How to mix colors

How to mix colors

Are you a beginner and having trouble understanding which colors to use for your palette? You always have doubts on how to mix colors to achieve the desired color? When you mix colors you always get muddy colors?

This is the first of a series of articles about color mixing, where I will try to explain how I mix colors and how to mix the color you need.

On this blog I have already talked about color mixing. I explained what a color is and the concepts of hue, value and saturation. I have already talked about primary, secondary and complementary colors, so it’s time to explain how to mix them.

In the article 4 Basic Palette for Color Mixing I suggest to beginners 4 palette for start with. The idea is to start from a simple palette with only three colors plus black and white and then add progressively more colors as soon the experience increase. In this articles series I will explain how to mix colors using these four basic palettes.

In order to mix whatever color I want I usually follow these 4 basic steps:

  1. Observe. This seems the most obvious steps, but it usually is underestimated. Observe a color and be able to describe it in terms of hue, tone and saturation is the most difficult thing because the eye is often deceived. The surrounding colors affect our evaluation and to demonstrate this is sufficient to observe the following cube.
    How to mix colors to mimic the colors of nature.Photo
    The colors of the squares in the center of the top and front faces look different but are actually the same color (see second figure). To avoid being deceived is always good to isolate the color you want to imitate. A useful tool is a white or black cardboard with a small hole through which to observe the color. The color must be isolated in order to describe it in terms of hue, tone and saturation. To do so is certainly useful to ask the 4 questions:

    1. What is the color hue? The possible answers are: yellow, orange, red, purple, blue and green.
    2. What is his tone? The possible answers are: light, dark or medium.
    3. What is his intensity? The possible answers are: high intensity, medium-intensity or low intensity.
    4. What is the exact color temperature? If to the first question you answered “yellow” look at the color to understand if the color tends more to the green or red.
  2. Select. The second step is to select from the palette the color that is closest to the one to imitate. This color will be the starting point for our mixing. Once you answered to the 4 questions above you have a description of the color to imitate in terms of hue, tone and saturation and choose the tube of color that is closest to it is quite simple.
  3. Analyze. At this stage you need to understand if our color is warmer or cooler, lighter or darker or more intense or less intense than the color to imitate. Based on this comparison you will make the appropriate color changes.
  4. Modify. If the color is cooler than the one to imitate make it warmer. A similar thing if the color is warmer, lighter, darker, more intense or less intense. I have to repeat steps 3 and 4 until we get a color closer to the one to imitate. The modify step requires the following sub steps:
    1. adjust the tone of the color if it is lighter or darker than the one to imitate;
    2. adjust the saturation (or intensity) of the color if it is more intense or less intense than the one to imitate;
    3. adjust the hue (or the temperature) of the color if it is warmer or cooler than the one to imitate;

The steps above are a logical learning process that must be practiced and, with experience, applied mechanically. In the next articles I will explain:

  1. how to lighten or darker a color;
  2. how to make a color more or less intense;
  3. how to make c color warmer or cooler;

Finally, the last article will be about how to mix colors in practice. I will demonstrate how to mix colors about some simple objects like: tomato, leaf, lemon and grapes.

What's Next?


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