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Color Theory Part 2 – Making Reference Charts for Mixing

If you are new to color mixing, especially the concept of Color Bias in pigments, you should read my previous post, “Basic Color Theory – Why its’ not that simple with paint” first.

I’m prepping and doing color studies and comps for a shift towards abstract landscapes, researching techniques and materials needed, reading up on and reviewing some compositional theory. I bought some more heavy bodied paints, as the fluid line of GOLDEN paints that I use will not hold up to the palette knife application that I want to employ.

Buying an entire new set of paints would be incredibly expensive, however. I discovered a wonderful resource online, Will Kemp Art School. I read a couple of his posts and watched a few of his videos. Using his advice, I narrowed down the list of fewest pigments I needed to purchase in order to make the widest range of colors.

Golden Palette

I scooted on over to my local art store and purchased the following list of GOLDEN pigments in the Heavy Body Acrylic line.
-Titanium White
-Ultramarine Blue
-Pthalo Blue
-Alizarin Crimson
-Cadmium Yellow
-Burnt Umber
-Carbon Black

I almost didn’t bother buying the Carbon Black because you can make wonderful rich blacks combining a multitude of colors, but apparently, Carbon Black and Cadmium Yellow make a fabulous spring green to summer green.

My acrylic pour painting technique starts with any choice of color combination I choose. This made me feel a bit out of practice with color matching a scene I am trying to paint. Robin Sealark, another great resource, suggests painting directly onto printed color images for practice. Here are my first couple attempts at this.

Sky Practice 1
Here is my first attempt at color matching by painting directly on a printed color photo.
Here is the reference photo I painted on top of. Photo Cred – My former student and friend, Lydia Congdon
Sky Practice 2
Here is the second attempt at painting directly on a printed photo. I simply glued the image in my visual journal and worked it there. This was great practice for color matching but also getting used to painting with my palette knife on a smaller scale. This second attempt was a fail but, failure is a part of success, not the opposite.
Here is the second reference photo I painted on top of. Photo Cred – My cousin, Tony Bunn.

Next, I thought it would be a great idea to work out exactly what these new pigments would do with each other. I purchased a pad of grey palette paper and it is my New Favorite THING!!! The grey tone helps from over estimating the values, as mixing on a white surface can make you tend to see your lighter shades as darker than they really are. The palette paper has a waxy, plastic surface sheen that aids in scraping up and remixing a blob of paint.

Tinted Palette
First, I mixed each piment with various shades of white. – Reference Palette 1
Ref Palette 1
I also mixed each pigment with varying degrees of every other pigment as well. Then I mixed those pigments with white. I didn’t tint the mixtures with Cadmium Yellow as yellow is a bit of a tint in itself. – Reference Palette 2
Ref Palette 2
Reference Palette 3

‘What a waste of paint’, some might argue! But I disagree wholeheartedly! Now, I have an amazing reference guide that I will use for all my paintings. No more guessing at a color, mixing and remixing. I can just check the chart and know exactly what proportions of which colors and tinting are needed to achieve it.

I wish I would have done this sooner, even with the acrylic pouring technique. In hindsight, I see that I might have not been using the correct yellow, as Hansa Yellow Light, the yellow I’ve been using with my pours, has a green bias. That is the reason it was so surprisingly problematic for me in a lot of combinations.

I would highly suggest creating something like this for yourself to take out some of the guesswork and eliminate a lot of surprises that can lead to failed paintings.

I hope this was helpful. I can’t wait to see where this abstract landscape inspiration will lead me. I will surely keep you in the loop. Let me know what you think, and if you have any questions, just head on down to the comments and I’ll help in any way that I can.

5 thoughts on “Color Theory Part 2 – Making Reference Charts for Mixing

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