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Mixing Colors To Paint Miniatures And Models - A How to Guide

Updated on February 24, 2011

Easy how-to guide to get you mixing colors like a professional miniature / model painter.

Miniature painted by Les Bursley
Miniature painted by Les Bursley | Source

Miniature Painting Fundamentals : PAINTS by Lester Bursley

Mixing Colors

Basic Color Theory

There are three primary colors, Red, Yellow and Blue. Combining two of these colors in equal amounts will give you a combination of the other colors, Green, Orange and Purple. If you mix all three together you get Black. By varying the amount of primary color you add you can also get the differing shades of color.

Looking at the colour wheel

Mixing To Make Darker Colors

Colors on opposite sites are said to be complementary. Examples are red / green, blue / orange, purple / yellow. By mixing complementary colors together you will darken them. For instance I want a darker Orange I would add a little dark blue to the mix. It will take a little trial and error to get the mixes correct for the brand of paint you use. This is a better way of mixing colors than adding straight black because the shading will be more gradual and not as "Muddy".

Mixing Mid Tones

Colors that are next to each other in the color wheel blend together nicely, these are called harmonies. Harmonies of green are blue and yellow. Mixing small amounts of these colors together can give you a very nice blend. A five color pallet might look something like this; Start with yellow, next blend is 2 drops yellow and one drop green, then green, then 2 drops green one drop blue and finally blue. This harmony progression should give you a nice mixture of tones great for blending.

Mixing Contrasts or Highlights

Taking complementary colors and mixing white in one and black in the other will give a great contrasting color pair. Discords are perfect to give your miniature or model a standout highlight. Buttons on a jacket or trim on a hat will really pop, with a discord color pair. Orange and blue are complementary colors, mixing black in the orange and white in the blue will result in a biscuit and light blue color respectively. These two colors would look great with a biscuit cloak with pale blue insignia or cordage. 

Thats all there really is to color theory and mixing you paints. Don't be afraid to mix your colors when painting miniatures or models. The result will be worth it.

Some Color Mixes and Useages

Possible Use
Red + White
Red + Black
Red + Yellow
Red + Yellow + Blue
Red + Blue
Blue + Yellow
Blue + Green
Black + Yellow
Leaf Green
Black + Silver
Silver + Blue
Mithril/Blued Steel
White + Red + Yellow + Brown
Flesh Tone
White + Yellow
Antique White/Ivory
Bone, Teeth, Tusks, Horn
White + Black
White + Silver
Silver Highlight
Gold + Brown
Gold + Silver
Pale Gold
Gold + Black
Antique Gold

How To Make A Wet Pallet

Wet Pallet / Extend Your Painting Time

Watch the video for help on making a wet pallet. Wet pallets are great for extending the time you have to use your paint and also providing a place to mix and blend your colors.

Wet Blending (How To)

Wet Blending Mixing / Blending Paints on the Miniature

Wet Blending is the process of mixing and blending colors on the model or miniature while the paint is still wet. This is a fantastic technique to learn and will give a beautiful transition of color from one to another making your model of miniature look more natural. 


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