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Artists help - Paint color ratios- How to mix colors.Basic color help when mixing paint

Updated on February 8, 2018

While painting have you ever thought you need a different color green for variety in the leaves on the trees or you want the water and sky to be a different blue but don't want to buy new tubes? Here's a brief introduction on how to mix your own colors saving you time, bucks and that trip to the store.

Mixing purples.

To get clean purple mix a cool red with warm or neutral blue. Eg Alizarin Crimson or Permanent Rose or Magenta with Ultramarine Blue, French Ultramarine or Cobalt Blue.

As soon as there is yellow in the mix, the purple colour range become brownish.

  • Reds with yellow include Cadmium Red, Vermillion.
  • Blues with Yellow include Phthalo Blue, Winsor Blue

Shown here is Permanent Rose mixed through to Ultramarine Blue.


Mixing Greens

Greens straight from the tube are rarely convincing. Its better to mix your own from blue and yellow or take a tube green and mix other colours with it.

You need to know that a mix of the 3 primary colours, red + blue + yellow, makes browns or greys, depending on the mix. Here are a few but the combinations are endless.

For clean green colors mix paints that only have blue and yellow in them.

eg. Lemon Yellow or Aureolin are yellows with a touch of blue. Phthalo Blue or Winsor Blue are blues with a touch of yellow. All these paints when mixed make vibrant greens.

but -

Cadmium yellow (yellow + red) mixed with any blue makes a toned-down green as there is yellow + red + blue in the mix.

Similarly -

Ultramarine Blue (blue + red) mixed with any yellow makes a toned-down green as again, there is blue + red+ yellow in the mix. Cobalt Blue has no bias so mixes well.

To tone down green colors , add red to the mix.

Cadmium Yellow mixed with Cadmium Red

Cadmium Yellow mixed with Cadmium Red
Cadmium Yellow mixed with Cadmium Red | Source

Mixing Orange

Regardless of the name of a tube colour, its the proportionate presence of the primaries in the mix – red, blue and yellow – that matter.

  • If two paints with the same two primaries mix, the result will be a clear third colour.
  • If the mix contains each of the three primaries in whatever proportion, the third colour will be browned or greyed, depending on the proportion of yellow or blue in the mix.

So, to mix clear orange use:

  • a yellow with a red bias (eg Cadmium Yellow, New Gamboge)
  • and a red with a yellow bias (eg Cadmium Red, Vermillion)

Cadmium Yellow mixed with Cadmium Red

Of course, the combinations are endless which makes it so exciting and with watercolor there is also the consideration of transparency and opacity, but that’s a later story.

The earth colours are toned-down versions of the warm yellows and reds and include Raw and Burnt Sienna, Raw and Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, Sepia, Vandyke Brown etc.

They can be used to lower the tone of the warm yellows and reds and still remain lively instead of killing them off with black.

There you have it, tons more colors using the colours you have already and a little know how. Paint away my friend, enjoy the fun and feel the satisfaction of mixing your own colors to create a new color that is just right.

Some great online art supply directories are: (I am in no way affiliated with or receive any type of payment from these companies)

Check out my other hubs on painting and art.

Paint with watercolor, budding artist tips. Art answers to a few random questions.

How to paint and draw - perspective.

Paint in watercolor - REGAINING and RETAINING WHITES. How to paint edges with watercolor - Art beginners tips and techniques.

Art -Presentation, Framing and Finishing to a gallery accepted standard.


How to paint and draw using a Two-point perspective.

Paint watercolor tips. Art how to

Art How to paint En Plein Air (painting outdoors)

Watercolour paper and tips on painting moving water.

Art how to on Watercolor painting - Technique - washes.

Paint How to mix colors

Painting and drawing General mistakes, problems and how to fix them.

D I Y Framing - an easy how to on framing to save you $$$.

Art how to paint - make tints, shades, tones and colors.

Some other great hubs to read on watercolor are

Baby Steps to Beginning Watercolor Painting

Frank Clarke Watercolor Brushes

If you enjoyed my hub please check out my other hubs, comment, share and email the link to friends and checkout the items printed in blue for my recommendations and links.


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    • Frangipanni profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Thanks peachpurple for the kind comment and yes, I'm glad to hear it is helpful to you. Have a nice day.

    • peachpurple profile image


      5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i am not good at mixing color but with your hub, i believe i am learning something. Thanks . Voted up


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