Color mixing  – trial and error or what?

Color mixing is one of the most elusive aspects of painting. There is so much bad information about it – everywhere.  Most of the UTube videos you watch tell you only half the story and the books on the subject are not much better.  There are very few easy to read and correct books out there on colour theory, despite the fact that there are so many of them.

This year I am going to gradually cover some aspects of this tricky subject in the hope that it may be of some help to those of you who have only a glimmering of an idea of what is really going on.

Today is just a little taste to whet your appetite and I’m going to talk about greens.  How many of you reach for a tube of store bought green when you need a green, only to find its just not quite the right shade you need and you have no clue how to get that beautiful lime green or turquoise you are needing.

To take control of your greens your color mixing skills may need a bit of a polish up.  Here’s what I’d like you to do.

Go and get your paints and get out every blue  and yellow  that you have in your paint box.

Now you need to sort them into 4 separate piles.

  1. Pile one – all the warm blues or blues that tend towards red – ie they contain a lot of violet – eg Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue.
  2. Pile two – all the cool blues or blues that tend towards green ie they contain a lot of green – eg. Pthalo Blue, Cerulean, Prussian blue, Winsor Blue, Manganese Blue.
  3. Pile three – all the cool yellows or yellows that tend towards green ie they contain a lot of green – eg. Lemon Yellow, Cadmium yellow Pale ( tends more to a cool than a warm) Winsor Lemon, Aurolean
  4. Pile four –  all the warm yellows or yellows that tend towards red – ie they contain a lot of orange – eg. Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Deep,

Now the key to mixing the green you want is to understand the secondary color that your blue or yellow is carrying. If you are wanting to mix bright clear greens then you need to mix colors that both have green as their secondary colour.

For example to get the brightest color green possible you would need to mix Pthalo Blue and Lemon Yellow.  Both these colours carry large amounts of extra greens within them and don’t have other colors in large enough quantities to muddy things up .

Below is a quick chart  of the colors I have on hand and what happens when you mix them.  Notice that I have labelled which yellows are cool and which ones warm etc.

Color Mixing - Greens

Mixing Greens


There is no such thing as a bad  color.  It merely is not the correct color,  not the one that you want.  I trust that my post has shown you how you can mix up any number of greens.  Let me know how you got on.

Look For Thursday’s Post: A new direction in my work

Next Monday’s Post: Enhancing Creativity

Post by : Kadira Jennings


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