When I was just starting out I didn’t pay attention to mixing watercolors and color theory. As a result, my paintings are muddy.
In watercolor, mud is probably the least welcome problem in a painting. Mud does not refer to an actual colour. Instead, it describes a part of the painting where the watercolour has lost its transparency and freshness.
It was one of the challenges I faced in this medium. It’s normal to get frustrated over these things. However, you don’t have to be.
why learn mixing watercolors?
This blog post – Mixing Watercolors for Beginners, will help you answer the questions I also had when I was just a beginner.
Firstly, what are the different ways of mixing watercolors?
Secondly, what is color theory and how do I get the most out of it?
Thirdly, how to differentiate color temperatures?
Lastly, What are the basic mixes?
start with watercolor basics
As a result of years of practice and research, experienced watercolor artists can mix colors with ease and are almost effortless and casual.
I learned mixing watercolors in long and costly ways but you don’t have to be. If you stick with me, I will guide you in the easiest possible way that I know of.
If you are a beginner or a hobbyist struggling to find a friendly guide on how to mix watercolors right. This is for you But first, consider signing up for Watercolor Basics for Total Beginners Course if you haven’t yet; This course is a free email course in 4 parts that helps you get started in your creative journey through watercolor.
If you’re confident to dive in mixing watercolors, let’s start now!
mixing watercolors in three ways
This is when we mix colors on the palette before putting it on the paper. This method allows us to create a very uniform and even watercolor mix.
Wet to Wet
When you drop one wet color to another wet color already on the paper, the color will mix—but not in an even, controlled pattern. Instead, the colors will move wherever the water is on your paper.
A glaze is a second application of paint over the top of the first application—sort of like layering different colored glass on top of each other. Because many watercolor pigments are transparent, the individual colors are still discernible, creating beautiful color effects.
palette for mixing watercolors
Why palette is an unsung hero of watercolor painting? Firstly, this is the first contact of water and paint together. Secondly, it’s where you’ll mix your color choices that you will later on paint on your paper. Most importantly, this is where you’ll estimate the consistency of your paints.
different types of watercolor mixing palette;
There are different types of watercolor mixing palette; The most common is plastic and metal palettes. These two are almost always available whenever you purchase watercolor pans. It comes with a lot of sizes and shapes as well.
There is also a resin palette. Resin is an organic liquid that requires a hardener to create a plastic-like material. I have not used one before but the aesthetic of the resin palette is undeniable.
And of course, my personal favorite. The tried and tested ceramic palette.
my choice of palette
My favorite and perhaps the most helpful tool in mixing watercolors is Ceramic Palette.
Ceramic palette improves the performance of your paints. Because of its coating, you won’t see water beading on it-I hate it when I can’t mix my colors properly because of the beading. It helps a lot that on porcelain, pigments stick together resulting in a beautiful mix of vibrant color.
Ceramic palettes are very sturdy and designed for years of consistent use. And in case you are still not convinced about ceramic. Cleaning this kind of palette is also much easier too. And best of all, it doesn’t stain! Once you try painting with a ceramic palette, you’ll probably forget about the others for good.
the fundamentals in mixing watercolors
It took me several weeks to get mixing of watercolors right. The recipe comes with a lot of trial and error on my part but I would like to think it paid off nicely. The ultimate guide in mixing watercolors is learning the following
- Properties of paints or pigments
- Color Theory
- Temperature of Colors
- Basic Mixes
I. Pigment Properties
There are few terminologies that you need to keep in mind about pigments.
- Transparency/Opacity. Key characteristic of watercolor. Transparent colors are great for mixing and bringing luminosity to artworks.
- Staining. Colors that absorb into the paper before the water has had a chance to evaporate; they’re difficult to lift and will leave a stain on the paper
- Granulation. Speckled or textural effect when coarse pigment settles into the paper indentations as the paint dries.
- Lightfastness. Lightfastness is the ability a dye or pigment has to endure light and retain its original colour over time.
ii. Color Theory
I know it sounds boring and trust me I feel you! I avoided this topic thinking I don’t need to learn and be all technical about colors. I didn’t want to commit. But you know what? Learning how to properly mix your color is vital and Color Theory is inevitable.
The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. These three colors are pure and can not be created by mixing other colors. Mixing equal parts of these three colors will produce black, but mixing two at a time will produce secondary colors.
Secondary and Tertiary Colors
Secondary colors are green, orange and violet – the result of mixing two primary colors. Tertiary colors mixture of primary with a secondary color. For example if you mix red and orange it will produce red-orange.
iii. Color Temperature
Artists and designers often throw around terms such as warm colors and cool colors. When I just started I didn’t pay attention to any of these, I thought I just wanted to have fun and not get bothered and get confused with all this information and labels.
But when I realised I am ready to commit, I found myself going back to relearn fundamental knowledge so I can improve my painting and my designs.
Warm colors consist of orange, red, yellow, and combinations of these and similar colors. As the name indicates, they tend to make you think of warm things, such as sunlight and heat. Visually, warm colors look as though they come closer, or advance (as do dark colors)
Cool colors are typified by blue, green, and light purple. Cool colors create a calm, tranquil and relaxing mood. It also suggests recession. Where warm colors remind you of heat and sunshine, cool colors remind you of water and sky, even ice and snow. And that is why we use this for winter scenes.
iv. basic watercolor mixes
Hue. Hue refers to the origin of the color we see. Think of the Hue as one of the six Primary and Secondary colors. In other words, the underlying base color of the mixture you’re looking at is either Yellow, Orange, Red, Violet, Blue or Green.
Tint. A tint is any hue that is mixed with white. This mixture is less intense and normally relaxing to the eye. Most of the pastel colors are tinted.
Tone. Tones are created when you grey or add both black and white to a hue.
Shade. Shades are created when only black is added to a hue. This results in a rich, often more intense and darker color.
mixing watercolors chart, cheat sheet and more!
What I learned over the years is that to be truly fearless and confident in mixing watercolors, we should be patient with ourselves and practice with intension to learn and absorb the details of what you are doing.
Knowing the fundamental is of course a strong starting point in mixing watercolors. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s an everyday process.
The email course below includes access to cheat sheet, watercolor mixing chart and watercolor supplies.