Working with color can be difficult no matter what medium you choose, but it can be especially daunting for traditional artists. Learning how to mix your own colors is equally as important as learning how to apply them to your work.
1. No matter what your art teacher says, YOU CAN use black and white
You've all probably heard that at one point: don't use black, black is bad (or white is bad). There is nothing inherently badabout using either color. The real caution should be in not using them exclusively in lightening or darkening a color. Both colors are very strong and can overwhelm the saturation of whatever they are mixed with. Rather than omit black and white from your palette, explore the range they can have when mixed with other colors.
2. Don't buy "flesh colored" pigments
You know that peachy tinted stuff? Don't use it. Pre-mixed pigments with white in them tend to be very chalky and unnatural looking, plus, it limits your palette with deceptive convenience. If you do have to use flesh pigments, make sure to only use them as an additive to color that you mixed yourself.
3. Be economical with what you already have
There's no way to beat around this bush: art supplies are expensive, especially pigments. Most of us don't have the luxury to continually supplement our art caches with pigments regularly, so what I like to do is experiment with color mixing with what I already own. You can get a delightful array of colors from just a warm and a cool color mixed together at different increments. Always write down your "color recipes" so that you can replicate them later on!
4. Don't shy away from neutrals
Neutral, earthy tones get a bad rap for being "muddy" or dull, but I think they can be exciting! Brown is not simply red and green, nor is grey only black and white. What if you tossed some canary yellow in there? A hint of cerulean or crimson?
5. Crank up the intensity of your darks
As I mentioned before, black is a standard "dark" but it is a very strong color and can read very flat and graphic when that was not your intention. If I don't feel like mixing a "black," I simply add a strong warm (like cadmium red) or a strong cool (like cobalt blue) to it to give it more vibrance. Other ways to create intense darks without using black are the following combinations: veridian and crimson, pthalo and burnt sienna, peyerelene violet and crimson, cobalt and almost any color (if you've ever used cobalt you know how intense this color is).
Last but not least...experiment, experiment, experiment!
The best way to work out new color combinations is to try them out! Spread out a sheet of white paper or board and mix up concoction after concoction. Even if you only have three colors you can create a complete separate palette! As I mentioned before always write down your combinations for easy future reference!
Happy Making! Xadrea