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Colour Mixing Made Easy

Back in art school, my tutor once dubbed me a “colourist.” At the time, I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but I figured it was a good thing. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a colourist is an artist who uses colour skillfully or in a special way. Wikipedia describes colourist painting as a style characterized by the use of intense colour, making it the standout feature of the artwork.

I do have this sort of love affair with colour and over the years I’ve really got to grips with colour mixing which can take a long time to master. I can now look at a shade and recreate it, it wasn’t always like that and it took practice. So, how do I do it?

Let’s Break it Down

Firstly, I look at the colour and think: Is it like a red, blue, or yellow? Once I’ve answered that question, I consider its value—how light or dark it is. Does it need lightening? If so I might add a touch of white. Next up is saturation—how vivid or neutral is it? If it’s too bright, I might add it’s the complementary colour. Lastly, what’s the temperature of the colour? Is it warm or cool? A dash of red warms it up, while blue cools it down.

Take these two colours from a recent Brush Flow lesson.

  • Name: Brown
  • Value: Midtone
  • Saturation: Very Desaturated
  • Temperature: 40 (warm) and 41 (cool)
  • What else do we notice? 40 leans towards red, and 41 has a bit more yellow.

Give it a Go

Pick up colours from a book or your local DIY shop, and try asking these questions when you’re mixing. It’s like a colour detective game!

I hope you found this helpful. Next week, I’m going to share my three all-time favourite, can’t-live-without colours!

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