This is a selection of books I've found useful and accessible for learning more about colors, paint pigments, and color mixing. Given that color is fundamental to what we do, the more we know about individual colors and pigments, the better we can use our paints.
Bright Earth is a study and history of artist's colors (with some science thrown in), written in an extremely accessible way. It's packed with examples, anecdotes, and quotes, and leaves you with a new appreciation for the colors we use. Occasional it's a little technical if chemistry isn't your strong point, but skipping these bits won't detract from your enjoyment of the book. Any painter wanting to know more about the colors that we today simply squeeze from a tube, or an art lover wanting to get a new level of appreciation for works in an art gallery, is sure to enjoy this book.
If you're after the coffee-table version of a book on color, this is it. Not that this means the information isn't good (it is), just that it's beautifully designed and full of glorious color photos and illustrations (and plenty of color swatches). The book is divided into four sections: What is Color, Color by Color (an in-depth look at groups of colors), Creative Directions (how to use color, and how past artists have used it), and a Color Index (450 color swatches from various manufacturers). The text is presented with plenty of headings (and cross-references) to guide you around and draw you
Color is an entertaining and informative travelogue of the author's journeys around the world searching for the sources of the colors found in her paint box, and the history of how they came to be used by artists. It takes her into all sorts of unlikely places, including into Afghanistan for lapis lazuli (used for ultramarine).
If you want know what the result will be when before you mix two colors together, then you'll find the Color Mixing Bible indispensable. For each medium (except inks and colored pencils), a basic palette of 11 colors is mixed with six reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, violets, browns, blacks and grays, and white. Three results are given for each color mix, depending on how much color was in the mix. It's a visual dictionary destined to be spattered with paint as it lies open next to you as you work. Introductory chapters look at the science of color and color theory.
Colour in Art is an introduction to how visual artists have theorized, investigated, and used color through the ages. Each chapter follows a specific theme, tackling it from the viewpoint of artists. For instance, you'll find out why colors weren't mixed in earlier centuries for ideological and chemical reasons, and how the introduction of oil as a medium changed this. If you'd like to know more about the cultural and scientific contexts of colors you use, it's well worth a read.
Artists' Pigments is a heavy-duty read for serious painters wanting details about pigments used in Europe for painting (and worldwide today). The names given to pigments, dates of discovery and manufacture, that sort of thing. In short, fascinating.