Colour Mixing Tips

by Larissa Gill February 22, 2019 2 min read

Colour Mixing Tips

The forefront in many works of art is colour. Artists will know that getting this right can affect the whole feel of your artwork. It can make or break a painting. Colour mixing itself can be daunting; a colour wheel or colour mixing guide will help you experiment and achieve the desired results.

These terms and tips may help along the way:

Primary - Red, Yellow and Blue. You know the drill, pretty much all other colours can be obtained by mixing these.

Secondary - Created by mixing two primary colours together, how you make Green, Orange and Purple.

Tertiary - Equal amounts of one primary and one secondary mixed together also known as intermediate colours.

Complimentary - Colours directly opposite each other on the colour wheel offer an appealing contrast. If a colour is surrounded by a complimentary colour it will appear brighter and stronger! Such as Blue and Orange (see the painting below.) This is why an Orange and Teal colour scheme is so popular in the film industry - Google it.

Analogous - Sounds tricky, these are just colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel. Colour friends. Great for a harmonious colour schemes and to create a rich, slightly monochromatic look.

Monochromatic - Means all the tones, tints and shades of one colour, with the possible addition of black and white if needed.

Warm/Cool - One half of colour wheel is warm such as reds and oranges like sunlight and heat. The other side is cool, green and blues, like water. This may help with the balance of your painting.


If you're interested in more colouring options such as a triadic colours, tetradic colours or split complimentary colours then read up on Colour Theory.


                                                                           Cliff painting in warm and cool, complimentary colours

Are you struggling with mixing colours?

Less is more. Try a whole painting with a very limited colour palette. By using just three or four colours on your palette and using them consistently, you gain more control over colour mixing. It simplifies the thought process too. You can then expand your colours if you wish, with practise. This has many advantages - it forces you to think about tone and contrast rather than adding more colour, plus there's less chance for over mixing and muddying colours and can be a faster way to paint.

Try our ARTdiscount acrylic trial pack, or FW primary ink set for for a selection of basic colours.

So you've dabbled in colour mixing, but perhaps lack the confidence to mix the right shade again to complete the painting. Fear not. Use a Stay Wet Palette or and Airtight Palette. These are both time and paint savers, keeping acrylic paints moist and workable for days or even weeks.

Have you tried YouTube for instructional art videos? It's not all cat videos, honest...There's useful demos for a wide variety of mediums, with further tips and techniques from professional and amateur artists across the globe. Also researching other artists work, and the world around you to inspire your colour palette.

Finally if you're able to join an Art Society or local art group, even house your own painting party with friends; this will certainly aid in adding splash of colour in the right place.

Larissa Gill
Larissa Gill


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