Color Mixing: Learning Your Palette

Mixing paints to get the perfect color can be trickier than you think. Begin learning your palette with these tips and tricks from Portfolio: Beginning Color Mixing!

“Instead of trying to render what I see before me, I use color in a completely arbitrary way to express myself powerfully.”
– Vincent van Gogh

Learning Your Palette

My suggestion is to start with a simple exercise to create color boards as a reference for each hue. It’s a step we often skip, as we want to start painting right away, but until you have established your set of colors, I suggest taking the time and learning how your paints play with one another. Follow along with this exercise to explore your own palette.

Lemon Yellow, Portfolio: Beginning Color Mixing


  • Starting with lemon yellow, paint an inch-wide column down the left side of a panel board. Then move through each color/hue in your palette, and place them next to the yellow column—be careful not to mix the colors together! This will act as a reference for what each color looks like when used next to lemon yellow without mixing. Some colors harmonize, while others create contrast.

Shades, Portfolio: Beginning Color Mixing

  • Next create another column on the right, but this time mix the colors. You can experiment by adding more or less yellow to create different hues and shades with that mixture.
  • Use any remaining space on the panel board to create new combinations, such as adding white to the mixture and other colors in your palette.
  • Make a panel board for each color in your palette. Once you have completed a board for each color, you’ll have a reference to refer to when a particular color or combination is needed.
  • Use red cellophane to look at your panel boards and see the values of each color. This is particularly useful when you are using color to create value and depth.

Different brands, Portfolio: Beginning Color Mixing


Different brands of paint, even with the same color name, may be slightly different hues. one day when I ran out of cadmium yellow, I ran to a nearby art store and purchased another brand, because that was all they had. Even though I bought cadmium yellow, the color behaved differently than my previous brand. The slight difference in color was strong enough to be noticeably different when mixing with my other colors.

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Beginning Color MixingLearn the core concepts and techniques for mixing any color your palette needs with Beginning Color Mixing! Perfect for aspiring, beginning, and intermediate artists, the concept- and technique-driven approach makes this challenging subject approachable for artists of any skill level.

Loaded with techniques on how to use and create color for vivid artwork, Beginning Color Mixing explains every key aspect of color mixing. You’ll see basic color theory, hue and saturation, value, temperature, and color relationships and learn to wield color to create mood and atmosphere.

Each key concept is clearly explained, allowing you to master the core techniques and put them into practice immediately whether you’re working in oil, acrylic, or watercolor. Featuring plenty of step-by-step exercises and expert instruction,this is a resource no painter’s library should be without.