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Mixing Paint


A student asked me when starting to paint, what colors do I need to start out with?

With so many colors available, which ones should you buy when you are just starting out?

We all know we can mix a rainbow of colours with red, blue and yellow, however most of us like to squeeze the colour we need directly from a tube. The colours listed below make up a good basic palette and you should be able to mix all the colors you need.


Cadmium Red - Cadmium red is a yellowish, warm red and relatively opaque.

Phthalo Blue - is an intense, extremely versatile blue. It goes very dark when combined with burnt umber and, because of its high tinting strength, only a little needs be mixed with white to create a lighter blues.

Cadmium Yellow - You can easily create a lighter yellow by adding white to this, though if you find you’re doing this regularly, consider buying a tube of cadmium yellow light too. Remember that if you want to darken yellow to try adding its complementary color, purple, rather than black, which tends to produce an olive green rather than deeper yellow.

Titanium White - An opaque, bright white with a strong tinting power (meaning a little goes a long way). Some manufacturers also sell a "mixing white", which is usually the cheapest and, as the name suggests, formulated to blend well with other colors.

Mars Black - A relatively opaque color and should be added to other colours in small quantities until you've got use to its strength. Another option is ivory black, but only if you’re not squeamish about it being made from charred bones (it was originally created from ivory).

Burnt Umber - A warm chocolate brown that’s extremely versatile and likely to provide itself indispensable. It’s great for darkening the tone of other colors. Raw umber is very similar, but slightly lighter and cooler.

Phthalo Green - Greens can be hard to mix consistently unless you’re meticulous to note the colours and proportions you used. Phthalo green is a bright bluish green. Mix it with cadmium yellow to get a variety of shades of greens.

Orange - Yes, you can make an orange by mixing yellow and red, but if you’re mixing an orange often, you’ll save yourself time having it ready-made in a tube, so buy a tube of orange.

Purple - It’s worth buying a very dark purple as you can waste a lot of paint trying to mix one.

Other Useful Colors

Paynes Grey - a versatile, transparent dark blue-gray made from a mixture of blue and black, often with some red.

Yellow or golden ochre - a glorious, golden, yellowish brown.

Titanium buff or raw titanium- a deep cream useful for mixing with burnt umber to create skin tones.

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