Posted by: Julie Duell | March 20, 2008


 Hello everyone & welcome!  

Note: Please feel free to ask a question or leave a comment at the bottom of this post.   Julie

I would like to start with a short summary about the paints & other pigment based materials we use as artists:-

They are all pretty much created from the same sources of powdered pigment. Some colours are derived directly from nature and others are produced synthetically.  When the powdered pigments are mixed with various additives, the following are then created – the binders lending differing qualities as under:-

OIL PAINTS:  As the name implies, pigments are already mixed with oil (usually Linseed) in the tube, which makes for slow drying & easier blending. Cleanup with turps or preferably an odourless solvent. Can be used straight from the tube (impasto) or thinly for underpainting or glazing.  Usually used over canvas or board prepared with an acrylic or gesso undercoat.  Retouch varnish may be used to even out the shine when finished.  All other varnishes should not be applied until the paint has cured (around 6 months). Oils pretty much maintain their mixed colour once dry, unlike water based paints which tend to dry darker or lighter than when wet.

WATER SOLUBLE OILS:  Inter-mixable with traditional oils, water cleanup if used alone, otherwise turps or odourless solvent. 

OIL STICKS:  contain waxes which bind the stick together. Slow drying, they allow hand use as well as brushing once applied. Solvents are the same as for oil paint.

ALKYD OILS:  oil paints with the addition of a resin to speed up drying. Inter-mixable with traditional oils. Handy to include if you are working to a deadline in drying time. 

ACRYLICS:  contain an emulsion creating a non-soluble waterproof surface when dry.  Can be used thinly diluted with water or other mediums for that purpose or used straight from the tube without dilution.  Texture pastes can be added for impasto. Water cleanup. Can be used on non oily surfaces from paper to board & canvas.

GOAUCHE OR POSTER PAINT: contain a binder which remains water soluble when dry. Pigments used are generally of a coarser quality than watercolours and are therefore more opaque, especially pastel shades which are achieved by mixes that include white. Can be wetted again for further blending.  Framing is usually as for watercolours.

WATERCOLOURS: Top quality watercolours are derived from the most finely ground pigments and purists do not use white, but rather allow the luminosity of the paper to shine through, representing the lighter tones. They are created by the addition of  special water soluble gums.   Used on specially prepared W/C paper available in smooth, medium or rough textures.  Only heavy papers do not require stretching. (See Post on Watercolour)  Framing is usually behind glass with a matt board to prevent the work touching the glass.

WATERCOLOUR PENCILS:  allow for line drawing, shading or wetting up into ‘paint’.  

PASTELS:  Here the pigments have been moulded into sticks using distilled water and a minimum of binders. Some are wrapped in waxed paper to prevent breakage.  They come in square & round sticks + in pencil form.  Usually used on tinted pastel paper which has a texture (or “tooth”) to hold the dry granules of pigment. Spray fixatives prevent rubbing, but tend to darken the pastelwork. Framing is behind glass with a matt board to prevent the work from touching the glass.

INKS:  come in waterproof and non-waterproof.  Very fine pigments are used and good quality inks can provide glowing luminosity over white, which can be increased by adding layers when using waterproof varieties.  Can be used with brushes, sponges etc. and also loaded into special fountain type pens for various thickness of line.  Nibs need to be cleaned frequently.


NOTE:   I often begin by establishing an “underpainting”  in acrylics and then finish in oils – giving  “the best of both mediums”.  Remember you can put oil over acrylic but it is not recommended the other way around because the oil can resist the water based paint over it and it can pull away rather than adhere.  Most canvas boards and stretched canvasses are already undercoated in acrylic, so you may be painting oil over water based paint anyway.






Because the awareness of dark against light (tonal values) is so very important, it is wise to limit the amount of colours used until you feel in full control of tone.  Here are 2 monotone ranges by way of example:

Monotone colour range 2

Monotone colour range


Here then are some demonstration charts for you … all mixed from the 3 primary colours RED, YELLOW & BLUE(+ WHITE, WHICH WE DON’T CALL A COLOUR). 

