Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

:iconprojecteducate: More from projecteducate

Featured in Collections

Journals by WannieWirny

Support by xxxbluewolf

Written Stuff by remanlongtail

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
December 10, 2013


3,747 (3 today)
111 (who?)

Bump Up Your Color

Tue Dec 10, 2013, 7:36 PM by Xadrea:iconxadrea:

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! :heart:Xadrea

Add a Comment:
8bitbrainstudios Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
useful :)
alphabetsoup314 Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I would like to expand upon point 4 - I would say that a few neutrals are very useful, almost essential, to a full palette. Not only does it allow you to better capture a full range, it keeps the work from turning into this awful mess made exclusively with strongly saturated colours. 

I would also like to agree with and expand upon point 2, not only are 'flesh tones' usually terrible, making your own flesh tones helps expand on your colouring abilities rather than relying on premixed paints. 
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2013
Rebeccannoying Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
I cheat and use burnt sienna as a base for skin tones. Otherwise, I mix all my browns/neutrals unless I need a bunch of one and consistency is important. I will admit though that it's really nice to get a set of pre-mixed paints (Liquitex offers a set of 48 of their Basics line for under $30) to add that tiny dash of color somewhere without having to fiddle too much with mixing. 

In other news, thank you guys so much for posting these journals :heart:. They're quick, easy to read, and always good advice. 
Xadrea Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
That's not cheating, burnt sienna is a nice base tone for skin :) And you're welcome! Glad to contribute!
yuukipink Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Wanna mix the perfect light skin tone? Take orange add white and add just the tiniest amount of blue. Works every time. Avoid adding purple. Found this out early on hahaha
alphabetsoup314 Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I wouldn't say to avoid purple, its use is situational for lighter skin tones. Purple can be used for certain areas (ie veined areas, under the eyes, bruises, etc) to achieve more realism. 
Rad-Puppeteer Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist

Eh? Oh...


I was wondering if this applied to digital painting, then realized I completely missed  the 'traditional week' up top....


Interesting tips. I'm not that good at traditional painting however but I heard that doing it is one way to get better at digital painting because you get to practice mixing different types of colors as well as getting a better understanding of the lighting and shadows.

Rebeccannoying Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
Actually, all this advice applies to digital work as well except for the individual pigment names :) I learned color mixing with paints and for some reason I think that'd be easier than learning it digital, but I couldn't tell you why :shrug:
Rad-Puppeteer Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh I see!

As for learning colors better traditionally, I guess you sort of get hands of practice when actually mixing the colors? Then you can apply the skill for digital painting? One of my instructors said that's how they got better at digital painting.

I know that I normally use digital means for painting and not knowing the proper way to mix colors hinders me in trying to guess what range of colors I can use that makes sense. I need to work on traditional paints more.
Add a Comment: