In recent discussions with painters, the subject of warm and cool colors surfaced frequently. I have been asked, “Do I just mix with just warm colors or only with cool colors?”
Using only the primaries of yellow, blue and red, I have created two color wheels – one with cool primaries and one with warm primaries — in an attempt to answer this question.
In the first color wheel, I used the cool primaries of: Hansa yellow light (a green-yellow), permanent rose/magenta (a blue-red) and thalo blue (a green-blue). I then mixed the secondaries of green, orange and purple using these cool primaries.
Have you ever created such a color wheel or seen one like it? It’s kind of interesting isn’t it?
Color Note: I never use alizarin crimson as my blue-red as explained in my blog post, “Could You Toss Your Alizarin Crimson?”
I would encourage you to create your own “Cool Primaries Color Wheel” using your medium of choice and your cool primary colors.
In this next color wheel, I used the warm primary colors of: Cadmium yellow (an orange-yellow), Cadmium red light (an orange-red) and Ultramarine blue (a red-blue). Again, I mixed the secondary colors using these primaries.
What is your reaction to these two color wheels and the corresponding secondary colors? Any surprises? What stands out for you?
Which of these color wheels do you prefer? Again, I encourage you to mix your own “Warm Primaries Color Wheel.”
So what is my answer to the question, “Do I only mix with just warm colors and only mix with cool colors?” It’s “No!” The above color wheels demonstrate and support my answer.
Thinking of your primaries as warm or cool can trip you up. It is confusing and does not, I believe, facilitate your skill in mixing color.
It is more helpful to SEE the color bias of each of your primary colors versus referring to them as warm and cool colors. Almost every primary color is influenced by another color. Very few primaries are ‘pure’ colors. Hence, this is why I describe the primaries above as green-blue or blue-red, etc. I also teach this concept and why it is the KEY to mixing the colors you want in my online Craftsy course Acrylic Color Mixing Made Easy!
It’s important to remember there are no hard and fast rules on mixing colors, though there ones that provide a good foundation to loving and understanding color. We all also know that color is a personal expression. Through study, experimentation and discovery you will develop your personal colorful voice. Mixing colors and creating color charts always leads to some helpful discoveries. It truly is a lot of fun!