These three primary colours cannot be mixed so you need to have these ready made in order to begin. They are needed to create ALL the other colours!  

Lets begin with a very basic colour wheel mixed by my grand-daughter, Julia, showing primary and secondary colours..she used a painting knife, wiping it clean with a paper towel in between each mix. Mixing with a brush is messier and it is therefore harder to keep the tints clean.

Next, we made together another wheel, this time mixing some in-between TERTIARY colours as shown. 

Here is a demonstration to show you how to mix a basic Colour Wheel:

Next is a demonstration showing the mixing of complementary (or opposite) colours on the wheel.  Even if all you need to know is how to find – for example – the shadow colour on a red apple (by mixing a little of the opposite colour on the wheel, being green, into the red) this demonstration is of value.

The next chart shows each of the opposite pairs on the above wheels mixed gradually one into the other, then lightened with white for lighter tints. This shows more possibilities than just the single range in the outside ring above right. Remember all these are still from just the three primaries RED, YELLOW & BLUE + white.  Isn’t it wonderful?  What a beautiful range of colours and tints they give!

Of course the end result varies depending on which red, yellow & blue you started with!

The trick to getting a good purple range is to use a red and a blue that have no yellow content within them.  If a hint of yellow is in there the result will be more browns than purples.

If you are starting out in painting and wish to develop a feel for colour harmony, delicate mixing and tonal values (darks to lights) it is a good idea to try a few paintings using  just one row  from the above chart. Here are some examples…(the first, red-orange to blue-green, which is the range most used in landscapes). You will need a good sized palette and a mixing knife (the ones with the raised handles are best to keep your knuckles out of the paint!)


The cityscape below I based on a RED TO GREEN mix – but instead of lightening with just white, each was lightened with lemon yellow plus white for a golden look.  This is a great way to avoid “chalkiness” in a painting.  This painting is executed with a painting knife rather than a brush, for texture.  I just love the buttery texture of the paint used undiluted this way!

Now a complete change of colour scheme…beautiful and unusual for evening landscapes or seascapes…

When Tony and I were lucky enough to enjoy a trip to the UK and Europe, we travelled most of it by train, armed with sketch books. Once home I did this little painting of the picturesque lane in Venice where our apartment was, using the colour range shown…


  Whilst the above formulas work, there are many occasions when we don’t have a lot of time for mixing colours OR we may be using water-soluble fast-dry paints and need to work quickly.   So…. here is a          

                                     QUICK-FIX  MIX METHOD:   


Using this “Mother Colour” method of mixing leads you to creating what we call the more subtle “EARTH COLOURS” whereas colour wheel methods tend to result in brighter ‘SPECTRUM COLOURS”. 

In commercially available oil paint ranges EARTH COLOURS are readily available in tubes and are very convenient if you enjoy landscape painting in particular, to save you mixing time.  Some are derived from the ochres found in the earth and rocks, whilst others are synthetic.  Below are some earth colours from the Art Spectrum range of oils.  They all have four asterisks **** which means they are highly resistant to fading.  (Try to avoid anything labelled  ** or *** as they are not as permanent). Some of the earth colours shown are opaque (dense with pigment) and cover well, whilst others are semi-transparent or very transparent.  The more transparent paints are very glowy over a white background and are also useful for glazing (see separate post on “MISTING AND GLAZING SECRETS”.



If you choose water-based paint such as acrylic or poster colour, you may find that your colours will begin to dry on the palette before you can use them.  To avoid this, mix in a shallow plastic lidded box (I use a file case) and spray your palette with a little water occasionally to keep the paint from drying.   Whenever you aren’t using the paint, close the lid to keep moist.   There are also commercial liquid retarders which slow the drying of acrylics. With oil paints you won’t have that problem so much as they are slower drying but it still helps to exclude air from your palette when not in use. 

Hint: Be generous with your initial amounts of the primary colours – remember they have to go a long way to create all the others – and you will need on average twice as much of the yellow as the other two.

You will  find my favourite PORTRAIT MIX under the PORTRAIT PAINTING post.

