Watercolor Magic: The Basics of Color Mixing and Color Harmony for Modern Painting | Yasmina Creates | Skillshare

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Watercolor Magic: The Basics of Color Mixing and Color Harmony for Modern Painting

teacher avatar Yasmina Creates, Artist & Creativity Cheerleader

Watch this class and thousands more

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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.

      Mixing on the Pallet


    • 3.

      Just 3 Colors Exercise


    • 4.

      Intuitive Mixing Exercise


    • 5.

      Mixing on the Page


    • 6.

      Color Play Exercise


    • 7.

      The Basics of Color Theory


    • 8.

      Inspiration and Final Project


    • 9.

      Keep Practicing!


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About This Class

In this class we will dive deeply into color. Color is very important, it sets the mood for your piece and if the colors you choose are not harmonious, your work will suffer. Mixing colors is equally if not more important, and so many people don’t know the basics of mixing. If you find yourself guilty of using paint straight from the tube, don’t worry it’s not a bad thing, but knowing how to mix will take your paintings to a whole new level. You will have full control of the colors on the page and will make colors that are one of a kind. Not to mention, you will save a lot of money, not needing to buy every color out there. In this class you will learn:

  • How to Mix on a Pallet
  • How to Mix Any Color
  • Tone Down Colors
  • Mixing Brown, Gray, and Black 
  • Make a Color Wheel Chart
  • Mixing on the Page 
  • The Basics of Color Theory
  • Collecting Color Inspiration
  • Make Harmonious Color Combinations
  • Make Your Own Inspiring Palettes

By the end of the class you will feel confident in working with colors and will feel more inspired to paint. If you master the basic techniques covered in this class, you are half way to becoming a color master, with time and practice you will start picking and mixing colors without thinking about it. This class will speed up the learning process. What are you waiting for? Enroll now to start your color journey!

Meet Your Teacher

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Yasmina Creates

Artist & Creativity Cheerleader

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I strive to make every class the highest quality, information-packed, inspiring, & easy to understand!

Creating is my biggest passion and I'm so happy to share it with you!! :)

Stay connected & in the loop by joining my Newsletter! (Also get 3 free coloring pages! :))

Did you know I have a book on drawing CUTE animals? Check it out!

