Art Lesson 25
In this lesson, you will find out the Basic Rules of Mixing Oil Paints
Learn how to paint like the Old Masters!
Old Masters Academy Online CourseSelf-study, self-paced online video course Lifetime membership One-time payment: $487 Enroll Now!
Basic Rules of Mixing Oil Paints
There are some practical recommendations for mixing Colors that can help you during the painting process. It takes experience to realize what kind of small tricks can help you in mixing. But why should we reinvent the wheel? These small tips listed below could be very efficient for us; and eventually, there will be less frustration while paining and less paint will be wasted.
- If you need to mix a Dark Color with a Light one – for example, let’s say you want to get a light Blue by mixing White and Ultramarine. Take White in a quantity you find will be enough to cover the area you want, and add a bit of Blue to it. If you do it the other way round – add White to Ultramarine – you will be forced to bring in a significantly larger amount of White till you make the Blue light enough. So, add Dark Colors to Lights – you will be in charge of the amount of Paint and manipulating the changing Hue more efficiently.
- The Opacity of Paint also plays a significant role in the effective mixing process. We add Opaque Colors to Transparent Colors. Opaque Colors have much bigger covering power, and they require a very large amount of Transparent Color to influence them. However, it’s enough to add just a bit of Opaque Color to influence the Transparent Color.
- The more Colors there are in the Paint mix, the less stable that mix is, chemically. This can negatively affect the preservation of the painting Coloring in the long perspective. And another downside of mixing too many Colors together is that the resulting Color loses the freshness of the Color and can become muddy and dirty. Ideally, there should be just two or three different colors in the mix. More than that can pollute the end-result Color. If your Color mix isn’t coming out the way you want, you should start again.
- While you try to mix the desired Color, you should test it on the canvas by applying a small stroke to see how close the mix is to the result you expect. The paint that appears to be the right Color mix on the Palette can look not as perfect on the Canvas. The test stroke helps you to evaluate what should be added to the mix.
- The use of the right Palette also plays a significant role in effective mixing. There are two diffident Palettes we should have at our disposal – one is White and the other is Dark. Imagine you start the painting process and want to block in the White Canvas. For that reason, you should mix Colors on the White Palette – the Color mixes will look the same on a Palette as on the Canvas. The same Paint mixes on a Dark Palette will look lighter than they actually are. There is a danger that paint that appeared appropriately light on the Dark Palette will actually be very dark when applied on the White Canvas. And vice versa – all Colors seem darker than they are on a White Palette; so, when trying to mix the Color for a painting that is already blocked in Dark Colors, use a Dark Palette.
- To intensify the Color – use Glazes. Nothing else can brighten the Color better than Glazings. And never add White to the Color you want to be bright and Intensive – it reduces the Intensity, making the Color milky. White makes any transparent Color Opaque.
- Tinting the Color mix by adding White into it could be perfectly fine and even advisable at the stage of Underglazing, as the Underglazing should be Opaque and Colder before we finish it in Glazings.
- When you want make the Color mix darker, shade it – you should add its opposite, a complementary Color; for example, if you want to make a Green Color darker, you should add a bit of Red into the Green in order to neutralize it a bit, without causing an obvious shift in its Hue. If you darken the Green Color by adding Black, you just have a chance to make your Green dreggy.
And at the end, I want to repeat: Tinting the Color mix with White or Shading it with Black is an oversimplification that can’t bring out the beauty in the Colors we see in the Old Masters’ paintings. But it can and must be used in Underglazing layers that will later be over-painted with Glazings and Velaturas that bring vividness and richness to the painting. That’s exactly what the Old Masters did, and we will borrow their process methods to our advantage.