Finally, I just want to point out the importance of TONE in painting.  TONE MEANS DEGREES OF LIGHT TO DARK and is by far the strongest means of creating good compositions.  We have 3 main ways of contrasting in painting:



Here is what I mean by tone below. You can see it clearly goes from light to dark when you look at the black and white range but it takes a more practised eye to see degrees of tone when you look at colour, especially when they are next to others out of sequence…

It is very important to keep control of tones when you are painting and very easy to lose that control when you use colour.  It is just something to be aware of.

Good luck and happy mixing!!!  I hope you have found this post helpful.  Always remember that what is presented here is in the spirit of sharing – they are not rules but are guides I have found useful.



Aug.2017 An enquiry re an overview of using oil paints has just been answered and may be of interest to you:

The main thing is to begin lean (paint thinned with a little solvent for underpainting – I use an odourless one) and end up fat (little to no added oil) in the finished layer.
The pigment in the tubes is already mixed traditionally with Linseed Oil so no need to add more unless you want the paint to be more fluid.  Impasto oils applied thickly for textural effects should be applied last and take up to 6 months to fully dry and ‘cure’.
It is important not to use varnish over thick paint before
6 months so as not to trap moisture in the paint.
One exception to this would be Retouching Varnish, which can be used when the paint is only touch dry. It is quite shiny but the shine can be reduced with a drop of turpentine. The purpose of using Retouching Varnish is usually to bring depth back into the dark colours by added a sheen and to add a protective layer.
If you want your painting to dry quickly, there is a brand of paints called Griffin Alkyd which have a resin type dryer in them.  Using these on their own or mixed with traditional oils will mean your painting will dry quite quickly (12 to 48 hours) depending on how thickly it is applied. This is very useful if you are painting for an
exhibition with a time deadline.    Julie



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  2. Thanks so much for this very useful info!! I would love to read your post on portrait color mixing, where can I find it?
    Thanks again and happy painting!

    • Thank you Cynthia. If you click on the post “Portrait painting methods” listed under categories in you will find
      a layout of my favourite colour mix for almost all portraits. I hope it helps. Happy painting!

  3. Wow your website is amazing. You are a great teacher! I look forward to spending time on this page, thank you for putting your knowledge together here!

    • Thank you Chloe – I am delighted to have helped you in some way. Happy painting!

  4. Brilliant !!
    Thank you for your generosity.. 😊

    • You are so welcome.

  5. Hello, Julie,
    Thank you for this; thank you so deeply and sincerely much!

    Many artists-cum-teacher forget just how astoundingly little we know at the outset. Things that seem “so clearly obvious if you just use your eyes!” are not that at all – or they are, but the experienced artist understand the technique used to get there while the novice can only see that “yes, it is possible to have a touch of green in the appearance of a red apple if observed in the late afternoon, but nothing you’ve told me to do is making it look right!”

    I have a number of artistic skills under my belt, and this year in celebration of a “decade” birthday, I’ve chosen to learn canvas painting. In a single post, you’ve gifted us with that precious basic information that so many other websites fail to make clear. Thank you for that, a thousand times over.

    ~ Sharon

    • Thank you Sharon. May you continue to enjoy your artistic journey for a long time to come.

  6. Hi. I really enjoy your post about how to mix colors. I think mixing is the hardest thing for an artist to learn. I have saved it and I know that I will return to it if I have trouble getting just that right shade.

    • Thanks for the feedback Jean and good luck with your mixing. It’s infinite so just know that what I’ve demonstrated is just one guide of many.

  7. Hi Julie!

    I am making a tapestry of a bunch of mountain skylines. it will start at a burnt orange color and go up to white or a light cream color. I want to use tone and add white to the orange with each layer of skyline, and I’m curious how to maintain the next tone as I go up from orange to cream. You said it was difficult to maintain control over tone with color but easier with black and white. Do you have any tips?

    • If you keep gradually adding more cream to each layer the tones will gradually get lighter. It sounds beautiful. Good luck!