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Level: Beginner

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1. Trailer: Hey guys, my name is Nina. I am a self taught watercolor able to another mixed media artist. You might know me from my previous class in which I taught the basics of watercolors. In this class, we're going to dive deeply into color. Color is very important. It sets the mood for your piece and if the colors you choose are not harmonious, your work will suffer. Mixing colors is equally if not more important. Knowing how to mix colors will take your paintings to a whole new level. You will have full control of the colors on the page and will make colors that are one of a kind. Not to mention, you'll save a lot of money not needing to buy every single color out there. This class will guide you through the basics of mixing on a palette. Then we will learn how to mix any color from the three primaries. Then I will open your eyes to mixing on the page and how alive and vibrant it makes your work feel. I will also explain the basics of color harmony and how to use the color wheel as a shortcut to understanding colors. You will do three fun and simple exercises that will give you the skills and experience to better mixing and then for the final project, you will collect images and color palettes that inspire you to create your own unique color palettes to use for future projects. If you master the basics covered in this class, you are halfway to color mastery. The rest is just practice and time. By the end of this class, you will feel more confident working with colors and more inspired to paint. So what are you waiting for? Enroll now below to start your color journey. 2. Mixing on the Pallet: Understanding how to mix colors on the palette, is an essential skill that everyone should learn. But remember, that everyone does it a little different. I personally do it a little more messy than what I'm about to show you. But these are the basics. You will develop your own unique methods with time. First off, you'll need some mixing surface. You can use a pallet or mixing tray, or if you have more space, a simple white plate from your kitchen will do. Use a piece of scrap watercolor paper to test out your mixes. Make sure to have two water containers, one to clean the brush initially, and the second to make sure it's clean. You don't want to contaminate your pure paints. You can use any brush you're comfortable with but I recommended medium sized round brush like this number six silver black velvet brush. If your paints are liquid water colors or tubes, you can put them directly onto the palette. So, let's get started. First pick up the color with the slightly wet brush, pick up as much paint as you can and put it into a mixing area, preferably in a corner or edge of your mixing surface. This will make mixing easier. You just moving paint from one place to another. It's simple. Keep doing this until you have enough paint on the palette. Deciding how much is enough will come with experience and depends on how much color you need for your composition. Now clean your brush completely and pick up the second color. Put it in another corner, or far enough away. You don't want them accidentally touching. Repeat the same process for the first. I wanted to make a small note. If you have a mixing palette with different sections, dedicate each section to a certain color range. This will make it easier to mix and keep your palette more organized. So here I put yellow in another section because if you mix the three primaries, you get black. I don't want to accidentally do that. To start mixing, use a clean and wet brought us to gently move the pain to meet halfway, keeping the pure colors in the corners. You can mix the colors completely if you know exactly what you're mixing and what the proportions should be. But I'd like to leave a spectrum on my palate so I can pick up slight variations of a certain color. Testing out my color, I get a cool lilac, but I want a warm or purple, some jelly moving a little more red into the mix and beautiful mauve, some colors dominate others more and will require you to use less of them to achieve a look of a blend of the two. You will learn with experience, which those are. I want to make more of a gradient on my palette, so I'm mixing the colors more into each other. Now I can pick up different colors easily, the cool lilac and the mauve and I still have my pure paints in the corner, which I could use for more mixing to add more colors to my palette. Now I'm going to mix spring green. I want more yellow mimic, so I'm only adding a little bit of blue. What a perfect color. I want to show you guys another thing I learned. You will get a very different result if you use different paint. It can be paint from the same brand or different brands, it doesn't matter. I use all my paints together but the point is not every yellow, blue, and red is equal, every color will interact differently. So here I use three different yellow from Dr. Paige Martins, and the same blue. As you can see, the results are very different. This makes painting with watercolors so much fun. You never know what awesome combinations you can discover with mixing. You just learn the basics of mixing on a palette. With time, you will develop your own preferences and habits that we feel comfortable and will contribute to your unique color style. In the next lesson, I will show you how you can mix any color using just three. 