Color Mixing 101 - A kickstart to mastering COLOR! | Chris Carter | Skillshare

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Color Mixing 101 - A kickstart to mastering COLOR!

teacher avatar Chris Carter, artist, illustrator and explorer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Lesson 1: Warm and Cool


    • 3.

      Lesson 2: Mixing Violet


    • 4.

      Lesson 3: Mixing Green


    • 5.

      Lesson 4: Mixing Orange


    • 6.



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About This Class

Color Mixing 101 is a kickstart to mastering color mixing.  You will learn the simple basics to why pigments behave the way they do when mixed together.  By using a limited palette, a warm and cool of each of the three primary colors (red, yellow, blue) you will begin to be able to predict the outcome when you mix any two of those pigments together.  

Meet Your Teacher

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Chris Carter

artist, illustrator and explorer


Welcome to Skillshare. I'm Chris Carter.

I love exploring the world with pen and brush whether it be by land, sea or air! Here on Skillshare, in tiny bites, I present tips and techniques I've learned over a lifetime of sketching, drawing and painting. My classes are designed with two purposes in mind: to present tips and techniques that help you learn new skills and master current skills; and as quick reference for those of you who have attended one of my live workshops.

I create large, abstract watercolors and oil paintings in my studio. When traveling, which I do for more than half the year, I work realistically, mostly in sketchbooks. I sketch from reality daily to keep my eye, hand and brain coordination well-honed.

