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28 Color Mixing Hints

These 28 color mixing hints will help you gain the mastery of color preparation.

  • Keep the use of white paint to a minimum. Rather, exaggerate the color you see in the subject when transferring it to the canvas.
  • It is easier to modify it with white paint later, when the canvas is covered and you compare it with the subject.
  • Chances are the color will not be as strong as you had thought and will require little or no changing.
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  • White paint is best used sparingly with each color.
  • For example, to get a secondary color like a light green we know that the primary colors to be used are blue and yellow.
  • Rather than mixing these two colors together and then adding white, cut each color first with white and then mix them.
  • A far more vibrant secondary color results. This is particularly true when mixing violet.

  • Many students get a muddy-looking violet when color-mixing red and blue together and then adding white.
  • If the resulting color is too light, they add blue. It then turns out to be too cool so red is put into the mixture. By this time the color mix has become too dark and more white is needed, and in all probability the mixture then has to be discarded and a fresh start made.
  • The thinness of the paint layer is frequently caused by the use of too much medium, especially turpentine.
  • A heavy, muddy-looking canvas is usually the result of mixing too many colors mixed together in striving to capture the desired effect. Learn to know all the color mixing possibilities of the colors you are using on your palette.

  • Work first with fewer colors you will be astounded at the many shades that can be produced with only a few colors.
  • You will also find it valuable to experiment with making a color darker or grayer by combining it with its opposite instead of the obvious black.
  • Black has a place in the mixing of color, but use it sparingly until you have learned the possibilities of the primary and secondary colors.
  • It is fumbling in mixing colors and applying them to canvas, then repainting the same area in an attempt tocorrect the color, that contributes to a heavy, over-painted picture.
  • Do not become discouraged when your early attempts to mix colors correctly produce any of these unhappy results. The technique of color mixing is always acquired gradually.
  • Later on you will obtain the desired color by using much less paint than you do now. You will mix two colors, possibly modify them with a touch of a third color, or even deepen the hue with a dab of a fourth color.
  • Avoid stirring paint mixtures too much on the palette. Mixing colors on the canvas will create a more lively and sparkling effect.
  • Restrict your mixtures to as few colors as possible.
  • Yellow is the most sensitive color on the palette. Use a knife to scoop it up when mixing it with other colors.
  • Daubing a brush that you have been using into the yellow may stain it.
  • Take care when using white paint. Keep in mind that it neutralizes the color with which it is mixed. Too much white will impart a washed-out or chalky look to the color mixture.
  • Mix colors with the tip of the brush hairs. Never allow the paint to seep up to the metal ferrule.
  • Keep two jars of water handy when mixing water color.
  • If you use one to rinse color from your brush the other will remain clear for a longer time, thus assuring clean water for mixing.
  • Dipping a brush into two colors and not stirring the mixture on the palette but applying it directly to the canvas often produces an interesting broken-color effect.
  • This canbe done with water color as well, but a minimum amount of water must be used. Warm and cool contrasting colors are most effective.
  • If you paint flowers or portraits you may have to add extra colors to your palette, because certain shades needed in such work are almost impossible to mix with a standard color palette.

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Rokeby Venus, by Velazquez

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