I often get the questions how-to:
- “How do I make Black?”
- “How do I make brown?”
- “How do I make olive green?”
These how-to questions may seem silly to some. Considering at school we learnt about primary colours, for example: RED apples, BLUE sky, and YELLOW bananas . And then also told how to mix yellow and blue to make green, etc.
But new aspiring artists do ask those questions above. It generally happens with their first art class exercise, when they have trouble producing different shades of green. Or when making up colour wheels.
So if students are having trouble making different shades and hues of green, brown or even black, we need to have a greater understand how the primary colours work and how neural and grays are created.
Starting with the best selection of primary pigments, to make those shades and hues.
We often hear the theory, “ You only need the three primary colours to make a simple palette!” That is referring to: a small selection or amount of pigments, which can make a whole range of different colours.
HINT: The best and largest range of colours is made from a cool selection of the primary colours. For example: cool lemon yellow, cool thalo blue and cool Alizarin red.
So now let’s move on, and learn how-to answer those questions above:
BLACK: is basically made in theory with the mixture of dark red and blue, and a little yellow. Using less yellow is understandable when you consider nighttime doesn’t have full sunlight.
So that is why some artists include a green pigment instead of yellow. Because it is a clearer darker colour than an opaque yellow pigment. And because green is made up of yellow and blue.
Of cause the resulting shade of the mixture, will depend on which primary is more dominate. That is, a cool bluish black will have slightly more blue in the mixture. A warm black will have slightly more red in the mixture.
BROWN: is basically the equal mixture of red & blue, and more yellow in the content. This is logical when you see brown sand easier in the daytime! The shade of brown of cause also depends on which primary colour is the most dominate.
- Warning: Now if you have been fiddling, stirring with your brush, mixing in more and more colours into your painting in the attempt to get your colours just right, you most properly wondering why your painting turned into a murky muddy colour! Because all three primaries were equally involved!
OLIVE GREEN: Is the mixture of orange and green. The shades of green you want depends on which colour dominates the mixture. Please note, yellow is the in-between colour of olive.
- The fact olive green, teal and russet are neutral colours.
- Russet that is made from orange and violet, is also has a brownish shade! That is, it’s a mixture of the three primary colours: Red being the dominant primary colour. And orange having a touch of yellow. And violet having some blue in it.
- Teal is a mixture of green and violet. Thus blue been the in-between dominate colour. And to add an interesting fact: putting a touch of violet or magenta in tree foliage complements the green mass and makes it come more alive with colour.
And while we are at it, let’s go deeper and also talk about creating simple grays.
To start with grays are generally made with opposite colours, often referred to as complementary colours. Basically how-to make:
- Orange mixed with blue makes battleship gray.
- Yellow and violet makes golden grays.
- But sadly red and green makes ugly grays.
And here again the shade depends on which of the two colours involved, is more dominate!
But you often hear professional artists make beautiful colourful greys, and wonder how they do it!?
To make such beautiful grays, they use off-centre split complementarys. That means using colours not quite directly opposite. For example how-to mix grays:
- Violet and yellow-green or sap green.
- Violet and raw sienna or raw umber.
- Thalo Winsor green and orange or burnt sienna.
PS: I hope this discussion on mixing colours has been simple to understand, and will help you paint the most exciting beautiful paintings from now on.