How to Mix Paint Colors Without Creating Mud

Just Red

What happens if you mix two complementary colors together?

The two complementary colors neutralize each other into a GREY.

This is a very important fact to consider when mixing colors as it can turn your intended brilliant color into mud.

Because of this, it is imperative to determine the bias of your paint before mixing for best results.

As was highlighted in my previous blog post What is Color Temperature and Why is it SO Important, focusing on RED specifically (The Color Theory Blog Series focusing on JUST RED), RED paint can either lean towards RED-ORANGE or RED-VIOLET.

Up until now we have been discussing color theory as it pertains to RED. But, rarely in actuality, do you ever have a paint that is PURE RED.

If you look closer at paint colors, Cadmium RED has an ORANGE bias whereas Quinacridone RED has a VIOLET bias.

If you were to add BLUE, which is complementary to an ORANGE-biased paint, it would be like adding a touch of GREY to your mixture that dulls your paint.

Similarly, if you add YELLOW, which is complementary to a VIOLET-biased paint, again it would be like adding a touch of GREY.

To further complicate things, the BLUE or YELLOW added paints could also have their own biases. See the graphic below.

According to Will Kemp Art School, this can be managed by using 2 primaries that have a bias towards both warm or cool to be included on your palette.

And to find the bias of a color, this youtube video  does an excellent job in showing that by adding WHITE to your paint, the bias becomes easier to recognize.

I like what this article posted by Will Kemp Art School says, that you need to balance the warm and cool colors to achieve harmony in any composition.

It goes on to suggest limiting you palette right down to “a few key colors, at the beginning until you start seeing and understanding the differences in color temperature”. This will give you greater control.

To continue this discussion a step further, what happens when colors are put side-by-side instead of being mixed?

Read my blog post How to Successfully Place Colors Side-by-Side to find out.

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