Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor Technique Mixing Colors

Watercolor technique – Mixing colors is combining two or more watercolor paints to create a variety of color mixtures. The most common method uses a palette to which paints are added and mixed together with water and other colors. Another method for mixing colors is by combining colors directly on the paper surface.

Best Watercolors for Mixing Colors

Not all colors mix well together. So, it is important to know which colors to choose before mixing them. Jim Kosvanec did extensive studies of watercolor paints and developed a color chart that categorizes watercolors into groups of colors by their characteristics. See Which Watercolor Paints Are Transparent for help in choosing watercolors for mixing colors.

For the best results, only use transparent and semi-transparent watercolor paints for mixing colors.

Mixing Colors on the Palette

Preparing a palette is central to starting the painting process. It involves selecting paint colors and placing a sufficient amount of paint for mixing on the palette surface. A palette can be made specifically for the purpose of mixing colors and have compartments to hold each paint color. It could also be an enameled butcher tray or a plain dinner plate.

Two color mixtures are prepared at the start of a painting:

  • The first is a large mixture of paint containing a lot of water for washes that will be used the most in the painting. A separate bowl or enameled butcher tray would be ideal for this purpose.
  • The second are small puddles of water mixed with color on the mixing area of the palette. The brush is used to drag color from the paint wells onto the flat area of the palette, where it is mixed with water.

When adding watercolor paint to the palette’s paint wells, arrange the warm colors on one side and the cool colors on the other side. Use two brushes, one for warm colors and one for cool colors, to keep colors and mixtures clear.

Mixing Colors on Watercolor Paper

Three different approaches used to mix colors directly on the watercolor paper are:

  • Glazing or Layering – is painting a warm Primary color as the first layer, and after it has dried, painting a cool Primary color as the second layer over the first. The two Primary colors layered over each other will result in a Secondary color. For example, a Blue layer painted over a Yellow layer will result in a Green color.
  • Organic Mingling – is dropping one color into a wet painted area of another color and letting the two colors mix organically.
  • Variegated Bleeds – is painting one color at one end of a shape and painting another color at the opposite end of the shape, then using the brush to drag the two colors together at the center of the shape, allowing them to bleed color into each other.

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