme
Last, but not least, we have the analogous color scheme. In this approach to selecting colors, you choose 3 to 5 colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. The most famous analogous color scheme used on fishing lures is the classic "firetiger" pattern consisting of bright green, yellow, and orange. We have heard rumors that lures with this sort of color scheme tend to land more fish. That would make sense because most sportfish cannot see all of the colors in the color wheel. By using this color scheme, chances are you'll include a color that the fish can see and recognize - increasing the chances of attraction.


Mixing Paints

Now that you know how colors work together, you'll need to know how to mix paints together to create the colors you need for your lures. To get started, you will need (at least) red, blue and yellow.
You can create all other colors on the wheel by combining these basic colors and lightening or darkening them with white or black.

When you mix paints, you'll always want to add the the darker color to the lighter color until you get the desired color. For instance, when creating orange, you'll want to add small amounts of red to the yellow until you get the shade of orange that you're looking for. Use the color wheel to show what color will be created when you combine two colors (see Figure 3 above).



To lighten the color, add small amounts of white to it until you get the desired color:

To darken the color, add small amounts of black until you get the desired color:


Here are few final tips to help you with mixing your paints.

1) When you mix two colors together, the resulting color will always be darker than the brightest of the mixing colors.
2) Different types of paints mix differently and will not always produce the same result. Experiment with your specific type of paints (lacquer, vinyl, acrylic, etc.) to get the best mix.
3) Transparent paints can be painted on top of each other to create a new color. When painting with transparent paints, try to layer the darker paints over the lighter paints whenever possible.
4) Base coats will affect the color of the paints painted over them. Always start with a white or pearl base coat to get the best finish.


Choosing Colors that Catch Fish

Different Fish See Different Colors
In order to see color, a fish needs to have at least two cone cell types in its eyes. Bottom-dwelling fish (i.e. catfish) have only one type of cone cell so they see everything in shades of gray - they can determine an object's brightness, but not its color. Many shallow water surface-fish (i.e. trout, minnows, carp) have four cone cell types, allowing them to see all colors, including the hidden ones in the ultraviolet spectrum. Other fish such as the bluegill and the bass have two cone cell types, limiting their color distinctions to black, browns, greens and reds (and possibly yellows for the bass). Although most of these fish can discriminate between very fine shades of the colors they can see, this ability has no effect on what they select for food - recent tests have shown that, all other things being equal, the shade/tint of the color (bright red vs dark red) doesn't influence a fish's willingness to attack bait.

Unfortunately, there is no chart explaining the color viewing capabilities for each species of fish. With this is mind, it is best to make color selections based on color contrast rather than actual colors. For instance, pick a lure with two colors that would appear differently, regardless of their actual color. Here is an example of how a some fish might see a blue and red lure - notice the color contrast exists in all three views:




Color Filtration in Water
Water filters light. And since all color is actually colored light, water will filter colors. Certain colors cannot be seen below certain depths because light is broken apart when it hits the water and certain wavelengths (colors) are filtered out. The severity of this filter depends on the clarity of the water, wind conditions, time of day and lure depth; dirty water, high winds, deep water, and evening hours mean fewer colors. To understand these effects, we must first understand the relationship between light and water.

The colors of the spectrum (the colors of light) are Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. A mixture of all of these colors produces white. If an angler were to stand in the center of a very deep lake and shine a bright light into it, the colors within the light beam would gradually disappear as it traveled toward the bottom. At 10 feet, red is almost gone, orange is disappearing, and yellow is starting to fade away. At 35 feet, orange is gone, and yellow is quickly disappearing. At 75 feet, yellow looks greenish-blue and the only visible colors are blue, indigo and violet. As we pass 150 feet, blue and indigo are hard to see and violet is disappearing. At a few hundred feet, ultraviolet is the only color left, and it is not visible to the human eye anyway.



Neon colors, however, do not disappear when the spectrum colors do. This is because they "fluoresce", meaning that they glow when hit by ultraviolet light. We have heard reports of brightly visible fluorescent pink and yellow colors at depths of 125 feet and deeper!

Keep in mind, however, that these water color filtration rates assume that the water is crystal clear. Pollutants, sediment, and wind can drastically affect these numbers by rearranging the filtration order and decreasing the overall depths of all colors. Under these circumstances, red-orange seems to be the most visible, assuming that your lure depth is not greater than 20 feet. That said, here are some tips from anglers on how to pick lure color:

Super Clear: White or clear. Use glitter for color. All colors are visible to 10 feet.
Clear Water:
Blue is most visible. White is visible. All colors are slightly visible to 10 feet.
Green Water: Green is most visible.
Stained Water: Orange, green, and chartreuse are most visible. Red is slightly visible.
Muddy Water: Red is most visible.

