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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

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.

colour charts
These are an example of my own handmade colour mixing charts.

Primary Colours

This Yellow - leans towards green. Flanders Yellow

Two Primary Yellows

Sahara Yellow oil paint This Yellow - leans towards orange.
Prussian Blue - leans towards green. Prussian Blue oil paint

Two Primary

Ultramarine Deep Ultramarine - leans towards violet.
This Red  -  leans towards violet. ruby red

Two Primary

deep red This Red - leans towards orange.

Making Secondary Colours

To make the Secondary colour Green

Flanders YellowFlandersPrussian GreenPrussian Blue oil paint

 Yellow and Prussian Blue
To make the Secondary colour Orange

Sahara YellowJapaneseSahara Orange deep red

 Yellow and Red
To make the Secondary colour Violet

ruby redUltramarine Ruby VioletUltramarine Deep

 Red and Ultramarine

Mixing Neutral Colours.
We can make neutral colours by mixing complementary colours of the 'colour wheel':-

     (Primary) Blue  is  opposite  Prussian Blue oil paintJapanese Red and Ivory BlackJapaneseSahara Orange complementary to Orange (Secondary)

If we make our Orange as above with  Yellow and  Red, 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. 


     (Primary)  Red  is  opposite deep redRedandBlueFlandersPrussian Greencomplementary to Green (Secondary)

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


(Primary) Yellow is opposite Sahara YellowVioletYellow NeutralUltramarine Ruby Violet complementary to Violet (Secondary)

 Try the different combinations yourself, it's interesting and helpful learning. 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, we can make six neutral colours.


Two pigment neutrals

Bring in Black to the mixing process, we have even more choices.
 Black is very useful, try mixing it with each of the Primary colours, you can obtain some
very interesting two pigment neutrals.

 Red and

Japanese Red and Ivory Black


Ultramarine Deep and Ivory Black and Ultramarine

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.


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:  Yellow,  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.
 Yellow = PY65 Azo Yellow;  Red = 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.

Copyright Jacqui Blackman 1999

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