Color Mixing Demos

The hand painted color charts from artists paint manufacturers can be good samples to practice matching. Look for a color chart that uses real paint. The color chart from Golden is a work of art in itself, but the colors are streaky because they hand paint them with a brush.

I found an old Liquitex Basics color chart that uses real paint for the color chips. The colors are uniform and flat. I believe they may have screen printed the colors onto paper and then cut them down into color chips. The flat and even application of paint makes it easy to compare my color mixtures against them to see if they match.

If you have a lot of colors in your palette, you can try to match some of them by only using the basic primaries. For example, you can make a color swatch from Burnt Sienna and then try matching it with the primary colors like I do in the video.  If you can mix close approximations of these standard colors, then perhaps you no longer need to buy them.

Primary Yellow

It may seem strange to mix Primary Yellow because you technically can’t mix yellow. But the Liquitex Basics Primary Yellow is noticeably duller than both of the yellows that I use in my palette. I have to add Ultramarine Blue and Pyrrole Red to Hansa Yellow Medium to make it more dull.

This is one of the reasons why I don’t recommend student grade acrylics, the colors aren’t as pure as the professional lines of acrylics.

The primary yellow that I mix is made up of mostly Hansa Yellow Medium. I add a very small amount of Pyrrole Red and Ultramarine Blue to make it duller. Then I have to adjust the amount of blue and red until the yellow seems dull enough

I test it out by brushing some of the color onto a piece of paper and compare it to the color chip. The fine tuning involves adding small amounts of blue to make it duller. I also add white to lighten it slightly.

Here’s the final color match for Primary Yellow.

Light Blue Permanent

This is a very simple color. It appears to be a convenience mixture of Phthalo Blue and Titanium White. You can easily mix this color yourself. Any color that consists of only two colors is easier to mix than one that contains multiple pigments.

Phthalo Blue has strong tinting strength, so this mixture is mostly white with a small amount of Phthalo Blue. I get a close match almost right away. But I continue on to demonstrate how to achieve a more precise color match.

This is a mixture of Pthalo Blue and Titanium White. This is more saturated than the color chip.

You can probably stop at white and blue. To make it match the color chip, I add Quinacridone Magenta and Hansa Yellow Medium to neutralize it slightly. Together they make a red or an orange which is the complement of blue so it makes the blue more dull.

The blue is too saturated so I add Quinacridone Magenta and Hansa Yellow Medium to a small amount of the blue at the bottom right. I then add a small amounts of it to the blue to neutralize it.

I add the Quinacridone Magenta and Hansa Yellow Medium to a very small portion of the blue. I’m careful to only add a tiny amount it to the blue. These are small adjustments and I don’t want to add too much. When I compare it to the color chip, it’s a very close match so then I mix up more of it.

This is the final color match for Light Blue Permanent.

Ivory Black

You can buy a tube of black to save yourself some effort, but mixing your own is a good exercise in color mixing. The strategy I use is the same as I mention above about mixing two primaries, then adding the third to neutralize it.

I mix Phthalo Blue with Quinacridone Magenta to make a blueish purple.

I begin by mixing Quinacridone Magenta and Phthalo Blue because they will yield a very dark color. It takes me awhile to blend blend it so there’s no streaks.


I add a small amount of Hansa Yellow Medium to the bottom half of the paint mixture. It completely neutralizes the blue purple.

When I feel like I have the right shade of blue purple, I add a small amount of Hansa Yellow Medium. It starts to neutralize the blue purple right away. I continue to add more yellow until the entire mixture turns black.

It’s important to use a transparent yellow because it will yield the darkest black. A more opaque yellow such as Cadmium Yellow Light will produce a lighter shade of black. I use Cadmium Yellow Light to mix black in 11 ways to mix black.

The black on the palette is the black that I was able to mix from Phthalo Blue, Quinacridone Magenta, and Hansa Yellow Medium. The black on the paper is the match for the student grade black acrylic. It’s noticeably lighter.

You can probably stop when you achieve a dark black. But I add more white to match the Ivory Black color sample. This is another example of a student grade paint that’s not as dark as what you can achieve with professional grade of paint.

Neutral Gray 5

Since I have a mixture of black, I can add a small amount of white to create a gray. To get a close match to the color chip, I adjust the value by fine tuning the amount of white and black it contains.

I also notice that the color is slightly different. The color chip contains more red, and then I notice that it needs more yellow. This is where you can test your color mixing skills.

The end result is close but could use more yellow and white.

How close you match colors in your paintings is up to you. The video would have been longer than I took the time to create exact matches. When you’re painting, the color doesn’t have to be perfect. Nobody will notice unless you’re off by a lot.

Burnt Sienna

Burnt Sienna is a mixture of Pyrrole Red, Ultramarine Blue, Hansa Yellow Medium.

Pyrrole Red is the color I start with. I add Ultramarine Blue to make it darker and to dull the red. I spend a little bit too much time adjusting between the red and blue.

The end result is a match in color but slightly too dark.

Bright Aqua Green (Turquoise)

The mixture on the right is Phthalo Blue and Titanium White. I’m adding some Hansa Yellow Medium to make it green.

Turquoise is mostly Titanium White, with lesser amounts of Phthalo Blue and Hansa Yellow Medium. Start by mixing a light blue and then add yellow to it.

I mix in more blue because it wasn’t dark enough.

There’s more fine tuning because this contains three pigments so it takes more adjusting to get a close match.

My Turquoise mixture is on the left. You can see my daubs of paint on the right. I have a layer of acetate over the paint chips so that I can test my colors out directly on the color I’m trying to match.

My mixture is slightly duller than the sample. If you have Phthalo Green then you may be able to mix a Turquoise with more saturation. I use Phthalo Blue here to demonstrate that you can get away with using a smaller palette of colors.

It’s rare to use pure Turquoise in a paintings, so this color mixture will work for most purposes.

Medium Magenta

Since Medium Magenta is one of those convenience colors that’s made up of mostly two colors, it’s easy to mix. So, I decided to demonstrate how acrylics dry darker and how to compensate for that.

When I dry it with a hair dryer, it’s darker than the paint sample, it also looks more blue. So I add white to lighten it and a touch of yellow to counteract the blue.

Cadmium Orange Hue

I use Hansa Yellow Medium to mix this orange because it’s slightly more orange to begin with. If you want a more opaque orange then you can try using the Cadmium Yellow Light.

Pyrrole Red and Hansa Yellow Medium make a fairly clean orange.

This color is mostly yellow and red. You can quickly achieve orange by mixing these colors, but a precise match takes a little longer. There are a few times where I add too much red and then I have to add more yellow to compensate. At the end I add a touch of white to make it match the color sample.

The left is my color match for Cadmium Orange Hue.

You can quickly achieve orange by mixing these colors, but a precise match takes a little longer.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to mix colors will improve the quality of your paintings. Even if you like to invent your own color schemes, you still need to know which colors to mix to get the results you have in mind. When you know how to mix colors you can focus on the creative aspects of painting without getting bogged down with color mixing frustrations.

If you’re a beginner, I strongly recommend learning how to mix colors before you try to tackle a painting. Start with some simple colors and practice until you feel you can mix any color that you see.

Try working with a limited palette of 3 primaries and mix all of the colors from scratch. It may be difficult in the beginning but your understanding of color theory should improve as you gain experience.

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