While it’s simple enough to purchase premixed paint in almost any hue imaginable, the skill of mixing your own colors allows you the freedom to adjust as necessary. For interior designers, this means altering wall color according to a client’s specifications without resorting to purchasing more paint. For artists, color mixing offers the ability to add depth to paintings by alternately lightening and darkening portions of the base hue in order to paint shadows and highlights onto a subject.
Primary, Secondary Tertiary
A basic understanding of color theory is necessary before mixing new colors. To begin with, all hues can be created from the three primary colors–red, blue and yellow. The secondary colors, green, violet and orange, are created by mixing one part each of two primary colors–one part yellow with one part blue makes green, one part blue with one part red makes violet, and one part red with one part yellow makes orange.
Tertiary colors are only slightly more complex, as they require the mixing of one part of a primary color with one part of a secondary color. Break down the math and you’ll discover that this formula equates to two parts of one primary color, to one part of a second primary color. For example, violet is created with one part red and one part blue. If you add one part blue to one part violet, you essentially end up with a ratio of two parts blue to one part red, or the color blue-violet. More specifically, this ratio would equate to one and a half parts blue to one part red, however the intensity of red as a warm color and blue as a cool color requires subtle adjustments to the ratio.
The six tertiary colors created through this mixing process are: yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange and yellow-orange.
Tint, Tone, Shade
Mixing the three primary colors in various proportions to one another can only produce a limited number of hues. While the number is greater than the twelve basic colors describe above, the vibrancy and intensity of the primary colors remains the same, thereby reducing the colors that can be produced. The neutral hues of white, gray and black can further expand the number of colors that can be created through mixing.
Adding white to a hue is referred to as tinting–a process which lightens the color. For example, red tinted with white creates the color pink. Mixing gray into a hue changes its tone. For example, a light green becomes a mossy green when toned down with gray. The addition of black to a color is called shading. Black has a tendency to immediately deepen and darken colors, so be sure to add it to colors in small amounts.
As gray is created by mixing white and black, a shaded color can be toned up with the addition of white. However, the dulling effect that black has on the vibrancy of a color cannot be removed that way. If an abundance of black has dulled the color too much, the only option is to start the mixing process over.