"Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely." Auguste Rodin

Color Mixing Tips
© 2000 Nita Leland

These handy color-mixing tips will help you to achieve better color throughout your artwork.

  • Use mixtures rather than colors straight from the tube for more interesting color. For example, mix blue and yellow to make green or add other colors to tube green to modify the color.
  • Most color-mixing problems come from overmixing. Mix very lightly on the palette or directly on the support to prevent this, and once the color is down, leave it alone.
  • Some books tell you to use no more than three colors in a mixture, but the problem isn't usually concerned with the number of colors; it's a matter of which colors you use. Paint characteristics and your choices of colors determine how they will mix. Refer to the article on Split-Primary Color Mixing to learn how to mix clean, bright color every time.
  • Complements (opposites on the color wheel) create color vibrations and enhance each other when placed side by side. When mixed, they neutralize each other.
  • To lower the intensity of a color, mix it with its complement or Burnt Sienna rather than black, gray or sepia. These colors tend to deaden mixtures.
  • For high-intensity mixtures avoid the third primary. The third primary is the complement of the mixture of any two other primaries and will lower the intensity of this mixture. For example, you know that red and blue make violet; however, a warm red (which has yellow in it) makes a dull, low-intensity violet when mixed with blue, because yellow is the complement of violet.

See also Exploring Color Revised pp. 46-57.

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