how to mix the color


Mixing the color is one of the most important steps in oil painting, it’s very hard to paint only with the “pure” colors because they fight each other in the painting and this competition spoils the artwork. Moreover, if you use only pure colors you’ll have limited range of colors.

Before knowing how to mix the color I used to proceed at random and in most cases I ended up mixing the wrong ones. The few times I obtained the color I wanted and I needed a bigger quantity I wasn’t able recreate it (I can assure you that it’s very frustrating). If this happens to you very frequently or if you have no idea of the right way to mix the colors you are in the right place. Mixing the colors is easy if you know how. Through this tutorial you are going to learn how artists mix the colors moreover, you are going to discover that to obtain the tint you want you need only 2-3 colors plus black and white .

But first let me do a little theory…..

The three dimensions of color

Color is the most powerful weapon of the artist.

Understanding the general characteristics of the color is very important for every painter. Knowing the color allow you to do a better use of it. Color influences mood, enhances the tridimensionality, gives the illusion of depth and can also give the sensation of coldness or warmth.

Let’s start from the basis.

Every color has three characteristics:

  • Hue
  • Value
  • Intensity

You can obtain almost every color by modifying them.


What is the hue?

The hue of the color indicates its name and its position on the color wheel, but doesn’t give information about it. This may seem a bit confusing, so let’s see an example.

If you have to give a name to the colors of the squares you’ll say that the first one is yellow, the second one light yellow and the third one dark yellow. However, the hue doesn’t care of the brightness or the saturation of a color: from the point of view of the hue adjectives like “light”, “pale”, “dark” etc. don’t exist. The hue of these three squares is the same: yellow.

In the following image the situation is different:

Again, let’s give a name to the color of the squares: the first one is yellow, the second one is blue and the third one is red. In this case the hue is different.

The hue of a color indicates its name. When you talk about a hue of a color you don’t take in account neither its brightness nor its grade of saturation (Value and intensity deal with them). For example if the color is a person the hue indicates the name (like Anna, John, Lucas, etc.) but doesn’t give us a description of his/her characteristics (we can’t know if Anna is tall and John is thin just from their name).

The color wheel

I bet you have already seen a color wheel, for example in the art class or on the web. The fame of this instrument is proportional to its utility. It’s very useful for artist and personally I always keep an eye on it when I paint.

Why is the color wheel so important?

The color wheel is a scheme where the colors are disposed on a circle. The order of the colors isn’t casual and it allows you to see the relationships between them. You can use the color wheel to determine which color can be mixed to obtain the one you want.

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