You can follow me on Instagram. Additional ... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Welcome to color mixing 101 This is a class that originally was put together to be a bonus lesson in one of the color wheel Mondal courses, and I realized how useful this class would be all by itself, and it would be better to have it easily found and and going back to as a reference whenever you need a refresher instead of having to try to find it in which class it was hidden as a bonus lesson. This is the concentrated version of a two or three day live workshop tense color theory study on my part. Going back, um, out 10 12 years ago, when the economy went belly up, I stopped exhibiting and putting new work in galleries and focused on relearning color because for 30 years I had been mixing dreadful color. I didn't know what I was doing in spite of the fact I was professional artist and had solo exhibitions and sold rather well. I didn't have a clue as to how color really worked. I knew when I had achieved excellent results, but no one knew how much of a fraud I felt like because I had thrown away so much paint scraped a lot of pain off of campuses when I painted in oil, washed so much water color down the dream, threw away so many paintings that were just measurably dreadful when it came to color, I didn't get it. I read every color theory book I could find. I followed the instructions, but I have been pre programmed. My computer brain had been programmed early on in my early twenties when I went to a commercial art school and I was taught color theory, and I won't go into it now as to why that guaranteed for the next 30 years, I would mix dreadful color. Ah, they had good intentions, And the color theory they taught me is color theory that is now still taught, which makes me cringe when I think about it, Um, and I had to go back for me. I had to go back to the science of color and light, and for every day, every day for three years I practiced. I made color wheels. I started playing the color scheme game, a game that I invented for myself to really put these colors to use, I limited my palate and I started, understand, get glimpses of how this really worked. And when I got to the end of this three year period, I thought, How could I have not understood this? This is so basic, so simple. How could I have been oblivious to this? All I remember is that I was oblivious to it. I was clueless, and I mixed horrible color. In fact, what really got me spurred to learn color and really develop it as a strength of mine was a review that I got for so exhibition I had in Pennsylvania, and the reviewer had wonderful things to say about my paintings except my color, and he trashed my color. So two years later, when I had another exhibition in the same gallery, I made sure that he knew about it because I had worked so hard to improve my color. And I definitely was on the right track because the review that time was glowing on all aspects, including color. So I know it's possible. If you're just starting out, start off with great habits. Yes, you were like I waas Andi have been painting for years and years, perhaps decades. But color is still a little bit of a mystery to you, and it's not completely in your control in terms of mixing your pigments intentionally knowing what kind of mood you want to produce. I can't tell you how many times I started off painting a sunny day on the colors I mixed were dreary, so I turned it into a dreary day. But that was not a decision I made because I wanted it to be a true every day. It was a decision I made because I wanted to salvage the painting. So this is just as I said, a very concentrated lesson in color mixing. I think it will get you started on the right track. It will get you thinking along the right track, and then it's up to you to explore with other pigments. And this class I'm using a limited palette of six pigments. Ah, warm and cool of each primary, a warm and cool red Ah, warm and cool yellow and a warm and cool blue. And you'll understand the significance of that when you completed this short class. So welcome to color mixing 101 I hope you enjoy this, and I hope the light bulb goes off and you're as thrilled about color and is excited about learning more about color as as I waas. And I know I know that I will continue to learn more and more about color and and manipulation of color and playing with color schemes and how to use color. Um, expressively, for the rest of my days, I might plan on painting for another 30 years. I know that puts me who is very close to 100 but why not? So welcome on Chris Carter. This is color mixing 101 2. Lesson 1: Warm and Cool: in this video, I'm going to share with you the method that I've used to teach color mixing and color theory in my life workshops. The method that I'm gonna teach you is a way of thinking about color and thinking about color, determined by where each pigment rests on the color wheel as to whether it's warm or cool, this is more a way of thinking in a way of doing rather than a way of understanding from the scientific point of view off how color works through lightwaves. Normally I get a little carried away with the science behind it. In this video. I'm not going to bring science into it. I'm simply going to show you what happens when you mix colors that are either closer together on the color wheel or further apart. And from there you'll understand how to create beautiful, intense, fully saturated, brilliant colors, and you'll understand why, mixing other colors that are considered to be fairly primary, we'll give you neutrals, and then you can mix beautiful neutrals. You'll learn why some of your primary, such as a warm red on a cool blue, won't give you a violet, but we'll