a color wheel is the artist’s best friend when we are learning how to mix colors

  • Color is the joy and excitement of painting!

Learn how to mix colors and create color harmony in our paintings. With a little practice, color mixing will become second nature.

Artists can mix many of our own colors. We don't have to buy all the colors at the paint store.  Instead of keeping a box full of different colors, we mix our own colors.

How often have we bought a color and used it a few times? Then it just sits in our paint box. Later we may throw it out because we don't use it. Speaking from experience, we've all done it.

The color wheel is the artist's best friend for learning how to mix colors.Use primary colors to learn how to mix colors.

learn how to mix colors

The color wheel is a favorite tool of the painting artists. It is indispensable when we are learning how to mix colors.

The primary colors, yellow, red and blue are equally spaced around the color wheel. They cannot be mixed from the other colors.

However, all the other colors are based on and can be mixed from these three primary colors.

practice how to mix colors with the primaries.

  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Cadmium Red
  • Ultramarine Blue

Oil and acrylic painters will also use Titanium White.


Color Mixing Tip
- Single pigment paints produce clean, clear colors. Look on the paint tubes and make sure they are made with only one color pigment.

Most manufactures list the ingredients on the tube. If they are not there, check their website.

Many top-notch artists use a double primary palette.

Instead of three primaries, they use a warm and cool version of each primary color. This is called a double primary palette or a split primary palette.

This palette of colors makes the mixing process faster and easier.

All their additional colors are mixed from the six colors and white. It saves on keeping so many paint colors in stock.

practice mixing the secondary colors

  • Get your paint colors out and start practicing mixing colors. It's fun and you will be surprised how easy it is.

Two primary colors mixed together create a secondary colors; orange, green and violet. Mix each secondary color.

Now we don't have to buy orange, violet or green paint colors because it's so easy to mix them.

Mix two primary colors together to get a secondary color.How to mix the secondary colors

how to mix green colors

  • What if we want more green colors?

We know how to mix colors, so we can easily mix variations.

Thalo Blue is a very strong blue that is not on our practice list. However, it makes the most beautiful greens.

How to mix green colors by artist Carol MayMixing green colors

Use just a touch of blue with yellow to mix a green.

Now we can mix more greens.

  • Starting with the mixed green, add more yellow to get a nice spring green.
  • Add more blue to your original green for a cool blue-green.
  • The addition of red to the original green will produce a darker, more subdued green.

We can mix additional greens with other blues and yellows. Ultramarine Blue and yellow make quieter greens.

Color Mixing Tip - When you are learning how to mix colors, always add the dark color to the lighter color. It only takes a tiny bit of a dark to change a light color.

what are tertiary colors?

  • Tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary color with a secondary color.

Refer to the color wheel and learn more about mixing colors by mixing the six tertiary colors. We have the secondary colors on our palette that we just mixed.

Mix orange with yellow to get the tertiary yellow-orange, as noted in the example below.

We can mix the tertiary colors, so we don't have to buy them.How to mix the tertiary colors.

Going clock-wise around the color wheel, we have; yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange and yellow-orange.

Mix the other five tertiaries in a similar manner.

Now, because we know how to mix colors, we don't have to buy the six tertiary colors.

Color Mixing Tip - Don't mix paint colors thoroughly before putting them on a painting. The color variation gives more interest to our paintings.

what are hues, shades, tones and tints?

Hue is the type or name of a color. For example, apple red or fire engine red are both red hues. Olive green is a green hue.

Shade is any color mixed with black. A shade is darker and duller than the original color.

Tones are made by mixing a color with grey.

Tints are made by mixing a color with white. However, adding white to a color will give it a chalky appearance.

Color Mixing Tip - Rather than using white to lighten a color, add the lighter color next to it from the color wheel. The color will remain bright and lively without a chalky appearance.

For example: Mixing white with orange, will cool the orange and give it a chalky appearance. White is a cool color.

Instead, we can lighten orange by adding yellow. The new orange color will be bright and vibrant.

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mixing dark, neutral colors

Mix black, brown or grey by combining the three primary colors. We may choose one of two ways to mix our dark colors.

  • Mix equal parts of the three primary colors.
  • Mix one part of a primary color with two parts of its complimentary color. (This is the same as mixing the three primaries together.)

Color Mixing Tip - Mix our dark, neutral colors from the colors used in the painting. Then, they will harmonize with the rest of the painting.

simple, quick dark mixtures

Mixing dark paint colors from your artist's palette.Mix your dark colors
  • Viridian Green and Alizarin Crimson mixed together create black.

Adding additional Viridian or Alizarin will slant the black toward green or red.

  • Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue are a very useful mixture.

Add more Ultramarine to make a cool black. Use more Burnt Sienna for a nice warm brown.

Color Mixing Tip - Mix paint colors with a palette knife, instead of a brush. It will use less paint.


mix more grey colors

  • Mixing white with any of our dark, neutral colors will create various tints of grey. We can get a large variety of greys depending on what colors were used to make the original grey.

We don’t have to buy tubes of grey paint. It's so easy because we know how to mix colors.

Color Mixing Tip - When we start a painting, mix a large pile of a dark, neutral color mixed from the colors we have selected for the painting.

When we are painting, add white to the dark color to make various tints of grey. Then we may use the greys or the original dark color to subdue any of the other colors in the painting.

This produces color harmony because all the colors in the painting are related. Plus, we won't have to keep mixing our greys and darks again throughout the painting process.

how to use color in our paintings

Colors may be considered warm or cool. Warm colors contain yellow. Cool colors contain blue.

How to use warm and cool colors in your paintings.Warm and Cool Colors

warm colors

  • Warm colors are known to "advance" toward us. They make areas look closer.

Use warm colors in the foreground and middle ground of a painting.

  • How do we mix warm paint colors?

We can make any color warmer by adding yellow. Mix the color with yellow or orange which contains yellow.

For example, if we are painting an orange, the center of the orange is bulging toward us. The center would be painted warmer to make it advance toward the viewer.

The sides of the orange would be painted cooler to make them turn away from us.

cool colors

  • Cool colors recede into the painting and look farther away.

We can create distance in landscapes by mixing some blue into the background areas.

  • We can cool colors by mixing them with blue. We may also, mix them with green or purple because they contain blue.

For example, make the edge of an object turn away from us by adding cool colors to the edge. We may also, use cool colors to set one object behind another.

Learning to how mix colors is one of the joys being of an artist!

How to mix colors that look more natural

  • Mixing any color with its compliment will subdue it and make it look more natural.

Complimentary colors are directly across from each other on the color wheel.

How to mix dark, neutral paint colors from your artist palette.The compliment of red is green.

There are two different ways to subdue a color and make it more natural looking.

  1. Mix a color with its complimentary color.

  2. Mix any color with a black, brown or grey that have been mixed from the colors used in that painting.

we know how to mix colors, so our paintings sing with color!



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