Mix Colour

Mix Colour,How-to-Mix-Colours

Before you go buying more paint please check if you have these three important Process Colours....

Subtractive Primary Colours Mix colour using Magenta, Cyan and yellow.

True primary colour pigments, often called process colours were developed for use in the production of colour images in colour process printing and still used today. Also used in your PC colour printer ink cartridges. These colours are now available for you. These pigments have now been developed to the stage where just about any colour can be mixed. Some cost more than others due to purity, saturation, chroma, maybe also light fastness. Mix color from just three tubes of paint!

Many painters think of the primary colors as being red, blue and yellow. This is the traditional way but now the colour wheel is considered as how to mix colour for modern art and contemporary art - colour mixing. Understanding how to mix colours from process primary colours extends the knowledge of colour, how to match colours and mix colour.

Mix Colour, any colour with magenta, yellow and cyan?

How to mix colour

You will need only three process colours plus black and if you are painting with opaque colour as in oils or acrylics then titanium white. So let's start and mix colour ... the primary colours

Cyan + Yellow = green.

Magenta + Yellow = Red

Magenta + Cyan = BlueBy adjusting the percentage of pigment the colours vary from yellow to orange red to magenta.

How to mix colour with white. The intensity of each colour is varied by the percentage of white.

Colour is reduced by mixing in more more white or reducing (thinning) the pigment - saturation.

To make the colour darker just add increasing amounts of the complimentary colour in this instance the complimentary colour is green.

To lighten colour add white or allow white background to show through translucent pigments.


Cyan + Magenta + Yellow = Black ( Or often a very dark colour.)

Make black by mixing any two complementary colours or three colors as the three primary colours - cyan magenta and yellow make black. Often the result is not satisfactory for crisp final shadow and drawing detail so use either Paynes Grey or Mars Black.

White: White can't be mixed as the pigment reflects all the spectrum . You will have to buy it.

Grey: Grey is black and white mixed together. See black, above. Painting in shadow usually is best achieved by adding the complimentary colour. (the opposite side on a colour wheel). Not by using amounts of black

Why use the three process colours....

More Acrylic Painting and not a lot of different ready mixed colours?

Yes there are a lot of "Starter Paint Sets" with 80 or more small tubes of paint! This is why most beginners mix paint and get muddy colours. I always recommend starting with a limited palette and and three process colours cover the lot.

Learning colour mixing from just primary process colour, three colours will give an understanding of what happens when you use other pigments. Understanding the proportion of Magenta,Yellow and Cyan in a colour and what will happen when you add to another colour..

Why not use process colours all the time?

Most artists work on traditional methods of colour palette

By making a selection of colours the artist creates his palette to paint with. This often describes the mood of the picture. Mood in an image is often created by colour temperature.

- Candle light scenes and tungsten light look yellow or snow scenes with a blue hue. Some contemporary painters use bold satuated colours straight from the tube with high Chroma.

Colour is an important part of the painting so artists will often make a colour chart from the colours (palette) choosen to use for the painting. Often the palette will remain the same for some time, maybe for years as it reflects the style of the artist.

Low colour temperature (Yellow warm) is in the candle light and tungsten bulb range where as a high colour temperature is often from north light (cold-blue). Early morning light could be expressed with say long shadows and a yellow hue. Beach and snow scenes are often high colour temperature with a blue tint.

Indoor photographs by tungsten light will appear yellow unless corrected. However our brain reacts as like a digital camera, it corrects the light we see from being yellow. So the photograph taken by tungsten light comes out with a yellow tint but when it was taken the scene did not appear yellow. Normally as the day proceeds the natural light increases in temperature then receeds as the light fades.

Saturated Colour

Bright strong clean colours. Often described as chroma. Artists paints are often described as having a high chroma. The saturation can be reduced by adding a quantity of a complimentary colour or just adding grey.


A shade of ... A darker colour determins the colour of the hue for instance Pink is a hue of Red or Magenta colours. Tubes of paint is often refered to as Hue of... Cadmium Yellow may be labeled Hue of Cadmium Yellow in that instance it possibly has a lower Croma.


Colur painting in contrast to Black and white for colour value

Value can be considered by the intensity of the shade. Lighter or darker. Think of a black and white photograph, no colour but the values are so our vision can interpret the image. Value is described as high to low value. Low Value being dark or black and High Value is white. Also called Tone.

An artist may paint a picture with all the colours "incorrect" yet the painting still makes sense. White the artist ment strange colours he painted the correct values so the image was understandable. If you converted this type of painting to a black and white photograph the image should look correct because the values are correct.

To check the values of a subject the use of a monochrome filter will help. try looking through a red or green filter ( piece of film)

Time To Mix Colour.

Colour Exercise Start by painting the three squares of process colour - M/Y/C - Subtractive Primary Colours Next mix colours and white to each primary colour as gradual steps. This will give a graduated tone.

Now experiment mixing different percentages of Magenta and Yellow to give a colour range from yellow though orange to red and onto magenta.

Do the same with each primary colour.

Why not do this as the colour triangle above by putting a good dob of each primary colour in each corner of the triangle and drawing the pigment out to meet in the middle of each side. (You may have to mix in a little white to the cyan and magenta before you paint)

Another experiment,try to mix colour of a complimentary colour to a colour you have mixed and note how the saturation drops and the colour becomes darker and eventually grey.

Having completed this exercise you will know which three paints to take when marooned on a Desert Island!

Happy Painting.

What are the primary colours?

What were you taught about The Primary Colours, was it Red Blue and Yellow or Magenta, Cyan and Yellow?

How does that affect your painting?

Tell us your choice of colour palette and how your painting is going. Have you painted with Process colours?

Below you can add pictures of your painting experience, You will find how to photograph your work on this site at http://www.paint-landscape.com/Digital-photography-tips.html This is a chance to display you paintings.