3. Just 3 Colors Exercise: You're probably taught in school that yellow, red, and blue are the primary colors, and from them you can make any other color, but this is not true. If you come from a design background, you already know that the real primary colors are cyan, magenta, and yellow. To show you why these are the true primaries, I'm going to make two color wheels, and I recommend you at least make one. You will learn a lot about color mixing by doing it with your paints. To do this exercise, use a pencil to draw circle, then divide it into four equal parts, then divide each fourth into three equal parts. Now, draw a circle at the end of each line. So we have a pie of 12 parts. I use permanent yellow light from whole banes, cobalt blue hue also from whole banes, and quinacridone rose from M Graham. But you can use whatever you have. If the colors don't mix well for you, try a different variation of that color. Every paint mixes differently. Put red into the top circle, then count three circles away and put yellow in to the fourth. Then do the same and put blue into the last. Now, we're going to mix two primaries at a time to fill in the middle circles. So red and blue make purple, then yellow and blue make green, and then yellow and red make orange. These are called secondary colors. Now, we can fill in the last circles by mixing the two colors surrounding them. As you can see, the colors are slight variation between the two and are called tertiary colors. This is a base color wheel and we made a lot of colors with just three. But if you see my work, you know I use vibrant pink, purple, and turquoise a lot, and I don't see any of those here. Now, I'm making exactly the same color wheel button but instead, I will use turquoise blue, cyclamen, and daffodil yellow from Dr Ph Martins to present cyan, magenta and yellow. Notice how vibrant the colors are. The combinations create more varied colors that seemed to pop off the page. We have the bright purple, the hot pink, and cyan is our turquoise, and notice these two colors, we created red and blue by mixing. The definition of a primary color is that it cannot be made by mixing. Here, we broke the rule, proving that this is the true color wheel. If you're only going to invest in three colors, I would invest in these three true primaries. Every brand will have a different name for them. They will really come in handy with mixing. You can make your color wheel using any three colors that are variation of them and you will get slightly different results. Now this color wheel seems to be missing something very essential. You need gray, brown, and black to make interesting realistic compositions, especially if you paint nature, you already have the best tool for mixing them. That's right, your color wheel. If you mix the direct opposite of color, also called the complement, you tone down the original color. The color you'd get will depend on how much of which colors in the mix. For example, mixing red and green, if there's more red, I get a brownish grayish color, but if I add even more red, I get a color that looks like burnt sienna. But if there is more green in the mix, I will get a dull grayish green, almost like a green version of Payne's gray. Experiment with mixing your compliments. You can also mix one or two colors away from the compliment and see what you get. Write it down. If you find a color you really love. The how do you mix black and why would you want to? The black that comes in tubes looks like they diluted ink. Most artists prefer to mix their own black because it has a slight hue to it. To mix the best black, just mix all three of your primary colors. You can make a beautiful warm black with more red or magenta and yellow or a cooler black with more sign or blue. Mastering the simple mixing techniques just takes practice. As you can see, a color wheel is a really nice reference to have if you get confused about which colors you would get if you mix switch and will come in handy in future lessons to experience making what is invaluable. 4. Intuitive Mixing Exercise: Now that you know a little more about mixing colors, let's practice this skills we learned. I know won't feel like you're learning a lot, but trust me, you are learning subconsciously. I do want to point out one thing. I used artist's tape, or you can say masking tape, to tape down my paper, because it's going to keep warping to a minimum. This is completely optional. This is a very simple exercise. I have a lot more paint in this, but I'm just going to use the paint I usually work with. So this isn't my palette, and you should pick whatever paints you always work with as well. What we're going to do is fill this whole page with just intuitive painting. Intuitive painting and mixing is just like when you don't really think about it, and you just do things from your imagination, or just by practicing, or playing around. It's not something you have to really, really try. It's just something you do naturally. We're just going to paint little circles, sometimes I'll use more water, sometimes I'll use less water. I'm going to upload the whole page, and you should do the same, and upload it to the project gallery. Let's get started. This is really about experimentation, and not really caring about the outcome that much, just trying things out. If you really want to use a guide, you can use your color wheel. Point of this exercise, is just to get used to mixing your colors, and getting a feel for them, and not really worrying about the outcome too much. Sometimes you get very similar color, mixing different colors, and that's really cool. Now that the page is done, I can just let it dry and take a picture, and be sure to share it with the class. This is supposed to look flat, we're going to learn about adding dimension with your color in the next lesson. 5. Mixing on the Page: Now that you know the basics of mixing on palette, let's talk about mixing on the paper. So this is actually my favorite way of mixing. If you add paint to water, plain water, the paint will do something crazy like this. This is called wet on wet technique. Now I can add a second color and the colors will blend on the page wherever the water is, but the shape that I made with the water, it will not leave. So you can do the same thing by adding a color first. But use a generous amount of water, not too much, but just enough for it to mix. Now I could draw paint inside of it and it will mix with the blue and I can add a third color. This is a lot more interesting than just making a plain shape with just one color. If you paint like this, your watercolors will tend to look really flat and boring. If you paint like this, they will look a lot more alive and interesting. The color combinations are going be, it's going be the color that they create as they