Playing the Color Game

Color mixing: Early Morning, Lake Verret by Kathy Miller Stone, transparent watercolor, 22" × 30".
Early Morning, Lake Verret by Kathy Miller Stone, transparent watercolor, 22″ × 30″.

7 Secrets of Color Mixing for the Contemporary Painter

I can’t emphasize it enough: color is fun, color is exciting, but color has to be used smartly if you want your paintings to work. Too much chaotic color mixing results in, you guessed it, chaos. Not enough color, yup, means your painting is going to underwhelm you. But there are ways to combine and play with color that all contemporary painters should know and I want to share with you seven of those not-so-secret secrets for creating better compositions with color.

Color mixing secrets: Shaman by William “Skip” Lawrence, watercolor, 30" × 22".
Shaman by William “Skip” Lawrence, watercolor, 30″ × 22″.
  1. Select a value key to emphasize a light, bright, optimistic feeling or a somber, dramatic mood.
  2. Arrange sizes of color areas to give the greatest importance to dominant hues.
  3. Use color patterns to aid eye movement throughout your work.
  4. Rely on harmony to contribute serenity to a color scheme and employ contrast to provide excitement.
  5. Incorporate rhythm and repetition to make your colors dance.
  6. Use gradation and balance as you arrange your colors to create movement or stability.
  7. Remember that unity is your goal with color mixing. Your chosen elements and principles should work together to produce the finest visual effects.

Use these color design secrets as a framework to make your own unified color statement. Be yourself with color and explore the color combos that express your vision. Take “me time” to discover what kind of colorist you truly are with Confident Color: An Artist’s Guide to Harmony, Contrast and Unity by Nita Leland. Nita inspired the list above that I’ve shared with you and she leads many artists to a better understanding of not only color but a personalized sense of color. So that your paintings–everything about them!–represent you. Enjoy artists!




Related Posts:


Artist Daily Blog
Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.