  8. Hello Julie,
    I’ve absolutely loved being told, in baby talk, how to mix colours, as I have never grasped it properly before. Could you tell me please, if you decide to do a painting using blue/green to red/orange for instance, would you mix the whole colours in that row onto your palette in rediness, or do you mix them as you need them, knowing already the amount of each contrast to add? Do you mix large amounts of each – enough for the whole painting? Being one who doesn’t like to waste my expensive paints, I just wondered what you do.

    • Hello Robyne, Good question. I like to mix the whole range at the beginning of a painting – to me it’s like sitting down to play a piano with the notes all there. I also find it motivating to keep going and finish the painting. With oils, they are slow drying and give me the time I need but if I am suspending work, I cover the palette lightly with gladwrap and put the whole thing in the freezer. Unless the paint is spread very thinly they will keep moist for a week or two by doing that.
      Acrylics can be kept wet by mixing in a shallow plastic file case – just keep them wet by giving a light spray of water now and again and when you want to finish the session, make sure they are wet and then close the lid.
      With watercolours you can just let them dry and work them up with water again when needed. I hope this is helpful. Best, Julie

      • Thank you Julie, that is a great answer and is what I will also do.

      • Thank you Julie, that is a great answer and is what I will also do.
        Now I must appologise because I’ve just been to Painting Demos and those questions I’ve asked are all answered there. I wonder what else I’m about to find in this art wonderland of yours?!

      • I never mind answering questions Robyne. Glad the site is useful to you.

  9. For real it’s amazing lecture to we who love art and I send I thanks to you madam Julie but I wish to add Me more

    • You are very welcome.

  10. Hello ma’am, I am a first year design student. I’ve been asked to paint a basic colour wheel using any wet medium. The problem is whatever colour medium i use i cant avoid the patches. It really looks bad after it dries.Any tips on how i can avoid those? And i was comfortable using acrylic colours.

    • Hello – I would like to help you but am not sure what you mean by ‘patches’. If you don’t add any water to the tube colour and use a painting knife to mix and lay down the colour, wiping the knife clean after each, there shouldn’t be any patchiness. Please have a look at my video demo on this:

      • Thank you for replying, i am using a No:2 Flat paint brush. ‘Patches’ i meant the brush strokes.I guess using the painting knife will give out an even smooth look.

      • That’s right. Good luck with it.

      • That’s right – use the knife to spread the paint cleanly. Good luck!

  11. Thanks for sharing this! I am a fairly new painter and have been doing very well except I was having a hard time understanding how to add in lighter and darker tones. This has helped me understand so much! I will be us No these tips in my next painting!

    • Glad to help Kelly. Feel free to ask questions any time.

  12. Great! Green is Yellow plus blue ….. Ney.. yellow plus black .Also. So……and so on . Thank from the learner clan.

  13. The above article was very useful for me but I have a question other than this. Actually in the rainy season, the poster paint which I used in my painting is getting wet and also getting sticked with the paper above. I have also used water colour and few lines of crayon and it’s not creating any harm. The poster colour,being wet, is also spreading, almost ruining the painting. Please give me any suggestion or any coat which I should apply above it to prevent such condition.

    • Hello Deb, Poster colours are pretty much powdered pigment mixed with water –
      therefore they are water soluble. For this reason I prefer acrylics. You could
      seal the poster paint with a spray acrylic sealant. Brushing it on might disturb
      the painting. Good luck.

  14. Hi Julie, can you help me? I have an assignment to create a complementary color scheme with muting to transition the temperature from light values to dark values. I than have to use it to paint a portrait. I am choosing to use red orange and blue green as my complimentary pair. The assignment explains that the warm color (red orange) should be used for lights and the cool color (blue green) should be used for shadows and background. The instructions explain that to achieve the values I need to use white and black into the colors. I am confused as to how to achieve this scheme? What are your thoughts? Thanks

    • Sounds like a good project. I suggest that you follow the colour mix charts on my website for red-orange to blue-green, then lighten the range with white on one side of each swatch and darken the range on the other side of the swatch with a teeny bit of black. That should give you what you need. The warm tints will appear to come forward as you paint, mapping the lights areas on the face. and the cool colours will appear to recede when you paint in the shadowed areas. Use good reference with definite lights and darks if you can – not a photo taken with a flash. Good luck – it sounds very interesting and I’m sure you will learn a lot from this assignment.

