Tips on Color Mixing and Theory

When mixing colors for painting, the basic rule is that there are three colors that cannot be obtained from a mixture of other colors. They are known as the primary colors and are red, green and blue.

Mixing primary colors

Mixing two primary colors yields a secondary color. Blue and red yields purple; yellow and red yield orange; blue and yellow produce green.

The precise hue of the secondary color that results from your mixture depends on which yellow, blue or red you use and the proportions in which they are mixed. A tertiary color is one obtained by mixing the three primary colors.

Black and White

Also, you cannot get black and white by mixing other colors. They are entirely excluded from color mixing theory as they are not used to create other colors by mixing. They are used to lighten or darken colors, for instance white lightens up a color when mixed with it, and black will darken it.

Do primary colors have different shades?

There are numerous types of blues, reds and yellows you can buy. For instance, cobalt blue, ultramarine, cerulean blue, monestial blue and Prussian blue are all different shades of blue. In the reds, there is alizarin crimson or cadmium red; yellows include cadmium yellow light (lemon), cadmium yellow medium. These are all still primary colors, only in different shades.

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There is no particular shade of primary color that is deemed right to use for mixing. What you need to know is that each blue, red and yellow is different and it will yield a different color on mixing. Each pair of primary colors produces a different mixture, at times only subtly different.

The best way to start your journey on the color theory is by using the color theory triangle. It is very basic but it will give you a good introduction into the world of color.

Warm and cool colors

Each and every color has some bias towards what’s known as warm and cool. It isn’t something that’s tremendous; it is subtle. However, it is a vital element in color mixing because it influences the outcomes.

As a collection, yellows and reds are considered warm colors, while blue is a cool color. But when different shades of reds, blues or yellows, you’ll notice that each one of them has different warm and cool versions (relative to each other only). For instance, cadmium red is warmer than alizarin crimson (but alizarin will always be warmer than any shade of blue).

Why it’s important to know about warm and cool colors

It is crucial to acknowledge that each color has a bias towards warm or cool for color mixing. Mixing two warms together yields a warm secondary color, and equally, mixing two cool colors results into a cool secondary color.

For instance, you will get warm orange from a mixture of cadmium yellow and cadmium red. You’ll get a cooler color (more gray orange) when you mix alizarin crimson with lemon yellow. Mixing secondary colors does not only entail the proportions in which the two primary colors are mixed, but also having an idea of what the different reds, blues and yellows yield.

These are the basic tips on color mixing and theory and a good guide to start. Once you grasp these basics, the rest of the color mixing theory will be smooth. 

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