mix. It's going to be little different shades of it. So it's going be a lot of color going on in here, just from two colors mixing. If you take my previous class, you saw that this is called wet on wet. You can also do dry and wet. So to do that, you just make your brush really drive by using a paper towel. You pick a paint. Now because your brush is dry wherever you put it, it's going to attend to stay there more. So this is something to keep in mind. The more water you use, the more it's going blend, the less water use, the less it's going to blend. If you want do this technique as a background, let's say you don't want it to be in a shape here on wedding, a large area because I want to pretend that this is a background. I did this a lot from my background. So what I do is I get a lot of paint and I splatter it on. Usually I paint underneath as well. I can just put more paint in there. It's going to blend and mix and mingle. If it doesn't touch the edges, it looks like it's just floating in middle of nowhere. So that's a fun thing to do as well. Another cool thing is if you mix a compliment of clarity, mix purple and yellow lets see, we're going get this muddy brown type color. I'll use my purple, it'd be more muddy even. See, you can even do this. You can mix right on the page. But you see we get this dirty brown. But if I take the colors and I make a big purple shape and I drop it in, it's very concentrated in my brush, it's not going to mix as much and we're going get a lot of beautiful yellow in there. So you see the difference in colors. This is going to be, even though they're compliments either they're supposed to mix a dark brown, it will at the edges, but it's going to be concentrated yellow on the inside. It's very cool for mixing on the page. It's very fun because you can make backgrounds. I do this a lot. I make light green backgrounds with pink splatter on it and the pink stays concentrated. It looks gougers is because they're complimentary colors, they make each other pop. But you can't really do that if you mix the paint perfectly. So you have to do that on the page. So it's really simple. All you have to do is put down a base color or water, and then you just introduce the new color to it. So let's show you what I just talked about. It doesn't mix completely. It would be a grayish, green or pink if I would have let them mix. But because I didn't, I still have both colors and they do mix at the edges and it makes us beautiful dimensional thing. This is something to experiment with. The best part about this that you can make any shape you want and uses technique. You can use as much as any color you want is coming different effects and you know how some colors dominant more. This one has a lot of minerals in it so you see you had the pink kind walks away from it. It acts different than other colors. It's fun experiment with this. Also to keep in mind that you can use this on any stroke. You can use this on a small stroke. So if I make a really small stroke, lets say I was painting a detail of something. If the paint is still wet, I can introduce a second color in there and make it more interesting. You see that. This is really fun for stems of leaves or plants or something. Now that my plant did and I can actually use a third color, don't be scared to mess up it's your learning and it's fun and you're going to learn what colors go well together, what colors mix well together and which don't. This is so much more dimensional beautiful than if it was just one color. Don't forget, you can use your paper towel to pick a paint and make it even more interesting. Mix more lights in there. This is just something to experiment with. Remember, mixing on the page goes with mixing of the pollock. Sometimes you want to get a certain color that you want to mix on the page and you mix them on your palette, you try it on your scrap piece of paper. Then you can put it in the painting. So you have to do both together to make the most beautiful and original painting because everyone has colors out of a tube. But if you mix on your palette, you're going to have special colors that you'll never be able to explain. You're never going get the same exact color twice. So you can make paintings very special and unique if you learn how to do this and incorporate it in your art. Now let's do a fun exercise, almost like the previous one that we did, but a little different that will help us to learn how to mix on the page. 6. Color Play Exercise: So in this new exercise, we're going to put both our new skills to use. We're going to mix on the palate and we're going to mix on the paper. We're going to mix whatever colors we like on the palate and then put those in and mix them on that paper with a different color. Trying to see a lot of colors are a little bit of color which is having water as a background just experiment and see what we end up with. So this is similar to the previous exercise in the fact that you shouldn't think about it too much. Think of this as playing, not work. You are developing your intuitive mixing skills just by playing with colors. Depending on how much paint and water you use, each circle will dry little differently. Use more water to make it blend more and less water and more paint to make it blend less. This is a really fun exercise and you should do it any time you feel uninspired but you still want to paint. It will really help your color mixing skills. This is my favorite mixing technique and I always use it in that work it really gives a watercolor field to a piece. Practice using crazy color combinations and see what comes out of it. It's also a good idea to take a picture of your page while it's still wet so that you can be compared to a fully dried page. Isn't the result absolutely gorgeous? This is something anyone can do and if you practice this they will take your painting skills to a whole new level. Your work will look even more beautiful and the colors will really pop and have so much life to them. So be sure to practice this and be sure to share it so other students can get inspired from you. 7. The Basics of Color Theory: The colors to use in your composition