Watercolor Basics – Mixing

Brush dipping into paint

Fair warning, this lesson is going to take you some time, and a whole lot of patience. Think of it this way: today, we are stretching our artistic skills in more than one area. So without further adieu, let’s begin!


First thing’s first, the mixing chart.

Color chart being started

This exercise will take awhile, but trust me, it’s worth the effort. This chart will show you all the different colors you can create using your pallet as well as make you more confident in your mixing abilities. First, you’ll want to take each color and line both sides of your pages. Personally, I put black in my top left corner and don’t mix it with the other colors. Black is very overpowering, and I don’t recommend it as a blending tool. Once you have your colors all lined up like the photo above, you’ll mix the color of that row with the color above it from the top row. See photo below for reference.

Color chart mixing being shown

For example, I put down my orange, and then my brown on top and mix them together so some of the orange lifts up into the brown. This takes a lot of trial and error so don’t worry! This is why we are making this chart so we can get those mistakes out of the way.

Color chart continuation picture

If you start to get jittery, you can go through and lay down the color on the left, then go on through your pallet and lay each color on top. This method is faster, but the paint will dry so make sure to lift up that paint (you do this by brushing back and forth so some of the color comes up) while applying your second color for smooth blending.

Color chart halfway finished

Keep going! You got this!

Full finished color chart

Phew, we did it! Now, you may have noticed by using this method we mixed each color combo twice. I prefer this because more than likely those colors are both different. This has to do with how much pigment/water we add which can be difficult to calculate. Now that we have two possibilities of that mixture, we have a more accurate picture of what to expect when working on a larger project. Keep this chart in a safe place, it’s a great resource!


Ok, now that we have our mixing chart, let’s practice recreating these colors. Pick two favorites. Got them? Then let’s go!

Color mixing on pallet

Add your lightest pigment to your pallet first. You can see I’ve done this with my yellow above. Then add your darker color VERY SLOWLY in small amounts, mix, then repeat until you have your desired shade. Tip 1- always mix more than enough. It’s hard to remix shades and you’d hate to run out mid-project.Tip 2- practice different techniques (last blog post) along with our next exercise using these colors for practice. When you’re finished, leave them in your pallet and let them dry. Then when you’re ready to use them again, just add water and you’re good to go!

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