give you a brown or somewhat of a grey instead. So let's begin in this demonstration, I'm using a standard 12 section color wheel. I have three primaries a yellow, blue, red. I have three secondaries, a green, a violet and orange, and I have six. Tertiary is a yellow, green, blue, green, blue, violet, red, violet, red, orange and yellow orange. Each of the primaries is divided into either being warm or cool. So I have two of each primary. I have a cool yellow. I have a warm yellow I have a cool blue, which is a halo and a warm blue. I have a cool red and warm red for my cool yellow. I'm using Windsor Yellow for my warm yellow. I'm using Hansa Yellow deep for my cool blue. I'm using a Joe's Blue, which is a halo for my warm blue. I'm using ultra marine blue for my cool red. I'm using a lizard crimson from my warm red. I'm using cadmium red light. Now I have squeezed those colors out into pains. I can remove this and then place my pigments right on this template, The template I laminate with clear contact paper. That way I can use this when I'm painting to keep my paints straight So that I I'm sure that I'm not mixing them up, especially the blues, because sometimes they look the same and I don't want to by mistake makes a cool blue in with my red If I'm trying to get the violent So I use both of these templates will use this as reference. And I use this to actually keep track of my paints when I'm actually mixing my pigments. I'll be using this palette and placing these right on here. I will only mix to pigments at a time. I will never mixed three pigments to make sure that I'm imprinting my brain with the information that I wanted to retain. I always have my yellow at the top, my color wheel. When I lay my oil paints out, I do the same thing. I lay my paints out in a circular pattern. I start with yellow at the top, going clockwise. I moved to blue, continuing clockwise, I moved to read and then back to yellow. Some artists flip it around the other way. They have their blue here in the red. Here I am consistent with the way I'm exit so that I don't confuse myself. It's easy enough to do when you're painting intuitively and dipping here and dipping there , and you want to make sure that you've programmed your brain correctly for your own way of working in terms of warm and cool. What does that mean? My cool yellow? I think of it because it's closer to blue than it is to read. I think of it is having a little bit of blue in it. I think of a warm yellow as a yellow with a touch of red. I think of my cool blue as blue with the touch of yellow. I think of my warm blue as blue with a touch of bread. I think of my cool red as a red with a touch of blue. I think of my warm red as a red with a touch of yellow. When I'm teaching color mixing, I begin by mixing violet. I believe that that will illustrate in the best way possible the idea of mixing pigments that air closer together and mixing pigments fetter further apart 3. Lesson 2: Mixing Violet: to mix my violet. I'm only going to use two pigments, one red and one blue. There are four possible combinations of these pigments. In order to get a violet, I can mix my cool red and my warm blue. Or I can mix my cool red on my cool blue four. I can mix my warm red and my warm blue four, my warm red and my core blip. I've duplicated those possibilities on this sheet. I've made four columns, one for each of the combinations. This is my cool red and warm blue. This is my cool red and cool blue. This is my warm red and cool blue. This is my warm red and warm blue. So I'm going to mix the two together and we'll see what possibilities we have. We'll see how violet we get and how violent we don't get. Notice that the cool red and the warm blue are closest together on the color wheel going back to this color wheel. The warm blue and the cool red are the closest Together the warm red and the cool blue warm red, cool blue are the furthest. Depart the warm red and the warm blue are the same distance away from each other as the cool red and the cool blue. Now that the results will, of course depend on which pigments you've chosen. But I think that you will clearly see when I make these strips the point that I'm trying to make the first combination. All mix will be cool red, which is the illusion crimson and the warm blue, which for me is the ultra marine blue To make sure that I keep my colors clean, I'll put some of the color in the wells, and I'll make sure not to dip back into my pigment with the brush that has any other color on it. I will wash that brush up first. When I make these strips, I want as much information as possible. So I'm going to see what it's like full strength and also in dilutions. In making these strips you you learn a lot about the pigments. I know that the Lizard Crimson is very staining, so I'm going to be careful that I don't use to much lizard crimson to start with. It's not always half in half fact. It hardly ever is half one color and half the other to make the one in between. By diluting it, you get to see more of the character, the nature of the colors you're mixing. So I'm seeing violets. I'm seeing red Violet's an awful lot of red violet, so I'll go back in and add some more at the blue, going to switch now to my cool blue, making sure that I clean this out and I make sure that my water is clean, too. I can carry pigment into my mexes if my water is journey, so I'm using the listen crimson on the Jos blue. When this dries, you'll see more clearly the differences between these two mixes. I'll begin mixing the warm red and the warm blue noticed that they're not the furthest away . Ah, getting much of a violet here, am I? I looted a bit to see the nature of he moves. What do you think about that? All