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Colour Mix Charts

How to create your own Colour Mix Charts

Here’s a useful thing to have. I started painting a primula the other day in watercolours (still doing it) and I wanted to see how to mix the right greens. Now it’s a little known fact that humans can distinguish more variations of green than variations of any other colour. How can you mix all these variations?

Start with a cool yellow , and don’t use cadmium yellow for greens.  Lemon yellow is good.  Get a really bright transparent blue such as pthalo blue/bright blue/winsor blue and also a good transparent red – try alizarin crimson. With these three colours you can mix most greens.

Question: Why not use ready made greens? 
Answer: You still have to mix colours with them and you don’t get the variety.

1Starting with yellow at one end and blue at the other mix a series of greens in a palette so they go from yellow to blue gradually. The different mixes should be in their own little pots/wells.  Paint these colours in a line on some watercolour paper.

See the top line in my final picture below.

Paint drops for colour mix chart

2Mix a TINY amount of red into each colour in your pots.  And paint these across.

Then add more red each time to all mixes and paint another row… and another row… and see what happens.  With luck you will get rows of greens that gradually become less bright and more muddy or grey.   You should see lovely shades of Farrow and Ball or even Little Greene.

Red is a complimentary colour of green.  That means it is opposite on the colour wheel.  Adding the complimentary colour to any colour will make it less brilliant, and closer to a grey.

Paint drops for colour mix chart

When you have done that you can try a different yellow and a different blue, but still use the same red.  See what happens. Write on the sheet the pigments used.

TIP – With your splodges make each one partly light and partly dark – you could dab out a bit of colour for the light bits using a clean damp brush or cloth.

And then… try out the same exercise with another set of colours. You could mix a range of oranges – yellow to orange to red, using cadmium yellow and cadmium red.  The complimentary colour of orange is blue. You can add tiny bits of blue to your oranges and see what happens.  You should get a wide range of browns eventually.

These charts tell you a lot about how different pigments react with each other and help a lot when you want to mix a certain colour.

Colour Mix Chart