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Readers Respond: How Do You Mix Your Paint Colors?

Responses: 15


From the article: 7 Ways to Mix Paint Colors
What tips do you have on mixing colors? Do you have any favorite color combinations, or anything you avoid? What do you use to mix greens, browns, etc? Share your paint mixing tips with us here.

Mixing Pastels

Experiment with using a combination of zinc white with your titanium white when lightening colors. Zinc white is more transparent and hides the color less. Pure titanium white adds covering power, but it goes to neutral much faster. Also you can just slightly lighten a color by painting a layer of zinc white over a color.

Colour mixing tips

I go to the photographic shops, and beg some empty film containers, or buy some online, and mix my colours a little at a time in them. If the colour is not to my liking, I can either add more paint, or seal the container for future use. In any way, I never, ever, waste any paint. I have many containers in my collection, and some are over 7 years old, and still useable. If the containers are black, with grey lids, I just put a dob of paint on the lid, to identify the colour.

Never Use Black

I never use black paint. You can mix a chromatic black by mixing burnt sienna and ultramarine blue, or alizarin crimson and viridian. I never add black to a color to darken it. Black will deaden the color, I use a darker value instead. It's more intesting. To paint a black object, use a chromatic mix for more interest.
—Guest Anne

Mixing on the palette

I usually mix colors with the brush on the palette (unless I need a large amount of a color like blue for a sky). The slight variation produced this way lends some visual interest, but doesn't endanger the painting, as mixing on the canvas might.


I don't agree with never buying greens. There are all sorts of lovely greens available, and who wants to mix greens, every time you want a green? I do lots of landscapes and florals, so greens are a necessity. I have four greens on my palette. If you don't like a green, you can always change it. I only mix greens when I want a particular one. I mix colors both on the palette and the paper or canvas. There are standard mixes I always use, and others are serendipitous. If you have problems with mixing, get a color wheel. Mixing colors is fun and interesting. If you know what you are doing, you can avoid getting mud.
—Guest Anne

I am very loose with color mixing....

I always mix my color on my canvas and I do it without any prior planning. I am an abstract painter and I am always open to "happy accidents". If I fall in love with a color it is very difficult to recreate. That is OK for me. There are limitless colors out there just waiting for me to discover them.


When you lighten a colour, mix a tiny bit of the next colour on the colour wheel towards yellow not just white and it will keep your colour nice and vibrant.
—Guest Michael

Glazing Charts

I like to make a chart for the basic colors in a painting and glaze over these colors to see the effectiveness of color mixing by glazing.
—Guest Ellene Breedlove Davis

Never Buy Green in a Tube

I read just recently from an older book by a great artist, never to buy green. He said it was always able to be mixed up much more satisfactorily than what one buys in a tube. I find this great advice.
—Guest jeny

Mixing on the Painting

1. Brush blend three colors on the painting mixing some and letting some be pure. 2. Squirt two/three colors and scrape together on surface with a credit card.
—Guest linda giese

Make Color Charts

Create color charts using the 'basic' hues with which you normally paint. Check out Richard Schmid's book, Alla Prima, for an example of how to make the charts. (Also, check online for examples.) The charts are great reference tools. Not only might you identify the measurement of two colors used in a mixture, for example, but you can also more easily identify the 'family' or, the root colors, from which you can mix a particular color. Although color charts may take a little time to make, they are invaluable and can last a life time.

Create a 'Run'

A 'run' is two different colors opposite each other that are mixed by spreading them into each other. Put two colors about 6 to 8 inches apart on the palette. Take a palette knife and spread one colors towards the other with the paint becoming thinner as it approaches the other color. Then, do the same with the other color. This is similar to making more formal color charts where one color dominates the other in steps. An example is mixing orange and blue. At one end, the blue dominates and is 'toned down' by the orange. The same is done with the orange. In the middle will be neutral 'grays' (as the orange and blue are complements). The 'run' produces varied tonal values and makes it easier to identify a value.

Yellos for Flowers

I like a little mixing on palette. I do more mixing on the canvas itself. Tthis gives more dramatic colors. My favourite colors to mix are cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, titanium white and hint of brown. This gives beautiful colors for yellow flowers.
—Guest Asha

Color Wheel

Using your own colors, make a color wheel; it is time consuming but gives you a practice and putting your color wheel on the wall gives you an instant reference for creating the color you want.

Dark to Light

If you add a little dark to a light color, rather than light to dark, you'll use less paint to get the mixed color you're after.
—Guest Marion BE

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