right, well, let's move around to the warm red on the cool blue. Here we have the warm red and the cool blue. Those are the furthest away. Let's see what happens with even less of a violet and no matter how much blue I had or how much red I add. I don't get anywhere close to a violent. We'll let that dry and take a look at it again. Let's take a look at our results very early on, probably in elementary school. Most of us are taught that to make violet for purple, whichever you want to call it, you mix a red and the blue, and basically that's true. However, we're also taught that the way you bake a neutral A brown or grey is to mix all three primaries together, and that's also true. So what are we doing here with the cool red? We don't have any yellow at all. Let's put our yellows back or just one young. In the beginning, I said that the warm red has yellow in it, and the cool blue has yellow in it, whereas the cool red is closer to the blue so it doesn't have any yellow in it. It has a little blue in it, and the warm blue is closer to the red, so it has some red in it, but it doesn't have any yellow in it. So when we mix the cool red and the warm blue close to each other. This one has a little blue. This one has a little red. Neither one has any yellow. So when you mix the two, it's true. You mix red and blue and you get violent. And that's what happened right here. Okay, but what happens when we mix these two? Well, this has a little bit of yellow in it. So we're adding all three primaries. It looks like we're mixing red and blue, but we're mixing red and blue with a tiny bit of yellow, So therefore it's neutralizing. What is the complement of yellow? How is it that we're taught? Oh, to make a neutral You mix the compliment. So to make a neutral either a brown or grey from a violet, you would add yellow. Well, that's what we did by adding the warm red. We added a little bit of yellow, so we neutralized it. And these two are these two, and we neutralized it. If we mix the warm red and the cool blue, we're mixing some yellow in with this one and some yellow in with this one because these both have yellow. So we're neutralizing it. Even more and what happened there. We have a warm red and a cool blue and look at how neutral that is. We don't have anything close to Violet there. Why? Because there's a little bit of yellow in that. There's a little bit of yellow in this. When we mixed the cool red and the cool blue, there's no yellow in the cool red, but there iss yellow in the cool blue. So we're neutralizing. We're adding a little bit of yellow to the violet that we might be able to get, and that one is here and here. We've got a tiny bit of violet, but not like we do here. That's the basis of all of it, and this illustrates it the most clearly Let's move on and mix and greens. 4. Lesson 3: Mixing Green: Based on what we just learned, I think you can predict what's gonna happen. Will we get a saturated bright green by mixing the cool yellow and the cool blue, the two pigments that are closest to each other on the color wheel? Will we get a bright clear green by mixing the warm yellow and the warm blue, The two pigments that air furthest away from each other on the color wheel, the warm yellow that has a little bit of red in it, the warm blue that has a little bit of red in it? What happens when you add red to green? I think you know the answer. Let's take a look. A bit of a warning when it comes to mixing your colors with the yellows. Yellow is not very strong, so it will turn into a green almost immediately. Hard to talk and do this at the same time. I put my yellow I met to mix this one first and see how quickly it mixes. You do want to see all the greens you can get. How dark, How like, Well, that's still somewhat wet. I'll do this trip very different green on my screen, but it's more of a neutral green. Let's take a look at the 1st 2 strips. The cool yellow and the cool blue. That's the cool yellow and the cool blue. They're the closest together, and they give a bright green. Then we have the cool yellow and the warm blue. They still give you a nice screen that's not as brilliant as that green and look where they are. They're a little further away from one another on the color wheel. Remember the yellow. The cool yellow has some blue in. It doesn't have any red in it. It has blue in it. Okay, the warm blue has a little bit of red in it, so when you add the warm blue and the cool yellow, you're adding a little bit of red. You're neutralizing it a little bit. Let's move on to the other two possibilities. Using the warm yellow. Remember, the warm yellow has a little bit of read, and so what do you think is going to happen? Let's take a look at our results. Ask ourselves a few questions. Let's look first at the two pigments that are closest to each other. What do we think probably will get the most intense prince. Is that true? Chris is the cool blue. This is the yellow cool. Yeah. Yes, indeed. Definitely the most brilliant, Most saturated greens. These aren't neutralized in any way. You've got a yellow, yellow, green, blue, green, a blue. You don't have any indication of a brown or grey. Now look at the ones that are furthest apart. The warm yellow and the warm blue over here. And what do we have here? We have a lot of neutralization in here. It looks like a charcoal gray. Even the neutralised greens are very olive. A green. It looks more like full colors. Beautiful neutrals, Great for shadows and foliage. All kinds of things were for you have greens and you want a nice, rich form of a change of planes of light. And you don't want it to be grey or brown or black and to go flat. Look at all these beautiful, rich deeps. These are all neutralized. So why is that? It's because the cool yellow and the cool blue don't have any red in the middle. The warm yellow and the warm blue, Our closer to read, they have a little bit of red in them, so you've neutralized the green that you're trying to make with the tiny bits of red that air in your warm yellow and your warm blue. But there's none at all in the cool yellow and cool blue, so you get a pure, brilliant green. Let's move on to the oranges Now the oranges air harder to discern. 