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Best Watercolor Tool You’ll Ever Own

posted by Misfit January 30, 2016

Whether your new to watercolor or a pro, probably the hardest aspect about watercolor that you’ve found is mixing colors. I mean for crying out aloud there are tons of books dedicated to just this topic.  It can seem very daunting of a task when facing some many different options and colors that are available to you.  Where do you start? Why is it that some colors when mixed together look atrocious while others blend beautifully? And once you mix a specific color that you love, the dilemma of figuring out how you got it in the first place?  When I first began painting, I would simply mix an assortment of colors together on my palette until I achieved the color I desired.  This worked, but it also cost me a great deal of paint, time, and un-needed frustration.  I soon found myself so frustrated that  began just using the colors straight from tubes or pans.  That’s sad because watercolor’s true power, it’s greatest value, is found in it’s ability to mix and layer colors on the paper.  So I found myself at a dilemma.  That is until I read another artist’s thoughts about using color Mixing charts to help aid in their paint mixing skills.

So being optimistic, I decided to try making one of these color mixing charts for myself.  Honestly, I can say this is the most valuable tool I own in my entire art studio.  And today I’m going to teach you how I made my own color mixing chart and how I use it.   

 Mixing Watercolors Using Color Charts

Before you even begin cutting your paper and setting up your work area.  First you need to chose what paint colors you would like to use in your color chart.  If you have never created a color chart before, I recommend just using 5 colors-preferably colors that reflect the color wheel-such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.  This will give you a great range of colors yet not overwhelm you in the process. 

The colors I will be using today are Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolors: Scarlet Red, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Yellow, Sap Green, French Ultramarine, and Dioxazine Violet.

I find these colors work well with one another and create a really sweet pastel/neutral palette compared to a more vibrant color palette. 

The Supplies You Will Be Needing Today

  • A sketchbook and pen: To write down your mixing patterns (I’ll explain more about this later)
  • A Watercolor Palette as well as a clean white surface to mix your colors:  I will be using two white glass plates to mix my colors just to make sure my paints don’t get contaminated by other colors from my palette. 
  • Two containers of water
  • A smaller round brush
  • And a hand towel to dry your brush between mixing. 
  • And of course Some Watercolor Paper: Use the kind you are most likely to paint on.  These colors will look different on different types of paper.  So if you re used to painting on cold press-use cold press, if hot press-use hot press.  Today I will be using hot press to mix my colors

FIRST:

  • First, set aside some time probably and hour or so to do this exercise.  You don’t want to feel rushed while working on this because it can get a bit tedious.  So take a breath, maybe put on some music and free your afternoon is you can.

Next:

  • Next get your sketchbook and pen and create a log of the color mixing formulas you will be creating today.  I like to write all my paints in one color going down.  Then to the left of the first color write out every color you see below it on the first column.  It should look something like this.  Next, on the second color to the left write every color that is below it-like so.  The reason we are doing this is to not repeat mixing colors.  Once you get to the bottom of your first column your chart should look something like a triangle of names.  This is going to help you not loose track of what you have mixed and what you haven’t.

Then:

  • Then cut a sheet of watercolor paper that you desire to paint your color chart on.  I cut mine specifically to fit into a small three ringed binder for easy storage and organization. 

Finally:

  • Finally, get to mixing.  Start with the first color combo you wrote in your sketchbook.  First mix a color that is rich in both colors and place a small swab of paint onto your paper.  Then add a bit of watercolor to your mixed color and place another swab of paint down on your paper.  Keep doing this until you have between 5 to 10 different values of your two mixed colors.  Continue the process with each color until your chart looks something like this. 

So Why is this Helpful:

Well first, it’s extremely helpful

    1. In determining a color palette for your paintings
    2. Knowing what colors to mix to achieve a desired color
    3. And also knowing what colors don’t work well together. 
    4. This chart is also a great way of understanding how your watercolors actually work with one another and gaining confidence in your paints during the process. 

So there you have it, in my opinion the greatest tool a watercolorist could create and have in their pocket.  As usual guys, I hope you enjoyed this video and if you did please make sure to like, subscribe, comment and all that other Youtube stuff.  And remember… just keep painting

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2 Comments

Margi October 26, 2016 at 3:28 am

Hi Carrie. Thank you for your tutorial on how to mix watercolors. It was great and will find it very helpful as I am a beginner painter. You simplified the process beautifully.
Much appreciated.
Margi
Australia

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Tracey April 13, 2017 at 4:25 am

I know this is an older post, but I’ve only just discovered your lovely tutorials on YouTube. I have always wanted to try making a color chart but no one ever explained it with the clarity that you have. I made my first one this morning (reds and blues) and it was a really useful exercise. Keep up the good work!

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