Color Mixing 102 Art Nebula

There are many ways to combine and experiment with your colors. One common way of creating a mixing guide is by creating a color wheel with your colors. (See Color Mixing 101). Other methods are the "Layered Mixing Chart" and by expanding your color range with the "Gradual Mixing" method.

Watercolor may be used in layered application. In the layering process of painting, each color layer is seen as light bounces off colors simultaneously creating new colors. 


  • Simply create a grid with the number of your selected colors plus an additional column and row, paint color swatches on the top row and first column, and write the hues. In the example below, we used 7 colors, so we have an 8 inch by 8 inch square grid. To paint each box, we used a flat brush for even washes.
  • Now follow the first column and fill in all the rows with the labeled color.
    You may apply it per box or in a single stroke. Try to achieve an even wash. It helps to paint on alternate rows and go back to other rows once they are dry to avoid colors running into each other while wet.

  • Wait for an 30 minutes or so to make sure that everything is dry then follow the labels of the first row and paint top of previous washes. Use a more watery mix of colors so that top layers are more translucent. Using a more saturated mix for top layers will greatly affect how much subsequent layers are seen. 

  • This activity gives you an idea of how colors affect each other when applied in layers. Now we have the idea of which color is transparent enough to show what's underneath it and which color is opaque enough to block a color underneath. Example:  Lemon Yellow under Payne's Gray versus Payne's Gray under Lemon Yellow. This shows how transparency and opacity affects watercolor painting. The amount of transparency of your colors will let layers of other colors underneath be visible. Whereas opacity in certain colors may overpower and cover fully subsequent layers.

  • The squares highlighted above are actually where a hue meets with itself. These boxes represent the hues in full saturation. Sometimes simple washes are too diluted making paintings desaturated or pale. It is always nice to be mindful of the full intensity you can achieve with a hue or color. 
  • This process reinforces how certain combinations create neutral colors. Combinations with muddy outcomes can be kept to a minimum by applying only  dilluting colors for top layers. However, colors mixed together that are of different color biases (i.e. mixing a red biased French Vermilion & green biased Phtalo blue) are more likely to create muddy or gray mixtures.

Another way of seeing the full potential of your colors is by:


To carefully see how your colors will interact with one another, it is best to take time and do this activity. Gradual mixing is done by the bit-by-bit mixing of one color to another.

For example, mixing Cobalt Yellow Light with Helio Cerulean would look like so:

Before you start, make sure to prepare a lot of yellow mixture on your palette. Then, paint the first box. Add a very small amount of the Helio Cerulean to the yellow mixture on your palette and gradually add more every time you paint a new box. The last box should be the pure mixture of your Helios Cerulean. There you have it, a gradual mix of your colors. Do this method for each pair possible in your palette if you would like to keep record of all the possible colors they can achieve.

With the following colors of Schmincke Horodam, you can achieve a wide range of clean and bright tertiaries:


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