Watercolor mixing charts! I’m sure you’ve heard or seen these beautiful colorful charts from so many other gifted artists on the internet. However, you may not be clear on how to make one for yourself, or the importance of one. That is why I have written this article!
In this post, I will go through exactly what a color mixing chart is, how to read one, and finally, I’ll show you a step-by-step tutorial on making one at home!
Let’s get started…
What are color mixing charts?
Color mixing charts are diagrams/tables that visually represent color information. There are different types of color mixing charts and each one has its unique purpose. Color mixing charts can be great visual reference tools that help us when it comes to watercolor mixing.
A traditional mixing chart is a chart/table that involves taking a group of colors and mixing each color with every other color, at least once.
There are other types of color charts including:
- Color wheel
- Color mixing chart
- Compound mixing chart
- Dual color chart
- Palette chart
- Swatch chart
You can read this article I wrote, where I go over the different mixing charts and their uses.
How to read a traditional color chart?
At first glance, a color mixing chart may seem confusing. However, with a little explanation and a closer look you’ll find it super easy to understand!
If you look at the image below, you’ll see a mixing chart with 8 colors, making it an 8 by 8 grid. The colors on the Y-axis and X-axis are labeled in the same order. You can see each color painted across the chart diagonally where the labels meet. For example Lemon Yellow + Lemon Yellow = Lemon Yellow. Or New Gamboge + New Gamboge = New Gamboge.
If you divide the chart in half diagonally you’ll notice one side has saturated colors and the other half is lighter. This is because instead of mixing each color twice, artists find it more useful to paint the same color at a lighter value.
The rest of the chart is pretty straightforward, to see what two colors look like when mixed you simply have to locate them on the X and Y-axis and find where they intersect.
In the diagram below you can see the group of colors mixed using lemon yellow and every other color. On one side there are the colors in their saturated form and the other side shows their diluted forms.
Now that we’ve covered how to read a watercolor mixing chart it’s time to make one!
How to make a watercolor chart step by step
- Watercolor Paper- hot pressed
- Watercolor brushes- size depends varies from different companies, so choose which one you’re comfortable with.
- Watercolor paint (Colors mentioned below)
- 2 Jars of water
- Paper towel
- Hb pencil/eraser
- Pen (to label)
- Lemon Yellow
- New Gamboge
- Burnt Sienna
- Pyrrol Scarlet
- Quinacridone Rose
- French Ultramarine
- Pthalo Blue
Choosing your colors
Before drawing the grid, you must first decide which colors you want to include and how to arrange them.
There are a few things to consider:
- Number of Colors: I would recommend creating a chart with 8 to 13 colors. Making a color mixing chart with too many colors can be confusing and harder to read.
- It’s important to include a warm and cool version of each primary color. Mixing primary colors can produce a chart with a larger variety of colors.
- Aside from primary colors you may also choose to include green or neutral tones.
It’s best to arrange the colors on your chart according to the color wheel, just because there will be more color harmony.
The list goes: Cool Yellow; Warm Yellows; Oranges; Warm Reds; Cool Reds; Purple; Warm blues; Cool Blues; greens; and finally, Grays, browns, and blacks
Unfortunately, I had made the mistake of arranging viridian (green) before french ultramarine and Pthalo blue because I was going along with my palette. After Q. Rose I meant to place French Ultramarine, Pthalo blue then Viridian. However, I’m still pleased with the final results.
Drawing the grid
There are two ways you can draw your chart. If you want it to look neat and you have some time to spare, then you can start by drawing a grid of squares with space between each square or you can also trace one using a stencil. (Image below).
Make sure you label your chart before you start painting the colors in:
Another option is to draw a regular table but just make sure there is enough space so that you can paint without the edges mixing into each other. Below is an example of a color chart I made using this method. Although it’s not the same as a traditional mixing chart (the colors on the X and Y axis are different), it will still work.
Filling the first colors
Now that we’ve drawn the grid and prepared the colors it’s time to paint in the first colors. You’ll want to paint in a saturated color box of each color along the middle of the chart diagonally (see the image below for reference).
Start by crossing out each color along the X and Y-axis. For example, Lemon yellow + Lemon Yellow= Lemon yellow. When you reach the last color your chart should have a diagonal line of colors across the chart like in the image below:
Filling in the rest of the chart
Filling in the rest of the chart should be fairly simple. Start with the first color on the X and Y-axis. For me, that’s Lemon Yellow, I simply mixed it with each of the colors that came after.
There are two boxes for where each color meets, for example, there are two boxes for Lemon Yellow + New Gamboge. So, every time I filled in a saturated color I made sure to add water to the mixture and paint in its diluted version.
The image above shows Lemon Yellow mixed with every other color in a saturated and diluted form. After you fill in the first color, simply move on to the next. For me, that would be New Gamboge.
The image below shows the final result! You can see the different oranges, greens, purples, browns and grays you can mix using just a few colors:
We have come to the end of this step by step. Hopefully, by now you know how to read and make a traditional watercolor mixing chart! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment down below or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Pro’s and Con’s of a watercolor mixing chart
Making a watercolor mixing chart can take quite some time, and you may be unsure of whether or not to make one for yourself. So below I have noted down a few pros and cons to help you decide.
Expanding your options of using different shades can result in creating more interesting paintings. Instead of using the same color everywhere resulting in a flat uninteresting painting.
Simplify Color mixing-
A color chart is especially useful when you’re looking at your reference image and deciding what colors to put in your painting. One look at your color chart can instantly give you an idea of what colors to mix.
You can learn which colors in your palette when mixed produce vibrant colors or muted colors. This can help you avoid muddy paintings.
Making a traditional mixing chart can be a good watercolor exercise for beginners, it allows you to practice mixing and exploring your colors.
Making a mixing chart can take up a lot of time, this is because you have to keep mixing each color over and over. This is especially the case if you’re making a large grid with many colors. Although some may find it a relaxing exercise, others deem it tedious.
The traditional mixing chart doesn’t include the possible colors you can mix using three or more colors. Each color you mix is the result of only two colors in your palette. This is a con because you can’t solely rely on your chart when it comes to mixing browns, and grays unless you have complementary colors in your collection. However, for this I would recommend making a compound mixing chart, you can check out my tutorial here.
With a traditional mixing chart, you only get to see each mixture in one single shade. You can’t compare the different outcomes of mixing two colors at different ratios to produce different shades.
Having many colors can get confusing and it can be tedious looking for one single color. This is why I recommend including around 8 colors in your chart, especially if you’re going to use it as a quick reference instead of a learning exercise.
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you did be sure to sign up for my Free 3 Day3-Day Beginner Watercolor Exercises down below!