12 Ways to Improve Your Color Mixing Skills

Believe it or not, watercolor mixing is a skill that takes time and practice to master. In this post, you’ll learn twelve ways to improve your color-mixing skills. 

Let’s get started!

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12 Tips to Improve Your Color Mixing Skills

Use a color wheel

Having a color wheel close by will act as a reminder of the relationships between different colors. You’ll know what colors to mix to make muted shades, which colors are warm and cool, and how to mix saturated secondary colors.

Also see: How to make a color wheel

Work with a limited palette

Working with fewer colors challenges you when it comes to color mixing. You can mix almost any color with a warm and cool version of each primary color and still produce stunning watercolor paintings!

By using fewer colors, you can spend more on higher-quality paints with more pigment. Over time, you’ll familiarize yourself with how much paint to mix and which colors to use to achieve the colors you want!

Note the mood of your painting

Color plays a huge role in determining the overall mood of the painting. Ask yourself what you hope the painting will evoke in the viewer. This will help you choose the right colors to set the tone of the painting. 

The image below shows a comparison between two loose paintings. You can see how the different colors used in both paintings change the overall mood:

Explore different color schemes

Instead of using one color scheme for a certain subject each time you paint it, consider changing the colors and using a different combination. Use complementary colors to highlight certain elements or use analogous colors to create more harmony. 

Create color sketches

Make a quick color sketch of your subject before you begin the final piece. This will allow you to explore different color schemes and you’ll be able to decide which ones work best. Color sketches are a great way to put your rough ideas onto paper and develop them.

Don’t replicate the reference colors

It’s okay if the colors you’re mixing aren’t the exact same shade as the ones in your reference. Remember your reference is meant to serve as inspiration, it’s alright to use slightly different shades to create your painting. 

Sometimes trying to replicate the same shades as the reference could cause your paintings to turn out dull.

Use warm and cool colors

Learning about color temperature will go a long way in helping you with watercolor painting. You’ll be able to tell which primary colors you need to mix to make saturated secondary colors. You’ll also learn to create depth in your paintings using warm and cool colors.

Focus on values first

Before you begin working with color, make sure to figure out the values of your subject. This makes selecting your colors much easier. You’ll know whether to mix warm or cool, light or dark shades and muted or saturated colors. 

Take note of what colors have worked in the past

As you develop your color mixing skills through practice, make sure to have a special area where you can note down color recipes that have worked in the past. You can also add additional information and write down what colors those mixes went well with.

Observe other people’s work

Learn from experienced artists, artists who have spent years mastering their craft. Observe their work and notice what colors they use to convey the elements in their paintings. Note down the tone of the painting, which colors they pair together, and how they use muted and saturated colors. 

This can give you some inspiration and insight on how to experiment with your own work.

Mute some of your colors

A mistake many beginners make is using highly saturated colors for their entire painting. This makes the painting appear intense and can be difficult to look at because the viewer is not sure where to focus. 

It helps if you use a combination of muted and saturated colors to complete your painting. 

Take advantage of color-mixing charts

Making your own color mixing chart is an excellent way to practice your color mixing skills.

Color mixing charts allow you to see the possible colors you can mix from your palette to understand them better.

There are several different types of color mixing charts you can create and each one serves a different purpose.

I have written an article that explains the 6 types of watercolor mixing charts in depth.

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4 thoughts on “12 Ways to Improve Your Color Mixing Skills”

  1. This is very helpful information! I’m experimenting with pen and ink and watercolor. This article makes me want to really study which colors I choose and how I will use them. Thank you so much for making this available!

    • I’m so happy to hear this article helped you Nancy, especially since color mixing was something I struggled with as a beginner!


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