  15. I just found your site and I am loving what i am finding here. Thank you for all your help in color mixing.

    • Thanks Shelia – so glad it is helpful.

  16. Can these mix be used to produce house paints.. That’s from yellow, blue and red pastes and oxides. How do I get chocolate and cream colours..

    • Yes but there are many thousands of tints that can be mixed. My advise would be to choose from colour charts and have the house paints professionally mixed to match your choices. eg. Mitre 10 in Australia I have found to be extremely helpful and accurate.

  17. Hello iam a house painter and need help mixing colors in my business when matching colors it has to be exact match

    • That’s a difficult one Richard. Even if you can mix the exact colour it will probably change when dry. Mitre 10 Hardware stores in Australia have a method of analyzing colours accurately – you need to take a sample to match. They mix it on a machine, then paint a sample, dry it with a blower and then compare.
      Old paint on walls tends to fade so even adding the same pre mixed colour in fresh paint, it will show up differently. Good luck.

  18. Good morning.

    I am so happy to find you. I am a begginer students and I have some challenges to mix the primary colour specifically the amount needed of each colour.

    I understand now.

    Thank you from Guyana.


    • I’m so glad the colour mixing demonstration has helped you Susy. Enjoy your art.
      Be sure to watch the YouTubes on colour mixing if you haven’t already.

  19. Good evening, please advise me how to make water base poster white color . Please help in this regards.

  20. because in my town supply of colors has been stopped. I am an artist, usually I work on wood.

    • You will need finely ground dry powder pigments to begin with, or ochres from the earth. From them you can mix poster paints by mixing the pigments with a little cooked flour and water. This suits painting thinly. If thick, it will peel off. To make the paint stick better to the wood you could make egg tempera paint by mixing the pigments with some pure raw egg yolk and the paint will still be water soluble. If you want waterproof paint when dry, add the pigments to PVA glue & a little water. Good luck.

  21. I need to make poster colors myself. please help in this regards.

  22. I love ur inspirational words on colours, pls i want to learn how to produce acrylic paint. Emulsion, texcoat, satin, marble paint and there acurate formula, chemicals to produce a quality paint and set up a paint factory to help my fellow youth to creat jobs and curb crime rate. I will be indebted to u if you could help me out, tanx and God bless. My warm regards to julie. God bless u all Amen. My name Is Samson

    • Sorry, I have never made my own acrylic paint so I can’t speak from experience.
      If you have the dry powdered pigments you will need to add it to acrylic
      bases as described in › … › Painting › Paint Recipes and Mixes
      Best of luck!

  23. Hi Julie. I’m puzzled that you repeatedly state that the three “primary” colours can’t be mixed when red and blue can be mixed from magenta/yellow and magenta/cyan respectively. I’d be interested to hear your take on this.

    • Hi Chris. Thank you for your query. From my experience, the primary colours of red, yellow and blue are needed first in order to mix other colours. Magenta is the red I chose for the examples and cyan is the blue chosen, although there are many others. Perhaps you have had a different experience? Colour is complex and is perceived with variations by us all I suspect. (Please note my disclaimer on the Home page re the site contents.) Happy painting!

      • Hi Julie, Thanks for your quick response to my query. I totally take the point that in practical terms it’s important to base any palette of paints on the trio of (broadly speaking) red, yellow and blue. My point is really that it can be confusing to beginner artists to define these primary colours as ones which cannot be mixed from other colours when two of them can in practice be achieved by mixing two other quite different pigments. Yellow is definitely a paint that has to be made from pure yellow pigment but in the case of the other two primary colours there is surely quite a broad range of redish and blueish colours to choose from (such as magenta/cyan or crimson/ultramarine) any of which can be mixed. So if it’s possible to mix two of the three primary paints on your palette by combining two other colours why use the “cannot be mixed” definition of the word primary? Would it not be better to use a more loose definition that captures the notion of a basic trio of colours which fall somewhere within the categories of red, yellow and blue and which can be combined to create secondary and tertiary hues that meet the requirements of the artist?

