Color Mixing Chart making, part 2 of my color guide.

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This is part 2 of my color mixing guide, and how to make a color chart.  If you got here directly from the web, congratulations, you've found an excellent source of information for beginning up to intermediate level training in classical oil painting.

If you like to see the first half of this lesson click here Color guide.

You can always return here.  Below is also the quick navigation box for all of the color pages. 

There's lot's of information here on color, so take your time, and be like a sponge! 

Soak it up!

So, how do you mix these colors without getting mud? How do we lighten or darken a particular color? What exercise can I do to help in matching colors I see in my subject matter? Why do I get a green instead of a dark yellow when I mix black with yellow? I thought blue and yellow make green. As talked about before in part 1 color mixing guide, my additional colors used are:

  • Cadmium Yellow Light
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium (rarely used)
  • Cadmium Red Medium (rarely used)
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Phthalo Blue (rarely used)
  • along with Prussian Blue (already mentioned)


  • Jack White, a famous Texas artist, uses only the above 6 and white. He is able to get all of his browns/oranges/greens/violets/and blacks from these 6 alone. I’m lazy, so I buy a few extra’s in the burnt umber and yellow ochre. Oh yea, the black too. Now back to speaking of a swatch. This is a great exercise that you should try. Take these six basic colors, and make your own color wheel. See below for exactly how. Once you've done this, when attempting to match a color during your painting sessions, you will have already knocked out a large portion of the experimental side by having your own color wheel at the ready. To start, use a very inexpensive piece of canvas or gessoed masonite panel. You can use a piece of watercolor paper, but the paper will break down in a few years. Take and line off a grid of 7 squares along the top and then 7 down the left side. Then graph the rest to make your self a 36 box grid. Each grid box should be at least 1 to 1.5” square. Color mixing guide chart: I’ve started to fill in the blocks as an example for you, it’s alittle more difficult using a computer to simulate this, but you get the idea.

    color mixing guide

    Make your grid boxes large enough to mix the stated colors, then, if you want to get fancy, lighten the top half of each box, then darken the bottom half of each box.  This will establish full color range, color swatch using your brand of paint.

    (And yes, each brand may start out with the same color on the label, but each will have it's own proprietary blend which will make it react differently with tints and shades) This big chart then becomes your own Color Mixing Guide.

    Now once you’ve done this exercise, what did you find?  What happened to your mixtures?
     
    Some should appear bright, and others will appear dulled down a bit.

    This is because one color LEANS towards another on the color wheel. (refer to the color graphic above again)


    Brand New Instructions!

    Because each of your paints has a touch of another color in it, your mixtures will really be a blend of 4 colors when you mix 2 paints together. One of the colors will have a complement, which will gray the resulting mix, the other will tend to brighten the mix. 

    No wonder you get mud and introducing a third or forth color to a mixture.  We’re talking about 6 and 8 colors now by this time!  Because of this, take the time to create your own color chart using your particular colors and brands. This chart then becomes your own color mixing guide!



    Mastering Color - click here for more info.Includes Free Chapter

    Speaking of compliments, mixing 2 colors that are opposite to one another (it's compliment)on the color wheel will result in a gray color.  Try it, red + green, or blue + orange, or yellow + violet will result in a gray.  Cool uh!  Remember this in doing your landscape paintings.

    Once you have your chart, when you mix a color that you are attempting to match, it will be very easy to hold the palette knife against the swatch to see how close you are in matching what your looking for.

    Did you notice anything missing in your color chart (besides the greys)?

    You should have a full range or reds, oranges, violets, blues and green.  But this chart will not produce a satisfactory set of dark to light yellows.  The yellows on your chart will have too much red and oranges in them.

    Color Mixing Guide Special instructions for Yellows

    I add yellow ochre and burnt umber to my palette as these are the additional colors I must add to my yellows to get a full range to darken them.

    If you use black to darken your yellows (because of the blue in ivory black)(or red in the mars black) will come out a dark dull green (using ivory black) or a tinge of orange brown (if using a mars black).  The same will apply to most of your oranges and cadmium reds.  Burnt umber should be used to darken them instead of black.

    Color Mixing Guide for the palette, and the canvas 

    I use a palette knife as much as possible to mix my colors on the palette, but I also mix them on the canvas quite frequently.  (See my demonsrtations, especially the Peonies Demonstration color mixing on canvas )  (This opens into a new window so you don't lose your place)

    I use one brush for one dark color, and one brush for one light color. Also, if changing colors, wipe clean your brush on TP or rag before dipping into medium then into your new colors. Sometimes my table top will have a dozen brushes going rather than stopping to clean each time.

    I have a small slab of wood with a number of notches to keep the brush from rolling off the table and the brush end held off the table. Just a small time saver if you have the brushes. And here’s a final set of rules for your Color Mixing Guide that you can post close to your color chart. It has worked well for me for many years now. Using the above set of colors, below is how you will be able to tint or shade them rather then just adding white and black.

  • Red scale, use white to lighten, use alizarin crimson, then black to darken.

  • Orange scale, use yellow light to lighten then white. Use burnt umber, then black to darken.

  • Yellow scale, use yellow light then white to lighten. Use yellow ochre, then burnt umber to darken.

  • Green scale, add white to lighten, add black to darken.

  • Blue scale, white to lighten, Prussian blue, then black to darken

  • Violet scale, white to lighten, then Prussian blue, alizarin crimson, then black to darken.


  • I know this is a great deal of printed information, so thanks for bearing with me. One of the improvements I know I will have scheduled for this page will be more color graphics or at least photo’s of a color chart example using my paint brands. (but that's for a rainy Sunday to put together) So, one thing at a time, and right now, I’m trying to get this painting video together. Do print out this page to use in your studio for reference and as a color mixing guide for that next masterpiece.

    Till next time….

    Back to top of my mixing part 2.

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