Tips for Mixing Oil Painting Colors Correctly

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IMG-20200123-WA0001.jpgMixing colors is one of the most defining aspects of painting with oils!


This centuries-old medium is quite versatile and archival to work with. But mixing oil paints can be quite a challenging task especially for absolute beginners.


Don’t worry! To master the color mixing oil painting techniques, begin by understanding the properties of oil paints and color theory concepts.


  • Basically, colors have four properties- value (the lightness or darkness of a color), intensity (refers to the brightness or dullness), hue (shade of color), temperature (it defines how warm or cool color is). Further, basic awareness of the relationships within the color wheel would help you pick-up.


  • Oil paints are pigments mixed with a binder, usually linseed oil. Generally, oils are not pure but a bit warm or cool. Also, these paints do not dry quickly giving you ample opportunity and flexibility to come up with excellent art.



Now, let us explore the basic techniques and tips for oil painting color mixing to help you paint like a pro:


  1. Mixing A Dark Oil Color With Lights


Always, add dark colors to a light one. It will help you manipulate the changing hue more effectively and efficiently.


For example, while mixing White and Phthalo blue (dark color), the right way to go about it is by taking White color in large quantities to cover the area you want and later adding a bit of Phthalo Blue to it. Doing it the other way round, you will end up adding a significantly larger amount of White color until you make the Phthalo Blue light enough.



  1. The Opaque And Transparent Oils


The opacity of oil paints plays an important role in the effective color mixing process.


Make sure to add Opaque colors to Transparent colors. Opaque colors have such as lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, have pigments that have high covering power include. Hence, you need to add a very large amount of Transparent color to influence them.


However, you only need to add a bit of Opaque Color to influence the Transparent Color such as Prussian Blue.



  1. Darken Your Color Mix


If you want the oil color mix darker, all you need is to shade it.


The key to this technique is that you should add a complementary color. Let’s say you want to make a Green color darker, just add a bit of Red in order to neutralize it a bit, without causing any apparent shift in its hue. However, if you use Black to darken the Green color, it is likely that you will end up making your Green dreggy.



  1. Limit Your Color Palette


Learn to limit your oil color palette. Having only three to four colors in your palette will help you gain more control and get rid of the confusion.


Using too many colors in your paint mix will reduce the freshness of the color and can often become muddy and dirty.


Also, having more oil colors in the mix, the less chemically stable it will be and will adversely impact the painting colors in the long term.



  1. Intensifying The Color


You can use glazes to brighten the oil color. This technique involves applying a transparent layer of oil paint over a dried layer of opaque paint.


Make sure you never add White to the color you want to be bright as it makes the color milky thereby reducing its intensity, making the Color milky.



  1. Tinting The Color Mix


You can easily tint the color mix by adding White paint. It will help in reducing the darkness of the color.


Mixing the color with any White reduces the chroma, or colorfulness of the color while its hue remains unchanged.


  1. Using The Right Palette


Palette also plays a significant role in effective oil color mixing.


Generally, you have two types of palettes easily available, one is White and the other one is Dark.


Let’s say, you start your oil painting and want to block in the white Canvas. Then, you should use the white palette to mix oil colors, as the color mixes will look the same on the palette as well on the canvas. The same oil paint mixes on will look lighter than they actually are on a dark palette.


Similarly, when trying to mix the color for an oil painting that is already blocked in dark colors, use a dark palette. As all colors seem darker than they are on a white palette.



These recommendations for mixing oil colors will certainly help you while painting. However, it will be with time and experience that you will create your own ways to mix oil painting colors.


With regular practice and attention, you can make his daunting work of selecting and mixing oil paintings color into a rewarding one. Keep painting!



Additional Tip:

While working with oil paints, always keep room for experimentation and discovery!



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