What two colors make a blue

Mixing colors - The 30 best tips for successful color tones

Mixing colors can be confusing for newcomers to painting. In addition to the actual color theory, the various painting media also play a role. We bring darkness into light and give you the most important tips and tricks for mixing your colors with you on the way.




Colors mix with primary colors

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Primary colors are the three color tones which cannot be mixed and which have to be bought. From these three colors plus white you can basically mix any color you want yourself. The three primary colors are:

  • Red - e.g. purple red
  • Yellow - e.g. cadmium yellow
  • Blue - e.g. ultramarine blue

The mixing ratios of the three primary colors and the addition of white to control the brightness are important for mixing.

Try to make your first color mix yourself with cheap colors. This will give you a good feel for the most important colors



From the primary color to the secondary color

You can mix secondary colors yourself by mixing two of the three primary colors together:

  • Purple: red and blue
  • Orange: red and yellow
  • Green: blue and yellow

If you mix all three primary colors together, you get black.

The selection of the primary colors is of course important for the color mixture. There are a variety of red, yellow and Shades of blue, which in combination also result in other secondary colors. So if you intend to mix your shades yourself in the future, you should buy different shades of all basic colors so that you have maximum flexibility.



The final step - the tertiary colors

The tertiary colors are mixed from two neighboring colors of the color wheel of the primary and secondary colors. These colors are no longer as bright and clearly assignable as the primary and secondary colors and are therefore also called broken colors. For pictures that appear natural, these tertiary colors are very important, as these colors are mainly found in nature. Examples of tertiary colors:

  • Blue-purple
  • Yellow-green
  • Green Blue
  • Orange-yellow
  • Red orange
  • Purple-red

There is a great one from Winsor and Newton Color wheel, which shows you the individual possible color combinations very nicely. So you can easily see which colors you can mix together to get the target color you want.



Mixing colors - the best tips and tricks summarized


Primary colors cannot be mixed yourself

When combining colors to create new shades, there are three basic colors that cannot be made by mixing other colors. These are the primary colors red, blue and yellow.


Mixing primary colors results in secondary colors

When two primary colors are combined, so-called secondary colors are created. For example, if you mix red and blue, you get purple; Yellow and red make orange; Blue and yellow make green; Red and blue make purple. When all three basic colors are mixed together, the result is black.


What specific primary colors should I mix?

It depends on what secondary color you want and what tint or shade of that color you want to create. Mixing a deep cadmium yellow with red ocher results in a slightly different orange than that of a titanium yellow. Basically, any combination of pair of primary colors creates a different pair of secondary colors.


The mixing ratio for primary colors

The exact ratio of red and yellow that makes orange determines the exact nature of the shade of orange. For example, if you mix more red than yellow, you get a reddish orange. If you add more yellow than red, you get a yellowish orange. Therefore our tip: Play with the colors you have. Try out the different combinations and proportions. Don't forget to write down your findings so that the results can be repeated.


Are there different shades of red, blue and yellow to buy?

You have a very large selection of different color nuances for the primary colors. Here some examples:

  • Blue: Cobalt blue, Caribbean blue, Celesan blue, Prussian blue
  • Red: Cadmium Red, Scarlet Red, Carmine Red, and Venetian Red
  • Yellow: Naples yellow, cadmium yellow, lemon yellow and yellow ocher


Luminous colors with individual color pigments

For colors that are as bright as possible, make sure that the colors you use consist of only one color pigment and not several. You can usually find this information on the color itself or on the manufacturer's website.

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How do I get tertiary colors?

Mixing a primary and a secondary color (like red + green) or two secondary colors (like orange + green) results in a so-called tertiary color. The latter in particular tends to result in muddy colors like gray, brown, and black. Tertiary colors such as blue-purple, yellow-green, green-blue, orange-yellow, red-orange, and violet-red are all created by combining a primary and a secondary color.


