November 11, 2016

Watercolor 101 Series- #1 Mixing Colors Using Primary Colors

Welcome to the first installment of what I hope will become an informative series. I chose to start with one of those basic, sometimes complicated and maybe boring subject- a little color theory and color mixing! I created this color wheel using a simple formula (who said math wouldn't be useful in life?!?!). The outer circle shows primary colors and how they mix to create the brightest colors. As we go into the circle the colors become muddier. How? Color theory magic. Grab your paints and give it a go. But watch the video below first!

I am using my St. Petersburg White Nights paints, which I love, for this demonstration.

 I explain everything I'm doing and why in the video, so please check that out for more information. There is also some more written information in this post. Here's the video-

And here's another mixing chart I created-

It is quite obvious that the theory actually works! Amazing, I know. The brightest greens are created by using phthalo blue (yellow biased) with lemon yellow (blue biased). For a more muted green, change up one of those (like phthalo blue with hansa yellow or ultramrine with lemon yellow). And for an even muddier green, choose the two primaries that are red-biased- ultramarine and hansa yellow. And the same goes for the oranges and purples. Bright oranges- hansa yellow (red biased) with cadmium red light (yellow biased). Want a more muted orange? Change of of those to their blue biased version. And for a muddy orange, pick 2 primaries with blue bias, like lemon yellow and carmine/quin.rose. And the same for purple.
As you probably already know, there are 3 primary colors, yellow, red/magenta and blue. And from those one can mix pretty much every other color. Thing is, even the primary colors are not pure, and contain a very small amount of another primary. That is why most basic sets of watercolors come with 2 of each primary. A basic set will usually have 2 yellows,2 reds and 2 blues.
Here are some examples of common primaries, but be mindful that these vary from brand to brand. Some companies carry some colors and some others. Some are very similar. There are other qualities that are important besides the color itself, such as opacity, granulation and lightfastness. But today we're just talking about mixing colors using primary colors. 
So back to those 6/7 colors.
Here are a couple of very useful links I have used before in an older watercolor post, both have great information about primary colors and choosing them for your palette.
Here's a quote from that site,

''Each one of the primary colors — red, yellow, and blue — is biased, meaning that it leans toward one of the other two primary colors. When mixing watercolor paints to get a secondary color — orange, green, or purple — use two primaries biased toward each other. Otherwise, you get a gray, muddy color.
For example, to get purple, be sure to mix a blue biased toward red such as ultramarine blue and a red biased toward blue such as alizarin crimson. When mixing colors, refer to the following list:
  • Reds with a blue bias: alizarin crimson, carmine, crimson lake, magenta, opera, rhodamine, rose madder, scarlet lake
  • Reds with a yellow bias: cadmium red, chlorinated para red, chrome orange, English red oxide, fluorescent red, Indian red, light red, permanent red, perylene red, phioxine red, red lake, red lead, sandorin scarlet, Venetian red, vermillion, Winsor red
  • Yellows with a blue bias: aureolin, azo, cadmium yellow lemon, cadmium yellow pale, Flanders yellow, lemon yellow, permanent yellow light, primary yellow, Winsor yellow, yellow light
  • Yellows with a red bias: aurora yellow, brilliant yellow, cadmium yellow medium and deep, chrome, gallstone, golden yellow, Indian yellow, Mars yellow, Naples yellow, permanent yellow medium and deep, raw sienna, Sahara, yellow lake, yellow ochre
  • Blues with a red bias: brilliant, cobalt, cyanine, indigo, mountain blue, ultramarine blue, verditer blue, Victoria blue
  • Blues with a yellow bias: Antwerp, cerulean, compose, intense blue, manganese, monestial blue, Paris blue, peacock blue, phthalocyanine blue, Prussian, Rembrandt, speedball, touareg, turquoise, Winsor blue''
Note**** Many recommend the shade Aureolin for a primary yellow, but it has been found to fade to brown or grey, so consider avoiding it.
Thanks for visiting and I'll see you soon with more videos and tutorials!

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