Thursday, 11 April 2013

How to Master Colour Mixing (For Beginners)

If you've ever painted before, you've probably found yourself in a situation where you couldn't quite make that certain colour you needed. 
Fear not!
Today, I shall be attempting to teach you how to mix (almost) any natural colour.
  • A Paintbrush (preferably - for your own sake, not a very expensive one.)
  • A cup of water
  • Red, yellow, blue and white acrylic paint
  • Paper 
  • Something to mix the paint on (plate, palette etc.)
Part 1:
Know your basics.
  • red + yellow = orange
  • yellow + blue = green
  • blue + red = purple
You may scoff at the simplicity of this, but trust me - it's vital.
When two primary colours are mixed, they create a secondary colour.
Part 2: 
Advancing on that.
Say the colour you wanted to make was green - but it wasn't as green as your result when you mixed blue and yellow; it was sort of grey-ish. How do you change the green - or as my teacher says, how do you kill the green? Simple, you add a tiny bit of red until it's grey enough - red was the missing primary colour from the mixture. To "kill" a secondary colour you add the only primary colour you didn't use to make that colour.

  • To kill purple - you add yellow.
  • To kill green - you add red.
  • To kill orange - you add blue.
Part 3:
Adding tones
For this you'll need your fourth colour - white.
It's simple really, if the colour is light, add white. The more you add, the lighter it becomes.
Then comes the more complicated part, making a colour darker.
 If you wanted to, you could take the shortcut and just add black. But that can often give a colour a muddy, unchangeable effect. What I do is create a dark, near black.
To make it is sort of like chasing a colour, which in a way is what colour mixing is all about. 
First create a secondary colour, for this example I'll use orange.
To that colour add the killing colour - in this case blue. 
Is the colour looking slightly green? Add red.
Is the colour looking a bit orange? Add blue.
Is colour looking  a tinge purple? Add yellow.

Basically, you do this until you create a dark brown-ish colour.

Now, to put it into practice.
Here's an exercise you can use to practice your newly-acquired colour mixing skills.
  1. Get a sheet of paper - less than a quarter of an A4 piece of paper.
  2. Make a tiny hole in the centre of the paper.
  3. Get a picture of some sort and cover it with the paper so that there is a particular colour in the hole.
  4. Keep the paper in place with blutack or sellotape.
  5. Try and get that colour using your newly acquired knowledge! Mix it on a plate but when you think it's close, test it on the paper near the hole.

 I hope you found this helpful, feel free to leave any queries or comments bellow!

A special shoutout to the wonderful Jane Hilliard who taught me everything I know about colour mixing. She's a wonderfully talented artist and a great person!
Also, if you're interested in participating in our exhibition in Tralee this month, email us at!
I will be uploading a tutorial video later this evening!



  1. Replies
    1. No problem, I hope you this helpful!

  2. Nice information delivered, i like your articles. Thanks for sharing color mixture machine

  3. Nice write up, bit what could tone down a blue ting in a gray paint?

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