6 Crucial Tips for Mixing Colors

6 Tips for Mixing Colors

By Joe Bucci (featured in The Artist’s Magazine, September 2012)

•    Adding white is often necessary to bring out the hue that you want. For example, to make a workable purple, you’ll need to add some white to the combination of red and blue. Adding white to a green mixture will beautifully flatten the color to replicate foliage. Just be careful with the amount of white you use.

Color Wheel

Any color wheel is an aid to seeing color relationships, but I find the Quiller Wheel (not pictured here), designed by artist Stephen Quiller, especially helpful; it lists actual high-quality, archival tube colors.

•    Adding a complementary color to its primary will beautifully gray that primary. If, when mixing the two, a muddy color develops, don’t add white, which tends to flatten and cool a color. Beat the muddy look by adding more of one of the original colors.

•    Ask yourself how much red or yellow your colors contain. Add cerulean blue to purple, and you’ll be looking at green because of all the yellow in the blue and all the blue in the purple.

•    Complementary color schemes harmonize well because all three primary colors are used in varying proportions. Experiment! For example, make a green and then gray it with cadmium red. Make the same green and gray it with cadmium red medium (which has more yellow). Note the difference.

•    Orchestrate color harmony by mixing colors from those already used in your painting. Say, for example, you’re looking for a green for foliage set against a purplish background. Say that purple was arrived at with a mixture of phthalo blue, cadmium red deep and a little white. Take that same purple mixture and add to it as much yellow and blue as it takes to get green. (You may need to add white.) Now you have a green that has all the background colors in it—something you won’t find in a tube.

•    Siennas, ochres and umbers are the earth colors. They have no place as original colors on a student’s palette because they tend to cause confusion. When you’ve successfully completed a painting without using earth colors, you’ll see that the burnt siennas, yellow ochres and raw umbers are there, having been inadvertently achieved when dealing with color temperature and value. Trained artists develop personal styles, adding colors to their palettes as those colors meet a need. That’s the time to add earth colors to your repertoire.

Don’t miss Bucci’s free excerpt from the feature article in the September 2012 issue of The Artist’s Magazine (Color & Context: Control the visual planes of your painting by adjusting hue, value and temperature). Click here to read his free demo, “Putting Color to Work in Abstract Landscape Art.”

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