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How to stretch your watercolors by mixing SIMPLE & BEAUTIFUL custom colors

Happy Monday, all! Remember that Facebook post from a while back when I asked you all what you wanted to see in videos? A question that stood out to me was something like, “How do you know what colors to mix to make other colors? More than just red and yellow make orange.” This week I’ll be exploring that question. And I plan to keep it really simple. :)

Years ago when I was in college studying art, I did many projects based on the color wheel. I painted the color wheel over and over. But I didn’t truly gain a working knowledge of color until the last few years when I’ve immersed myself in the study of watercolor. Today I’ll be sharing with you the principle that I use ALL THE TIME when I’m mixing custom colors.

Many large watercolor palettes (or if you work with many tubes or pans of watercolor) will have many different color options. So many that you might not ever feel the need to mix your own colors. However, if you’re like me and just can’t be satisfied with what’s provided to you in any given palette, you might find yourself needing to mix some colors.

I have a basic understanding that if I want a more purple-y red that I just add some purple to the red. However, what if I want a more dull red, or a more toned and golden yellow? How do I do that? The answer is in complementary colors.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are ones that are found opposite from each other on the color wheel. Red and green, orange and blue, and yellow and purple. And if you mix complementary colors, the brightness or strength of the color is dulled.

I use this all the time when I’m mixing colors, especially for floral paintings. The basic green in most watercolor palettes is usually too bright for what I’m painting. By adding a tiny bit of red, it’s toned down and I enjoy the color much more.

This is a very simplified way of mixing colors, and you can get even more beautiful colors when you take this idea and expand on it even more. For example, when I want a lovely muted coral shade, I take an orange-red color and add a bit of blue (since blue is the complementary color of orange). Just that tiny bit of blue cuts the strong tones and I have a nice coral shade.

I really encourage you to do a basic Color + Comp chart of your own so you can see how mixing in complementary colors can really change how you mix shades to paint with.

In the video below, you’ll see how I mix the colors and how they relate to each other.

I’ll be back a couple more times this week to show more color mixing in “real life” situations as I paint images for cards. I think it will make even more sense once you see it applied to painting.

NOTE: For this post and video, I used an inexpensive Prang watercolor set (which I’m really loving) and Canson XL Watercolor paper. Both were personally purchased. Compensated affiliate links used.

Watch video below | Watch at YouTube

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