        I’m not stamping my feet here! As a beginner artist I have encountered so many contradictory opinions about colour theory that I’m genuinely perplexed.
        I also realise that at a practical level none of this really matters as we just have to make some choices between competing tubes of paint and get on with making pictures. That being said, it does seem strange to me that so many people are happy to state that primary colours are ones which cannot be mixed when this clearly is not the case. Yours truly in moderate bafflement, Chris.

      • Thanks for your reply Chris. Perhaps a quote from the post in question might explain my position on this better and why I chose the particular red and blue I did for the exercises:
        “Of course the end result varies depending on which red, yellow & blue you started with!
        The trick to getting a good purple range is to use a red and a blue that have no yellow content within them. If a hint of yellow is in there the result will be more browns than purples.” Cheers. J.

      • Absolutely Julie! There are no magic primaries- just mixes that yield the desired result. Thanks for your guidance and brilliant site.

  24. Hello Julie ma’m…..I have doubt regarding the mixing of colours… i would like to know, if is it fine to mix daler roney titanium white acrylic colour with acrylic colours of other brands like camlin, etc. ?….since its very hard here to get a single tube of 120 titanium white of camlin brand…….so i thought to go for daler roney which is avaliable easily………I doubt if the colours do not mix properly then my canvas painting would be spoiled……. .looking forward for your reply

    • To the best of my knowledge all acrylic paints of any brand can be mixed together. However do not mix oil paint with acrylic. Best wishes.

    • To the best of my knowledge all acrylic paints of any brand can be mixed together. However do not mix oil paint with acrylic. Best wishes.

  25. if you mix non waterproof colored acrylic with waterproof exterior paint will that make it waterproof

    • Hello Sheila, I have never heard of non waterproof acrylic paint. The nature of acrylic is that it forms a waterproof skin as far as I know. The best way is to mix them and do some test patches. Try wetting them when dry to see if the paint moves or remains undisturbed. My guess is that it will be waterproof but it is a guess!

  26. […] Source : Julie DUELL […]

    • Thank you for including this post in your French magazine NABIS. I hope it is of assistance to those interested in the magic of colour mixing. Julie

    • Thank you for including this post in your French magazine NABIS. I hope it is of assistance to those interested in the magic of colour mixing. Julie

    • Thank you for including this post in your French magazine NABIS. I hope it is of assistance to those interested in the magic of colour mixing. Julie

    • Thank you for including this post in your French magazine NABIS. I hope it is of assistance to those interested in the magic of colour mixing. Julie

  27. I am not an artist but looked at your website to gain more understanding of colour and how to use a colour wheel. You have helped me more than any other site I have seen. Thank you so much!

    • Glad to hear it is helpful Judy. Thankyou.

  28. Wonderful site found at the perfect time to help me complete my colour block for my Textile Foundation – will be passing it on

    • Glad to have helped.

  29. Thanks for great information about paints,I have a small doubt,i do orders of bridal coconuts for marriages,the problem is after painting the coconut i allow it to dry for 1 day .nxy day i paint figures on that,but when i start painting again the paint previously appied is comming off,i use fabric or acrylic paints.could u pls tell me a tip for that so that my work become easy n faster.thank u once again for the great information…

    • Sorry but I have never painted on a coconut. It sounds as though the surface may be on the oily side, which would repel water-based paint, in which case try oil based paint.

  30. Hi Julie, just came across your site and find it really helpful, thank you so much. I live in Perth W.A.

    • Thanks Kat. Please feel free to send some images of your work any time.
      It’s all about sharing. Happy painting! Julie

  31. Thank you, thank you, thank you for stumbling upon this lovely website!!!

  32. Thank you so much Julie for your in-depth explanation in making a colour wheel. “finally” I get it!! with your videos. You make it all so much easier to understand and I really appreciate you sharing your experiences with us on your blog. You get straight to the point. I will be playing your videos over again. So much appreciated. thank you, thank you.
    warm regards…. jill x

    • That’s wonderful Jill. I’m so glad it has helped you. Enjoy your art! Julie

  33. Sorry mam its my mistake i was talking about fabric color lemon yellow. I want to make it little bit dark? Thank you

    • Sorry but I can’t help you with that. Best wishes.

