5 Colour Mixing Tips (I Wish I’d Learnt Earlier Than I Did)

Exploring Colour MixingA little colour-mixing exploration is dangerous as it entices you into a journey that never ends. Don’t let the vast possibilities and huge range of colours available deter you however, because while there’s so much to discover, it’s a journey with many, many joyful discoveries along the way.

Memorize the few fundamentals, embrace the challenge and get mixing. At worst you’ll produce a murky, muted muddy colour (but even then it’s not wasted paint because you can use it with white and black for a tonal study or simply use it to eliminate the white of a new canvas).

Colour Mixing Tip No 1: Add Dark to Light (not light to dark)
It takes less of a dark colour to change a light colour than it does of light colour to change a dark.

For example, to mix a light blue, if you take some white and then add a little blue to this until it’s the right tone, you’ll use less paint than than trying to lighten a blue by adding white to it. Or to mix a green, add a little blue (the dark) to a yellow (the lighter colour) rather than adding yellow into a pile of blue and then having to add more and more yellow to get a light green and ending up with a huge pile of mixed paint.

Colour Mixing Tip No 2: Add Opaque to Transparent
The same applies to mixing a transparent and an opaque colour. Add a little of the opaque colour to the transparent one, because the opaque colour has a far greater strength or influence than a transparent colour.

Colour Theory MixtureColour Mixing Tip No 3: Check How Many Pigments (Colours)
For the brightest, most intense results, check how many pigments are in the two colours you are mixing. (The label should tell you, or the manufacturer’s colour chart on their website.) Ideally, you want to mix colours each containing one pigment only, so you’re mixing only two pigments; the more in the mix, the faster you get towards tertiary colours (greys/browns).

Colour Mixing Tip No 4: Beautiful Browns and Greys
To mix browns and greys that harmonize with the rest of your painting, mix complementary colours (red/green; yellow/purple; blue/orange) from the palette you’ve used, rather than colours you haven’t used in that particular painting. Vary the proportions of each colour to create a range of browns/greys.

Colour Mixing Tip No 5: Don’t Overmix
Forget mixing thoroughly and properly, but stop a little bit beforehand (but sufficiently so you don’t have large blobs of an unmixed colour). You get a far more interesting result when you put the mixed colour down on paper or canvas because it’ll vary slightly.

Colour Tips for Artists infographic

3 Replies to “5 Colour Mixing Tips (I Wish I’d Learnt Earlier Than I Did)”

  1. Color mixing…a never-ending learning process. Here’s a little experiment: Using only the three primaries – red, blue, and yellow – mix a neutral gray, a 50% gray.

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