Here are some additional suggestions to help with low light (first light until sunup), medium light (sunup until the sun reaches 20 degrees to the horizon), and high light (from 20 degrees to the opposite horizon) conditions:

Low Light: Blue, purple or black work best. Use with silver flash.
Medium Light: Red and orange work best.
High Light: Brown or gray work best. Use with fluorescent accents.


NOTE: When the light level falls below 0.1 foot candle (clear night, no moon), all colors become just shades of gray and cannot be seen by the fish.


Thinning paint for use in your airbrush

The general rule of thumb with most Acrylic Colors is reducing it with distilled water until it flows like milk.

Please understand here that it depends on how much air pressure you are running and the type of airbrush you are using.

Over reducing some paints might have an adverse effect and the paints might not adhere as well. Always check the product tech sheets if available.

Key to this is experimenting to find what reduction works best for you and you situation.

Beware that there is a difference with paints made to use in an airbrush and craft type paints, the pigments are ground finer in paint made to use in an airbrush they generally will flow much better being less hassle to spray thru your airbrush.

The amount or reduction also depends on the size of the nozzle in your airbrush a 0.5 mm nozzle will spray much thicker paint than a 0.2 given the correct air pressue is being used.

Extenders that the paint companies make more often than not do not make the color thinner but do make it more transparent.


Below is some information I have put together for several different products I hope you find it helpful.


Auto Air: Reducing or thinning.

Auto Air: 0.3mm needle, nozzle size: Transparent Colors thinned with Auto Air Reducer approx 300% or more (3 Reducer : 1 color)


0.2mm needle, nozzle size:Transparent Colors thinned with Auto Air Reducer approx. 500% or more (5 Reducer : 1 color)


***To improving atomization when using an airbrush, Auto Air Reducer may be used to thin paints. Often, colors are reduced up to 400% (Auto Air Reducer 4:1 Auto Air Color) when using an airbrush. Mix ratios may vary per color and Color Series. Exact ratios are not required.

Createx Colors thinning or reducing: Airbrush Extender a transparent medium which will dilute the color to a lighter value. Will increase transparency in opaque and pearlized airbrush colors. Add until desired transparency or color shade is achieved.You can us distilled water to further reduce as needed.

Createx Acrylic Colors:Multi Surface Acrylics may be thinned with water or extended with Createx Mediums

GOLDEN Airbrush Colors are formulated from a safe and archival1 100% water-based acrylic emulsion, incorporating only the most light fast pigments available.Viscosity ready to use, no dilution required as they are finely ground, they easily spray through the smallest orifices available for airbrushes.

GOLDEN Airbrush Transparent Extender can be added to the Airbrush colors to yield more transparent colors without jeopardizing the film integrity and permanency. In fact, lowering the pigment load by adding the Extender will actually increase the film's durability and frisket performance.

Doc PH Martins-- Ready-Tex Ultra Ready to use Fabric Paint no dilution or filtering necessary.


SOLVENT BASED COLORS

Solvent based paints are a hard one to discuss as there are so many different systems out there on the market.



By solvent based I'm referring to the automotive paints we use for airbrushing murals, flames, graphics on bikes, cars, trucks, etc. With these the best thing to do is to get to know your local paint jobber REAL well.



Most if not all the tech sheets put on these products relate to painting cars and not to applying these products thru an airbrush, please keep that in mind when reviewing tech sheets.



Most often when used in an airbrush you must over reduce the products beyond what the tech sheets say to get them to flow correctly thru an airbrush.



Some products like Dupont Chroma Base use what's called a Base Maker instead of a Reducer like House of Kolor. Base makers will in most cases not make the color thinner allowing it to easily flow thru your airbrush in fact some make the paint thicker. With products that do use a reducer thinning or reducing the paint for use in an airbrush is best accomplished with medium or slow temp reducers.



Thinning solvent based paints is a very personal choice as to how much you thin or reduce it, this will take some experimenting on your part I'm afraid.



With the house of Kolor paints I use I generally reduce it with slow reducer at about 50% paint 50% reducer depending on the color maybe a bit more reducer. The tech sheet calls for two parts paint one part reducer for spray gun applications on most House of Kolor products so you can see I do over reduce it according to what the tech sheet says. Again a good starting point might be to get it to flow like milk.

Beware of using a solvent based product in your airbrush that requires adding a catalyst.









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