06a: Reverse Ground Theory

Hello everyone,

Please post your reverse ground theory portion of our module six assignment below. The module can be found online at https://coloranddesign.community.uaf.edu/06-reverse-ground-theory-color-subtraction/.

Please let me know if you have any questions. It can be hard to describe these particular projects succinctly online.

Thank you!

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    1. Sarah Griffen-Lotz

      Your example came out well, the purple square on the left looks darker and more reddish than the one on the right. It’s wild how different background colors can do that!

  1. Sarah Griffen-Lotz


    The results of this assignment were pretty surprising to me. It worked better than I thought it would, considering we’re using acrylic paints and not software with exact hex values for colors. I started with painting the two foreground squares the same shade of medium blue, then taped everything off and painted a dark blue and a light blue background. I used primary blue and varying amounts of titanium white for this assignment. The hardest part was mixing enough of each background color to cover the whole 18×24 canvas. This assignment was fun, I got to witness reverse ground theory in action. Painting this principle reminds me of op art.

    1. Kat ZZ

      Great job! I also struggle with mixing enough paint then end up varying the tones due to a shortage. My latest self challenge has been to try and recreate the exact same color as my first mix. I’m not very good at it, but I try!

    1. Lara Lotze

      You ended up using three of my favorite colors (half my wardrobe is coral, periwinkle and ocean/deep teal) but I it didn’t occur to me to put them together for this project. I like the intensity and texture you used in your circles (both sets) as well.

    1. Sarah Griffen-Lotz

      I like your purple tones, they’re relaxing. The illusion works on your painting, the square on the left looks darker on the light background. It’s tough to photograph this stuff without getting shadows and reflections from lights.

  2. Gabriel Ball

    The reverse ground painting was kind of tricky to get right. I learned a lot while experimenting with the colors. For this one I used a light magenta and a pale green for my backgrounds and a more saturated green for my third color. I think the green in the small box should have been toned back a little more, it turned out a little too overpowering. I think the issue I ran into was that I started getting direct sunlight in my house when I was about halfway through painting. The change from artificial light to daylight really altered that way the colors appeared and threw off my color combinations.


    1. Lara Lotze

      I think it’s interesting how there is not only a shift in my perception of the color here, but one side is so vibrant and the other side more flat. I’ve noticed it in a few others too.

  3. Isabella Darrah

    Somehow I had no tape in my whole house, so I embraced my rough circle shapes (after I showed my friend they suggested all too late that I couldve used any old straight edge). Unfortunately, I think this choice was my own demise. I think the reverse ground part was less successful than the subtraction. In the reverse, I see three colors, whereas in the subtraction, I see the illusion of three. Oh whale.


  4. I was a little confused about the assignment but I think I did it right. The reverse ground theory assignment was pretty easy but I’m not sure it worked. I used the paint directly from the tubes to be sure I didn’t use a different shade of the color by mixing. I liked seeing how in the videos the colors did exactly as expected. It was hard to get the paint to do the same manually with brush and paper vs. a computer program.


  5. Lara Lotze

    Now that I see everyone’s squares, I think I was a little ambitious. I am still struggling with photographing my pieces, in person and six feet away, the sky looks darker and bluer and the sand looks lighter and greyer. In the photo, they look pretty flat and similar. Water is hard. So are clouds. I like my rocks, tho. This week I also bought some matte acrylic medium. Using that to dilute the paint made filling in the backgrounds of both of this week’s pieces so much more enjoyable. I did have to contend with the decreased opacity, so I need to either use it sparingly for upper layers, or do a lot of layering to reinforce the top layer color.


    1. Chasity Joseph

      I agree everyone had very nice squares. I also struggled photographing my work so that it was accurate to what I was seeing. I don’t get good lighting in my room and flash warps the image. I think the waves did a good job of showing the variations since the shore seemed lighter to me for sure.

      1. Lara Lotze

        Yay! So glad you could see the shift. I was worried my eyes were letting me see it because I just wanted it to work. I think having the color surrounded really does make a difference. I’m glad I changed my approach for the second picture.

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