Have you ever stopped to ask, “What are the different approaches to mix color?” The answer: there are three ways to mix color and here they are:
1. Mixing on the painting palette
2. Mixing on the painting surface or substrate
3. Layering or glazing one color on top of a dried layer of color
The first color mixing approach is the most common and you have been doing so since you started painting. Hence it does not need to be reviewed, though this image serves as is a quick reminder.So let’s review one of the lesser used methods of mixing color, which is mixing directly on the painting surface. I made the mistake of not learning how to do this earlier in my painting career. I missed out on discovering how to create interesting textures and experiencing how visually exciting the results can be.
Color Tip: To assure success with these three ways to mix color, it is helpful to know the color bias of your primary colors, as well as understand the impact complementary colors have in this process.
Mixing on the surface is often done in wet-into-wet situations as seen here with watercolor. I splattered paint, as well as charged a wet puddle of paint with a brush loaded with color. The merging of these colors could not be achieved by mixing on a palette.
Overlapping colors on a dry surface in also a way to mix color. I first brushed on a color swatch of permanent rose, cleaned the brush, then overlapped it with ultramarine blue, cleaned the brush again, and then added lemon yellow, followed by cadmium yellow medium. You can see how the colors of purple and green mix on the canvas. Another way to mix color on your canvas or paper, is by literally pouring different colors on or next to each other. There are many ways to exploit this idea of mixing on your substrate and I encourage you to seek out resources – I am sure there are YouTube videos available – to learn about these techniques. Knowing what you do about color bias and complementary colors, you will experience more success mixing the colors you want while experimenting with this method of mixing color. There is an unpredictable element that occurs with mixing directly on a substrate that can provide delightful surprises. Experiment with your medium to discover the possibilities.
The third method of mixing is layering. Glazing or layering one color over another alters a hue and is a mixing strategy that is frequently used by painters. It is an excellent way to decrease the brightness or saturation of a color. You can also alter its value via glazing.
In this example on the left, you see a bright pink flower shape surrounded by de-saturated blue-greens. In the image on the right, I applied two layers of green-yellow. First, the entire image was glazed with a green-yellow and allowed to dry. Then the second layer was painted diagonally across again with the same green-yellow. The changes in hue are fairly noticeable. Compare the three areas and decide which you prefer and why. (Click images to see a larger view.)
When layering paint, using your more transparent paints are recommended, which you can learn about in this post. Isn’t it fascinating to see how one or two thin layers of paint can alter the original colors?
Years ago, I was so fascinated by the impact of layering colors that I created a chart I affectionally refer to as my “Plaid Shirt Chart.” You can see that I listed my paints down the left and across the top. I then used a 1” brush to paint the horizontal stripes. After they dried, I then painted the vertical stripes. By the way, this is a great painting exercise – practicing to paint with a loaded brush across a long length. (Click image to see a larger view.)
As you probably remember, I am a big fan of color charts. I discuss the value of creating color charts in my post “Are You a Color Chart Junkie?”
Some painters use this layering tactic to mixing color strategically from the early stages of their painting. This simple example of a hat demonstrates this. Because I know how complementary colors impact each other―in this case, blue and orange―my first layer of paint is a blue and then I let it dry. Next I painted a layer of burnt sienna over the blue. I chose these two colors because I knew they would convey a worn, leathered look. Notice how some of the blue is still visible through the second layer. It’s is interesting interplay between this pair of complementary colors. (Click images to see a larger view.)
I know there are additional ways to mix color on a substrate, what are they?
What are your favorite ways to mix color? Do you find these three ways to mix color interesting or motivating to experiment with? Which haven’t you executed in awhile and want to exploit?
If you found this post helpful to learn the three ways to mix color, please share it using the social media buttons below, or forward to a friend.
Colorfully and gratefully yours,