  34. respected mam,
    i have pearl lemon yellow color and i want to make it little bit of dark, so how i can make it?
    please tell mam

    • Very sorry but I have never heard of pearl lemon yellow. It probably has white mixed into it which would make it difficult to darken. All I can suggest is mixing some yellow ochre into it which would darken it a bit.

  35. one more question sorry for trouble can you also tell me the acrylic color for peacock? specially of its head?
    please mam please…..

    • I would think several blues would be useful = ultramarine blue, coerulean blue and viridian.

    • thank you so much mam

  36. this is great site.
    but i want to know something.
    my acrylic color got dry it has become in solid form now i want to make it wet or in a normal form so i can use it.?
    can you please tell me how i can do it please sir/mam please…
    i am in trouble please help me please….
    thank you

    • Sorry but it is the quality of acrylic to be waterproof when dry and I know of no way to reverse that. If you want to keep it wet as straight from the tube you need to give it a light spray with water and seal away most of the air around it.

  37. Amazing site, thank you so much for the time it has taken you to help us all.

    • It’s good to feel useful Patricia. Thank you.

  38. Wow that was a good refresher. You have put in a lot of work!

    • Yes a lot of work & it would all have been lost when my teaching charts got soaked in a roof leak. It was then that I decided to photograph them and put them on the web…so something good comes of everything! lol

  39. Hi Julie, I’m Marietjie from South Africa. I also just stumble upon your website. FANTASTIC. I went for professional classes (still feel like a beginner) and also struggle with mixing and understanding color. In class we didn’t give chances to make any notes. Every time it is a case of mix a little of this and a little of that. I stopped going because its very expansive and at home I cannot seamed to help myself at home. I’ve marked at the top page to following to get emails but I don’t get the confirmation email.( I also struggle to keep my interest to do some good painting. We lost our only child (son, 24) 2 years and 4 months ago in a tragic car accident. I struggle to get out of bed daily and since Monday decided to try and force myself to get up early and try and paint. But once I started to struggle with the mixing and color choice I just leave and return back to bed. I will deff will ask for more help in the future. Thanx VERY MUCH for now for every I could learn at your site. Love Marietjie

    • I am so happy to be able to help you with colour Marietje.
      Don’t forget that contrast in tone (light against dark) is the most powerful tool in painting, so if colour is a problem, just choose one colour plus black and white and try that for while. Later on, choose 2 colours plus black and white & so on. This way you will stay in control of the composition. Some expressive painting of how you feel can be very beneficial in dealing with emotions. I am here to help so don’t feel alone. Julie

      • Wow..!! Finally got wonderful site.Thank you so…much for the information.
        Will you please suggest how to start teaching kids colouring ? My kids know about colour wheel…but am confused how to use them in colouring..
        Recently I bought 1 canvas..1st time am gng to start painting on will you please tell me how to prepare base for painting? For the poster colours.Do I have to apply any primer or base?? Or shall I start direct using colour?? me…

      • Hello and thank you for your comment and questions. I suggest you just let kids experiment with colours and gravitate to their favourites. I have a childrens’ website which may be helpful
        Re your canvas, most ready-made canvasses on stretcher frames are already primed with a white acrylic base.
        If so this should be on the label. If the canvas is raw you will need to give it a coat of gesso before applying colour. I haven’t used poster colours on canvas myself, preferring acrylics because they are waterproof when dry. I’m no expert on poster colours except that I know they are suitable for works on paper and are similar to gouache (opaque watercolour). I guess the best way is the way I learned almost everything about art – just go ahead and try it! Enjoy!

  40. I am 92 young, and have started painting useing Mont Marte from Flash Harry shops. I find your articles very useful, and find from a distance my efforts are sort of. My difficulties are in painting over water colours, by water colours to right an error, especially in trees.. Thank you Julie. Joe.

    • Hello Joe – