The Ultimate Guide to Color Mixing Charts

Different types of mixing charts

Color mixing can be a challenging endeavor, it can be difficult to remember all those specific color combinations especially if you’re new at it. That is why we have Color mixing charts!

In this post, I take you through and explain the different types of charts and what each of their uses is.

6 Different types of color mixing charts

So what is a color mixing chart?

To put it simply, color mixing charts are diagrams that show you the results of mixing different color combinations. They are also a great reference tool for color mixing when painting.

There are many different types of color mixing charts, and each one has its purpose. The names are listed below, however, keep in mind that other artists may have different names for some of them:

In this post, I mention the purpose of each chart and roughly how you can create one for yourself.

The color wheel

The color wheel is a visual aid chart showing the relationships between different colors so that we can understand them better. Color wheels are, in my opinion, the most important color chart you can create as a beginner. With a color wheel, you can understand the basics of color mixing and color theory. You can use the information on this chart to help guide you when learning how colors can be warm/cool. It can show you how you can darken a color, mute a color, or which color to mix…etc

The image below shows a color wheel chart. However, I thought it best to dedicate a separate post on how to make and read one. Click here to check it out.

We’ve established that Color wheels are great for understanding the basics such as learning the difference between warm and cool colors and what happens when you mix complementary, analogous colors…etc. However, to better understand how to mix the colors on your palette, you’ll need to use other types of color mixing charts (such as the ones mentioned below). This is because there are so many different types of reds, blues, and yellows that you can’t include every version on one single color wheel.

Traditional mixing charts

A traditional mixing chart shows you what results can be produced from mixing the colors you have in your palette. They are a way to create a reference tool that you can use to quickly determine what colors to mix to get the hue you want.

What are traditional mixing charts used for?

Using a mixing chart will help you understand: which colors, when mixed, produce a muddy undesired color, a rich saturated color, and which colors mute each other. With a mixing chart, you can see how to mix different shades of the same color (e.g. light green; blue-green, olive green…etc). This way you don’t have to keep testing your colors while you paint, you can use the information on your color chart as a guide.

How to read a mixing chart

The whole point of the mixing chart is to mix every color at least once. The X-axis and Y-axis show the colors you are going to mix. They should be placed in the same order with the same colors on both sides.

The diagram below properly shows how you can read a color mixing chart. However, I have also written a step by step article on how to make a traditional color mixing chart if you wish to learn in more depth.

how to read a watercolor mixing chart

Watercolor Glazing charts

One of the most fundamental techniques in watercolor is to paint in layers. When you layer two or more colors on top of each other you are able to create a new color! Watercolor glazing charts show the new colors that emerge when two colors are glazed over each other.

The diagram below shows you how to read a watercolor glazing chart:

You can also read my article on how to make a watercolor glazing chart to learn more!

How to use and read a watercolor glazing chart

Color value charts

Watercolor paint tends to be transparent, the more water you add, the lighter it becomes in value. Color value charts are a way to see how a color will look at different stages as you gradually dilute the paint. This is especially helpful when working with dark colors such as Prussian blue.

The image below shows an example of a color value chart:

How to read a color value chart.

You can see how the color gets lighter and lighter towards the right.

How to make a watercolor value chart:

Step 1- To create this value chart I started by drawing five rectangles with a little space between each shape. You can draw squares or circles if you prefer.

Step 2- Fill in the first box with a saturated version of paint (lots of pigment and very little water). As you fill the boxes towards the right, keep adding more water than pigment to the mixture. You can use the diagram above as a guide.

I painted the first box with little to no water added, as I painted each box to the right I added more water. the last box to the right has very little paint and more water.

Dual-color mixing charts

As the name suggests, this type of chart shows the results when mixing two colors at different ratios. This is especially helpful when learning about the different shades you can create with just two colors!

To create this chart start by drawing a few squares lined up from left to right. The first and last square will show the colors you’re going to mix. The third square will show the result of mixing equal amounts of each color. The 2nd rectangle will show a mixture of 75% of the first color and 25% of the color in the 5th rectangle. The 4th rectangle will show a mixture of 75% of the last color and 25% of the first color.

How to create complementary color charts

Complementary color charts are similar to dual-color mixing charts however, they show the results of mixing two complementary colors in different ratios.

Below you can see a complementary color chart, the diagram shows the different ratios to mix when creating a complementary chart:

To learn more about complementary colors check out this post where I explain color mixing in depth.

Compound color mixing charts

Compound color charts show the different results you can get from mixing three primary colors at different ratios.

These types of charts are probably my favorite for color mixing! I often find myself reaching for my compound chart before the traditional color mixing charts because they go into more detail with color mixtures.

Compound color chart full tutorial here.

What’s the difference between a compound chart and a traditional mixing chart?

The main difference between a compound chart and a traditional mixing chart is that the compound chart contains fewer color combinations in more detail, while the traditional chart shows more colors and less detail. Compound charts are more focused, whereas the traditional mixing chart offers a general overview of the different color mixtures.

How to read a compound color chart:

In the diagram below you can see the three main colors used in this chart. They are positioned on three of the corners (Cobalt blue, Quinacridone Rose, and New Gamboge).

The top row and left column show the results of mixing just two of the three colors in different ratios.

The rest of the boxes show the different results combining the colors on the X and Y axis.

Palette charts

It’s always helpful to have a chart showing the different colors available in your palette, this way you can tell what each color looks like on paper and what its name is. Palette charts aren’t necessary, however, they can help you know the different color names and pigment numbers especially when you are just starting to familiarize yourself.

The image below shows one of my palette charts next to the palette itself. You can see how the colors are arranged in the same order and position as the palette wells. I have also made sure to include the names of the pigments.

We have come to the end of yet another color mixing article, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and found the information useful! Don’t forget to sign up for my email news letter to gain access to my free watercolor 3 day beginner exercises down below!

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