Introduction
Color Vision

Mixing Light

Mixing Dyes - Paints - Inks
Painting
Photography
Printing
MIX IT UP
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MIXING PAINT

Paint colors can be mixed to make a great number of other colors. Mixing paint colors utilizes the "subtractive" principles of color mixing.


Art color supplies are made in a great variety of colors. By mixing colors together to make other colors, it is possible to limit the starting colors to just a few. Such a select group of colors is called a color pallet.

 Artists have used various groups of colors or pallets to do their paintings. Their choice of colors has often given their paintings a special look or style.    Acrylic Painting

Even limiting the colors to just the three subtractive primary colors, along with black and white, makes possible the creation of most other colors.

However, art is a creative process, and need not be limited to any one group of colors. Hundreds of different colors of premixed acrylic, oil, and watercolor paints are available for use. If the exact color is needed over large areas, then ready mixed colors may be helpful. 

Our knowing the exact colors and amounts to mix to get a desired mixed color may not come readily to us. Often it takes patience and much experimenting to become proficient at mixing colors. With experience, a person may be able to look at a color and discern what individual colors are required to produce that color.

OPAQUE VERSUS TRANSPARENT COLORS

Color paint can be either opaque or transparent. Opaque paint will usually cover over whatever is underneath it. This could be the canvas or paper. Opaque paint can also cover over other colors, especially after the underlying layer is dried.

Transparent paint allows for the surface beneath to be seen. Again, this could be the canvas or paper or other colors.

Both opaque and transparent paint can be mixed prior to applying to the canvas or paper. They can also be mixed right on the surface of the canvas or paper. If the underlying layer of paint has not dried, adding color over it is called "wet on wet".

Transparent colors can also be mixed by painting one layer over the other after the underlying layer is allowed to dry.

 MAKING COLORS LIGHTER OR DARKER

The easiest way to lighten or darken opaque paint is by mixing it with black and white paint. Opaque paint can also be darkened by combining with a complementary color.

Transparent paint such as watercolor can likewise be darkened with black. However, to lighten transparent colors, usually water or other clear medium is used to dilute the color. The white paper surface will show through the diluted color and make the color appear lighter.

Transparent color lightened by mixing with water Adding water to transparent color to lighten
Opaque color lightened by mixing with white paint Adding white to opaque color to lighten
Opaque color darken by mixing with black paint Adding black to opaque to darken color

EXAMPLES OF COLOR MIXING

MIXING THESE
COLORS

GETS THIS
COLOR


cyan

+


yellow

=


green


cyan

+
magenta
=

blue
blue


magenta

+


yellow

=


red


some
magenta

+


yellow

=


orange


yellow

+


red

=


orange


red

+


white

=


pink


green

+


black

=


dark green


some
magenta

+


some
cyan

+


yellow

=

brown
brown

OTHER COLOR DIFFERENCES

Hue (the actual name of a color) along with brightness and saturation can produce a great number of different shades.*

HUES (COLOR)
Hues are the colors themselves, such as, red, yellow, violet, green, blue, etc.

red

yellow

violet

   
BRIGHTNESS We can call it a dark yellow or a light yellow. Brightness is also called the value of the color.

dark

between

light

SATURATION
Saturation is how much of the color is present. The color can be diluted with black, white, or gray.

pale
(add white)

as is

 

grayed
(add black)

THE QUALITY OF THE LIGHT SOURCE

If one is creating  a painting, the source of light is important. It can actually make a difference in the appearance of the final painting. So you may hear of a painter using sun and skylight from a certain direction, such as northern light. Artificial light sources vary greatly in their color mixtures. To our eyes, these light sources may all appear as white. However, there may be differences in the quality or the mixture of the light. This is why cameras often have a "white balance" adjustment to correct the "whiteness" of the lighting. 

We hear of cool or warm fluorescent lighting. If we mix color paint under these different light sources, the resultant mixed colors may vary somewhat.

* Note: Barring any condition of color-blindness, the human eye is able to see millions of colors. However, it may be difficult to see the difference in colors that are very similar. Usually holding one shade up to another is the only way to really see the difference.

 

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All images, including animations, are original graphics or photography by Robert Truscio © 1997, 2013 (All rights reserved). If you use any images from this page on your own or any other website or anywhere else, you must include the words, "Image by Robert Truscio" along with the image.