Colour Mixing Basics with Acrylic paint (video)

by Will Kemp

in acrylic painting,colour theory

How to mix the colour you see. Basic principles

This video is a basic introduction to matching a colour using 3 primary colours.

The palette used was Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Ultramarine Blue. The brand was Golden Heavy Body Acrylics.

The basics of colour mixing are discussed in How your hairdresser can teach you to mix colour

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon October 1, 2012

Thank you for the best information on mixing color complete with videos. You have been a tremendous help!
I have recommended your web site to my students.

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Will Kemp October 1, 2012

Hey Sharon,
Thanks so much for your kind comment, really pleased the articles have been helpful in demystifying color mixing. And thanks for passing the website on to your students, much appreciated.
Will

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June October 6, 2012

Have just started painting about a year and a half ago (am sort of ancient – 86 years old but needed a hobby!) and have just completed my first acrylic painting.
Have a great teacher, but am thrilled to find your wonderful website to help me as well. Want to practice at home and you have given me some tools to do so.

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Will Kemp October 6, 2012

Hi June,
Fantastic to hear the website is helping your acrylic painting,

Thanks,
Will

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April Ivy December 12, 2012

Hi, may i know what kind of palette you are using?

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Will Kemp December 12, 2012

Hi April, it’s a disposable tear off palette, super quick for clearing up!

Cheers,
Will

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Amna December 14, 2012

Super useful information for beginner and easy to understand
Am enjoying all of your videos thanks

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Will Kemp December 14, 2012

Pleased to near it Amna, glad your enjoying the painting lessons.

Cheers,
Will

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Sharon December 15, 2012

One the areas that always gives me a problem is how to change the value of a color.
Take for instance a red ball. Do I add white or orange to go lighter? Do I add Alizarin or black to darken it?

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Will Kemp December 15, 2012

Hi Sharon, it all depends on the actual appearance of the ball, and what light it is in.

If you add white to the red it will bring out the pinks, if you add yellow it will bring out the oranges. To Darken, again depends on the mood you are after. For colour in the shadows I would add a green to the red, to create a tonally equal painting I would add black.

Hope this helps,
Cheers,
Will

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Sharon December 18, 2012

Good point about the light source. The Sun would give a yellow light and a florescent might give a bluish light. Also I think it would depend on the red you are using so let’s start with cad. red light for the base color. It’s bias is orange so I think I would lighten it with a bit of yellow, probably Cad. yellow med. Adding white tends to dull the color rather than lighten it.
Now would a touch of phthalo green work to darken it for the cool shadow side? I have used Alizarin Crimson for the shadow side, but that tends to be too blue.
Just sharing my thoughts before I go to my palette to experiment.

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Will Kemp December 18, 2012

Hey Sharon,
Yes, the Phthalo green would work well to darken the red for the shadow side. Gamblin’s chromatic black ( a black made from colours) is a mix between Phthalo green and quinacridone red. So the phthalo green, in this instance, will give you an even tone when you darken the red.

Cheers,
Will

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Sharon December 21, 2012

Well I did a little experimenting with thalo blue and Cad, red light and was very pleased with the results. I did a little 5×7 painting called “Apple, Orange & Pear”. You can see it on my web site if you like. Thanks for your help.

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Will Kemp December 21, 2012

Hi Sharon, love the background colour choice on the painting, the cool phthalo blue works really well in contrast to the warm apple and orange. Also, the cast shadows have been handled well and the form of the apple looks great.

Cheers,
Will

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Jan January 19, 2013

I am a beginner, but I’m taking on a project. I want to paint 8, 18″x18″ canvases, which will go on a large wall behind our sofa. I have to mix acrylics to get the background color I want. I don’t know how artists mix large quantities of a color or how to store the paint because it will take me more than one sit to paint those squares.

I think I’m asking how to measure the amount of paint from each tube to recreate the color I want. Please help. Thank you.

I see artists in their studios with pails and buckets of paint, which I assume are acrylics.

Are they mixing tube paint with gels to extend the paint or are they buying store paint like Serwinn Williams and mixing those? Like what was Jackson Pollack using?

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Will Kemp January 20, 2013

Hi Jan,

For large scale paintings you just need to add water to your paint to extend the working qualities and mix the paint in a plastic resealable tub, a screw top is advisable to keep the paints airtight as acrylics dry by evaporation.

The pails that you see Jackson Pollack using are filled with Oil paint thinned to a good dripping consistency! You can buy these metal pails fairly inexpensively at most diy store in the paint department.

Acrylics come in a variety of sizes from 20ml tubes to 2.5 litre pots. For the areas you are painting, for one colour, you would need about 60 – 100ml of acrylics diluted slightly with water.

It’s hard to give an exact coverage amount because different paints have a variety of different coverage qualities, but 60ml of artist quality acrylic paint should cover about 14 ft square of canvas if slightly diluted, your working area is 12ft square so you shoukd be fine.

Hope this helps,

Will

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Jacqueline February 9, 2013

Hi Will,

Your website is fantastic. I don’t have any artistic experience but have had an itch to take up painting and had no idea how to get started until now.
One issue I was having when I was just getting a feel for things, (and it sort of relates to Jan’s comment above) is not having an idea as to how much of a mixture to make, quantity-wise. I’d finally get the colour I was going for, but would use it all up and need more. Do you tend to mix great big amounts and keep the unused for later, or mix smaller amounts and just re-match as necessary as you’re doing in this video?
I also didn’t know about mixing with water before now, so maybe that would solve the problem.

Thank you!

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Will Kemp February 10, 2013

Hi Jacqueline,

Nice to hear from you, it can be a bit of a balancing act when you’re first starting to mix out the ‘right’ amount of paint as it varies depending on which part of the painting you’re on. With acrylics you usually need a higher volume of paint than oils or watercolours. I tend to mix larger quantities using a palette knife, and then use these mixes to grab paint from. See the How to paint with colour strings article. These can be transfered to a stay-wet palette if you’re working in a hot climate or still need a bit more working time with the paints.

Hope this helps,
Will

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Jairo Vivas July 16, 2013

I´m a retired high school teacher from Venezuela. I´ve just registered and have a lot of spectations with the art classes from Will kemp. I´ve always wanted to learn about acrylics painting.
Thank you

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Will Kemp July 17, 2013

Good one Jairo, enjoy exploring the site.

Cheers,
Will

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lisa February 13, 2014

Hi
Have you ever worked with or do you have any knowledge of Utrecht Artist’s Paints?
I’m thinking about getting back into painting (haven’t picked up a brush for years) but would like to mitigate my upfront cost while testing the waters of whether I want to get back in to it or not.
Thanks,
Lisa

Reply

Will Kemp February 13, 2014

Hi Lisa, yes the Utrecht paints can give you a good price/paint quality ratio for starting up painting again, I’ve found the Golden have a more opaque titanium white which would be a worthy investment.
Cheers,

Will

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heena patel February 22, 2014

Hello will Sir, I am from India…My query is ” i can not do shade on canvas by acrylic..pls give me some tips to give shades on canvas.. thank you…

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Will Kemp February 22, 2014

Hi Heena. have a look at this video on painting a coloured ground.

Cheers,

Will

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Salma November 2, 2014

Thanks Will,

Once again pretty amazing stuff. I now know how to use a colour wheel…. I hope! I look forward to starting your tutorials. Just waiting for my stuff to arrive.

Salma x

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