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Colour Mixing

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Colour mixing using Oil paint.

Colour mixing can be fascinating, fun or frustrating, depending on your interest, knowledge or experience. We hope this section will be of help and interest to those who wish to expand their knowledge of colour mixing with oil paint.

The trouble with most 'colour wheels' is, they show the colours but not the name of a paint that represents that colour. To find out which paint represents the various colours, try the following options. Read the manufactures information, books on colour, other peoples advice or some detective work yourself. You will learn far more if you take the time to experiment with the tubes of paint.

Mix the colours either with a brush or palette knife, making sure you clean brush/knife between each new paint colour. If we use what we have learnt on the colour wheel page, we can look at examples of it's theories put into practice. These suggestions are only a few of the colours that you could use, try making your own charts with your selection of colours, it will help with understanding colour theory. (examples)

Throughout these colour mixing examples Lefranc and Bourgeois Artist quality, is the paint used. They are all single pigment colours. In the first six examples Titanium White is mixed in from the top left hand corner to show the 'tint' of the Primary colours.

Two Primary Yellows:

Flanders Yellow - leans towards green. Flanders Yellow Sahara Yellow - leans towards orange. Sahara Yellow oil paint

Two Primary Blues:

Prussian Blue - leans towards green. Prussian Blue oil paint Ultramarine Deep - leans towards violet. Ultramarine Deep

Two Primary Reds:

Ruby Red  -  leans towards violet.   Ruby Red oil paint Japanese Red Deep - leans towards orange. deep red

Making Secondary Colours

To make the Secondary colour Green:

Flanders Yellow and Prussian Blue              Flanders YellowFlandersPrussian GreenPrussian Blue

The square of green has: Yellow Green in the top left corner and Blue Green in the bottom right corner.

To make the Secondary colour Orange:

Sahara Yellow and Japanese Red Deep         ruby redJapaneseSahara Orange Sahara Yellow

The square of orange has: Yellow Orange in the top right hand corner and Red Orange in the bottom left hand corner.

To make the Secondary colour Violet:

Ruby Red and Ultramarine Deep                 Ultramarine DeepUltramarineRuby Violetruby red

The square of violet has: Red Violet in the top right hand corner and Blue Violet in the bottom left hand corner.

Copyright Jacqui Blackman 1999

 Mixing Neutral Colours.

We see on the colour wheel that the main opposite colours are:
Blue is opposite/complementary to Orange
Red is opposite/complementary to Green
Yellow is opposite/complementary to Violet.  
We can make neutral colours by mixing 'colour wheel' complementary colours together.

If we make our Orange as above with Sahara Yellow and Japanese Red Deep, depending how much Red we add we will have an Orange that is Yellow Orange, Orange or Red Orange, in this instance we will aim for Red Orange. It's opposite on the colour wheel is Prussian Blue. If we now mix these together we will make a neutral colour. 
Titanium White is added from the top left hand corner to show a tint of the colour.

JapaneseSahara Orange Japanese Red and Ivory BlackPrussian Blue oil paint

Notice as you look at these three colours, how the orange and blue seem to vibrate as they contrast with each other. Pulling your eyes first to orange then to blue, the colour in the middle, the result of neutralizing the two colours, seeming to be ignored.

To make this neutral colour, we have in actual fact mixed together three Primary colours. Mixing three primary's will give a 'dark' or neutral colour, but the quantity of each colour matters. You could just mix these three primary's together and produce a colour, but in a months time say, will you remember how much of each or just waste paint trying? Whereas to make that Red Orange again is not too hard and by adding Prussian Blue you can make the neutral colour. By using the principals of the colour wheel we have more control over the resultant colour.

UltramarineRuby VioletVioletYellow NeutralSahara Yellow oil paint

This time it's blue violet made from Ruby Red and Ultramarine mixed with Sahara Yellow, again opposite on the colour wheel and only three pigments. Try the different combinations yourself, it's interesting and helpful learning. Titanium White is coming in from top left to show the 'tint' of the new colour. What could the colour be used for? Rusty metal, weathered wood or part of an old stone building, whatever you choose.

From the original six Primary colours we have made six Secondary colours and using just opposites, six neutral colours. If we now bring Black into the mixing process we have even more choices. Ivory Black is very useful, try mixing with each of the Primary colours, you can obtain some very interesting two pigment neutrals. (see Tonal values)

Two Pigment Neutrals:

Japanese Red and Ivory Black will give this, T W coming in top left to show the 'tint'.      Japanese Red and Ivory Black

Ultramarine Deep and Ivory Black will give this, T W coming in top left to show the 'tint'.    Ultramarine Deep and Ivory Black

As children we use to play, we played to learn. As adults we don't always play very much, try 'playing' with paint using adult perception to learn. Learn to play then you'll play to learn. It also puts the fun back into what can seem the very serious learning process of colour mixing.
If you would like to know more about the properties and personality of the range of paints I've used have a look at the next colour mixing page.

About Making Mud!

It can be very easy to make 'mud', but what is 'mud'? The 'muddy' colour produced is dreary, dirty and drab. One sure way to make 'mud' is to mix too many different pigments together. If we understand what makes 'muddy' colour, then we are part way to understanding how to make clean colour.

In the neutral colour mix above three primary's were used: Sahara Yellow, Japanese Red and Prussian Blue. The colour pigment used in making the tube of paint is shown on the label, represented by the pigment number and chemical name. (for properties of oil paint)

Sahara Yellow = PY65 Azo Yellow; Japanese Red Deep = PR3 Azo Red; Prussian Blue = PB27 Ferric ferrocyanide
When we mix these three primary's together we are only mixing three different pigments, the result is bright, clean and clear.

If we make this colour using a yellow made with two pigments e.g. an orange and a yellow. A red made with three pigments e.g. two different reds and a violet. A blue made with two pigments e.g. a blue and a green.
We are mixing together a minimum of seven different pigments, four primary and three secondary colours, that's a lot of colours trying to neutralize each other.
Thinking about the colour wheel - how many opposites are in the mix? Each pair would make a neutral in their own right, so that's four neutral colours. You are then in effect mixing those four neutral colours together - not surprising it makes mud!

If you are finding it easy to make mud, check on the label for the pigment content of your paint and try working with the thought - less pigments = less mud.
For clean colours in paint mixing it's a good idea not to mix more than three or four pigments together, that's pigments, not paint. Try it, your colours will be cleaner.

Another point to remember, you may want to add Black or White to the colour you've made - adding more pigments. White is not usually a problem, but Black is often blamed for muddying colours, by using a single pigment black (Ivory/Mars) the chances of this happening are greatly reduced. The argument still goes on about having black on the palette - the choice is yours.

If you would like to know more about the properties and personality of the paints I've used click the link or visit the Lefranc & Bourgeois web site.

Copyright Jacqui Blackman 1999

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