Lesson 2.5 - The Fastest Way To Color Mixing Confidence

Your Palette Inside and Out

There’s a common misconception that color mixing is random and simple. Painters, at some point of their painting journey, learn that color is a very complex topic. Unlocking its full potential is easier said than done.

Color mixing may sound simple, but there are a lot of things to consider — value, color ratios, the feel and a whole lot more.

In our last lesson, we talked about value and all its benefits and practiced how to get the values between white and black. We know that value is more important than color, but if we inject color to what we already know about value, we’ll be on a whole new level.

Remember, value creates context and emphasizes emotion. Color amplifies value.

This lesson includes two exercises wherein we explore the potential of color and the values each of them can have.

The first exercise is similar to that of our last lesson. However, now we will use various colors instead of black — mixing them with white to get the incremental values in between.

This is great for us painters because color is a nuanced subject. Mixing colors with other colors is obviously cool, but did you know you can find a lot more options just by adding white?

In the FIRST exercise, you’ll make a chart that will have all of your colors pure — adding white to adjust the value.

In our last lesson, we talked about value and all its benefits and practiced how to get the values between white and black.

Let us begin.

STEP 1: Prepare your chart.

The chart you will be using should have eleven rows and five columns made of squares — the sides of the squares should be masked with tape so that no paint accidentally goes to unwanted areas.

You can get yourself one here: https://www.colorfrontier.com/

STEP 2: Choose eleven colors from your palette and label the top row with the names of the colors.

These colors will serve as your pure colors — the colors that we will mix white with. You can label your pure colors using any method you prefer. Printing, writing or using color based labels are some examples — it’s up to you.

STEP 3: Spread your Pure Color to the first square.

Using a palette knife in these exercises is recommended since it is easier to clean — and by using it frequently, you’ll be more acquainted with the feel of the tool.

Palette knives can be awkward at first, but in time having experienced this exercise will pay off and using the tool will be second nature.

Take out your palette knife and take the first pure color of your choice and spread it thinly in the first square on the top row.

Make sure to spread the paint evenly; having an inconsistent spread could mean having inconsistent values.

STEP 4: For this next step, there are actually two methods you could use to arrive at the five different values.

In painting, we have to remember that there could be a lot of methods to arrive at the same result. Learning more than one method can mean having more tricks up our sleeves.

In this first method, we’re going to find the values of our pure colors chronologically from darkest to light.

To do so, we’re going to use a method called tinting — the process of taking your pure color and mixing it with white. This is just similar to the value exercise in the previous module. What we are looking for here is the consistency of the change — the jump from one value to another.

Mixing your colors on your palette first is highly recommended — it's better to work out the value jumps first on your palette to save you the trouble of unnecessarily taking out the paint in the squares.

Here’s how you do it:

Mix your pure value color with white until you get a slightly lighter shade. Remember, you should always use white little by little until we get your desired color — so you can get the feel of how the value changes

Repeat each process until you get the five values (including your pure) from darkest to light — then spread each color, chronologically from darkest to light, on the squares below the pure.

In the second method, we are going to find the values in between the values. This is easier for some since it’s basically a process of finding the middle-ground, rinsing and repeating

To do so, we have to consider our pure as the “dark” value. Then we have to find the medium and light values of our pure color.

To find the lightest value, mix white with your pure color until you get a slightly off-white color. Make sure that you just barely stain the white — tint it ever so slightly. Once you think you have the right value, spread it thinly at a working area and make sure to leave some space for three more values.

Next, we need to find the value between your pure color and the off-white color — the medium value. You can do so by measuring out 50% of your light and dark values. However, there is never an exact ratio in color mixing, so add either light or dark as needed.

Once you get your light, medium and dark colors, you will now have three colors as reference. These colors will be your basis of finding other values.