5. Lesson 4: Mixing Orange: the ones closer together will give you a brighter orange than the ones further away. Let's see if that's true. Let's take a look at our results. The brightest orange on this page is this one. It's the most saturated orange, the least neutralized. That's the warm red and the warm yellow, the warm yellow, the warm red, their closest together on the color wheel and which might be the most neutralized. Now this is a little bit tough. I can see the differences, but I've been looking at this for so many years that the differences jump out at me. But I know that it was very difficult for me to see, say, the differences between this and this, although now it's pretty clear this is the most neutralized. Which two colors of those the cool yellow and the cool rep Okay, the two that are furthest away on the color wheel. And then these two are those in between ones where you have a little bit of distance, but not the whole distance. Why the warm red and the warm yellow don't have any blue in the middle. The compliment off orange is blue, so if you add a little bit of blue, you're going to neutralize the orange. You're going to make it less orange doesn't mean that it's going to be ugly and dreary. It just means it's going to be neutralized. The warm red and the warm yellow do not have any blue in them. The cool red has a little bit of blue in it. The cool yellow has a little bit of blue in it. So when you take a warm yellow and a cool red warm yellow cool red, the cool red is adding a little bit of blue to it so it gets neutralized. When you have a cool yellow and a warm red. The cool yellow has a little bit of blue in it, so it gets neutralized. I don't see it as being terribly neutral here, but it's definitely more neutral than it is there. Okay, and over here there you have a cool yellow and a cool read. The cool yellow has blue in it, and the cool red has blue in it, so you're neutralizing it even more so with these six pigments. Look at what you can make. You could make all of those beautiful colors so it's easy to use just six pigments and paint full color paintings. You've got your browns. You've cut your grey's got your primaries, your secondaries return, she Aires and all the neutrals. You could want the example here. These strips are only just a fraction of the beautiful colors you can make with those six pigments that concludes the concentrated color mixing plus that combined a two day, sometimes a three day workshop into one short class. I know it was a lot to process, but it was distilled down to the real essence of why mixing different pigments works the way it does. If you wonder how your pigments are going to react, discover where the pigment lies on the color wheel and with a little bit of practice, it will become totally intuitive. And you'll be mixing gorgeous colors, both neutrals and saturated colors in no time at all. And you won't have to reach for 12 other tubes of color to get exactly what he wanted. There are definitely some pigments that you cannot make with these six. I carried turquoise, cobalt turquoise with me because I can't mix that and usually a cobalt violet on their there. Some rents, like a permanent rose that I can't get from anything else. But overall, I can really makes everything I want, especially when I'm traveling or landscapes. It's it's easy, and when you limit your palate, you learn even more about color, and you get stronger and stronger. And then when you do get one of those very special pigments that you can't make, you know how to make it sing and glow in a way that it and can't. If you're just mixing in in how passively with your other pigments, I hope you enjoyed this dose of color mixing theory. I tried not to get scientific about it, and I hope I succeeded. So enjoy your exploration of color. It's a world that can delight you each and every day of your life. 6. Conclusion: Okay, so you've completed color mixing 101 I hope you enjoyed it. I hope it was enlightening. And please feel free to contact me anytime with questions you have. I understand the muddle your brain can be in when it comes to color mixing. And why? Sometimes you need to buy some of those other pigments for me. I need cobalt turquoise. I need Coble, Violet and Permanent Rose. I cannot make those with my standard limited palate. And why do I buy burnt sienna? Sometimes I buy it because even though I can make it with my six pigments of limited palate , I don't always want toe use my expensive yellows to make burnt sienna. So when I'm home and I'm not traveling light using an airplane, I will use burnt sienna. But I know how to create burnt sienna without just opening the captain squeezing it out of the tube. This saves a lot of money and it also allows you to carry the supplies you need in your pocket. If you're like me and like to carry your paints with you when you're hiking when you're flying paragliding, you know, I I painful. I'm flying with my son up in the air. Um, so I can do that because I can mix the colors I want to with either just three pigments or six pigments. I hope that this was a kick start opening the doors wide to the wonderful world of color. This is Chris Carter. I look forward to seeing you in a few of my other skills share classes. Thanks for watching.