can make or break your piece. I personally pick my colors intuitively, but it takes time to get there. If you know the basics of color theory, it can be a great shortcut. The color wheel comes in handy again. You really should make one. As we learned earlier, we have primary colors, which mix to make secondary colors, which mix with the primary colors to make tertiary colors. The words don't matter, but it's good to know the terminology. One more thing to point out, there are cool and warm colors. Cool colors tend to recede and feel calm and warm colors pop out at you and feel alive. It can really help in setting the mood to pick your colors based on temperature and to use warm colors contrasting with cool colors to make different parts of the composition stand out. We also have complimentary colors, which are opposite on the color wheel. If these two colors are used in a composition, they really make each other pop. You have to be careful not to overdo the effect but you can create gorgeous pieces with this two color combination, especially if one color dominates a piece and the second is to draw your focus to a specific and small area. The compliments of green and red are famous and my favorite holiday. When you look at this picture, you feel high-energy and the holiday spirit. A split complementary color scheme is almost like a complementary color scheme, but instead of using the opposite color, you use the two colors next to it. This creates a lot of contrast, but a more subdued energy. Analogous colors are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. I really love to use pink, purple and blue in my work. It makes the piece very cohesive and pleasing to the eye. This approach is from our comp pieces, it doesn't have that pop factor that complimentary colors combinations do, but you can add a compliment from the middle of the color group to make some things pop. Monochromatic color scheme uses just one color or hue. The darks and lights of the single color are what make depth. This is the more subdued color scheme and is naturally harmonious and easy to look at. A triadic color scheme, think triangle, is made with three colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. Like our primaries, the colors tend to pop and it makes for a very vibrant piece. A tetradic color scheme is made of four colors, it looks like a rectangle. It's made up of the four colors around the compliments. Using too many colors can make it hard to make color harmony, but this is my favorite way to use colors. In the end, what colors you use are really up to you. Your end goal should be to create harmonious pieces without thinking about it. It will take time to get there and getting help from the color wheel until then is a great idea. But if you'd like to make every painting with every single color or to make a rainbow effect, then go ahead, it never hurts to know color theory, but do your own thing. Rules are meant to be broken, especially in art. 8. Inspiration and Final Project: Now that you know the basics of color mixing and color harmony, its time to start collecting things that will inspire you. If you have a Pinterest account, you can make a color inspiration board. I left the link to my board in the video notes below. Feel free to re-pin any of the images that you've like from mine. You can find more just by scrolling down, and open image or by searching for color inspiration. Add any images or works of art that have beautiful color schemes that you'd like to use or get inspired from. Another nifty free tool comes from Adobe. With this handy tool, you can easily play around with harmonious color palettes based on the color wheel. The link to this website is in the video notes below. Play around with the color combinations, and take a screenshot if you really like one, and put it away for future reference. You can even upload an image that you find inspiring. This will take all the hassle of figuring out which colors to use yourself. When you're starting a new piece, it's a good idea to go to your board or folder, and find colors that inspire you. You will only get better at using and mixing colors with practice. So let's get out our brushes, and start to play. For this final exercise, I use leftover watercolor scrap paper. But you can even dedicate a small watercolor sketchbook or note pad to it. Makes swatches of colors that inspire you from works of art, or a photo, or one of the pins on Pinterest, or just make up your own from your imagination. To mix colors, use your trusty color wheel as a guide. I would recommend you pick out a few images, and practice mixing colors similar to the ones using them. Then see what colors look good together with the mixing on paper technique, and group those together. Just play around with them. Make as many of these as you want. Write out what paint you used on the back for future reference. You can take photos, scan them in, or make a scrapbook with the pieces you made. You can upload your favorite color combinations next to the picture that inspired them. If you create art base on those color combos, share it. Also don't be shy in sharing your Pinterest boards, they might inspire other students. This exercise will really improve your color mixing skills, your understanding of colors and your paints, and will really help you with future projects. With time, you will get really good at mixing, creating gorgeous paths will be a piece of cake. Like everything else in life, all it takes is practice. I can't wait to see you what you come up with. Let's inspire each other. 9. Keep Practicing!: Awesome job in completing this class. If you followed along with all the simple exercises, you're halfway to being a colored ninja. All you need to do, is take more time and practice. One day, you will get to the point of mixing and choosing colors without thinking about it. I call that intuitive painting, and it should be your end goal. I really hope you enjoyed the course and I would like to see what you made. Don't be shy in sharing a project gallery. If you have any questions, post them in the community section. Keep painting, and I'll see you in the next class.