Art in Chester A Guide To Colour and Colour Mixing! – Art In Chester

A Guide To Colour and Colour Mixing!

Colour mixing is an art in itself. 

Think about decorators colour charts and about how varied the range of colours on them are. 

Type in ‘decorators colour charts’ into Google and you get ‘

Choose from 16,000 Colours – Paint Colour Range – Johnstone’s ……….!!!!!!

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The best way to cope with this when painting is to remember that there is utterly no reason to memorise them all

or to know how to mix them like a chemist!

The thing is to start small and then grow with practice. 

First, it is important to know that colour theory in art is not the same as in science, so they will contradict each other.

The basic three colours to start with are the primaries Red, Yellow and Blue. All colours can be mixed from these. However, bear in mind that there is a range of blues, a range of yellows and a range of reds, each will affect the eventual colour mixed with them.

Start with a set of ‘warm and cold’ primaries, the same applies to all mediums.



Red: Alizarin Crimson

Blue: Prussian Blue

Yellow: Lemon Yellow


Red: Cadmium Red

Blue: Ultramarine Blue

Yellow: Cadmium Yellow



The primaries mix to secondary colours, green, orange and purple. A primary mixed with a secondary colour then becomes a tertiary colour, which will be a tone of either red/yellow, green/blue or red/purple.

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Neutral colours come from mixing opposites on the colour wheel, e.g red and green make brown, purple and yellow make gray and orange and blue make a brown/gray colour. 

White is a good mixer, as is black but white needs to be used generously and black with caution!

When colour mixing take dark to light, as darker colours are very strong and you only need a tiny bit to change a colour. The following pocket guide is useful.


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The following chart shows a range of colours from dark tone to light tones. These can be brought in a tube, but colours straight from the tube are normally not very naturalistic, restrict tonal variation and cost loads of money! It is best to learn from trial and error and restrict yourself to just a few colours to start, then build up as you learn the possibilities of what you have. 


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