The mixing ratios of light and dark colors

When mixing colors, the following applies: Only a small amount of dark colors is required if you want to darken a light color. However, it is the other way around with dark shades which you want to lighten. So if you want to lighten a dark brown, you need a lot of white paint.

Be careful with dark colors like black and brown, as the result can only be corrected with a lot of light color.


Optimally combine opaque and opaque colors

The opacity of your colors is very similar to mixing dark and light shades: you only need a small amount of opaque color to make an opaque color opaque. Conversely, you need a lot of transparent or opaque paint to get an opaque color that is translucent.


How do I mix white or black paint?

We advise you to buy white and black directly, as you will always need some of these two colors. You mix black by combining the primary colors yellow, blue and red.


What are complementary colors?

Complementary colors describe the opposite color in the color wheel, as it were the opposite of color. The use of complementary colors in a picture can be irritating to the eye. When used consciously, however, exciting effects can also be created.


Do not mix colors too thoroughly

When mixing two colors together, try not to mix them all together for a more natural result. So you have small color differences within the color used, which make a much more harmonious impression, especially for natural pictures.


Mixing warm and cool shades

Color tones are perceived as either tending to be warm or cool. The warm colors include yellow and red, the cool colors blue. These properties can also be mixed, for example to mix a warm sky blue. Mixing two warm shades results in a warm shade, whereas mixing a warm and a cold shade results in a more neutral shade.


Mix a clean green

Our tip for a really nice, clean green: use Phtalo blue with lemon yellow.


What shades are good for mixing clean colors?

The following colors provide a good basis:

  • Cadmium red
  • Phtalo blue
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Phatlo green
  • Lemon yellow
  • Cadmium yellow


Mixing gray and brown

Gray and brown are tertiary colors and are mixed with all three basic colors in different proportions.


What colors mix for brown

There are tons of ways to mix beautiful shades of brown. In our experience, the fastest way is to mix a little blue with orange. We have more on this in our extensive guide on the subject Mix brown summarized.


How do I mix a nice earthy brown?

To create a really nice earthy shade of brown, try the combination of red and green.


What colors mix for gray

You can mix a nice gray by mixing a larger proportion of blue with less orange and then adding white color to the desired brightness.


How do I mix a delicate gray?

For a delicate shade of gray, mix a lot of white paint with some red and green.


How do I get a warm gray?

For a warm shade of gray, try a good mix of purple with yellow.


How do you mix skin color?

It's not that easy when it comes to that Mixing skin color goes. As a base, we recommend mixing equal parts blue, yellow and red. This is how you will get a brown shade. You then add white to this mixture to lighten the shade. A little more red makes the skin tone more realistic.


How can you soften colors?

If a color seems too intense, you can tone it down with a complementary color or a little brown. As an example, you can make harsh green tones appear softer with a little umber. You shouldn't use black, as the color appears more cloudy than softened.


Clean tertiary colors

Here you should stick to the basic rule: the more different colors you mix, the muddy the shade will be. Unfortunately, when you've mixed muddy colors, there is often only one solution left: start over.


Test your paint on a paper or canvas

Test your color mixes every now and then on a piece of paper or canvas. So the colors look different again.


Optical mixing of colors (Divisionism)

Instead of physically mixing the colors with each other, there is also the technique of optical color mixing. To do this, two colors are painted next to each other, which causes the human eye to optically mix the colors. In technical jargon, this is called divisionism.


The juxtaposition of certain colors increases the intensity

In order for lighter colors to be more prominent, they should be painted next to neutral colors. A red looks so intense when it is painted next to a shade of gray. Conversely, a dark tone such as dark green increases if it is surrounded by a light color such as lemon yellow.


Use of warm and cool colors for depth and space

Another optical color mixing technique is the juxtaposition of warm and cool colors. The point is that the eye perceives cool colors as further away than warm ones. For example, putting warm earth colors in the foreground of a landscape picture and ever cooler colors towards the horizon means that the viewer's eye perceives greater depth in the canvas.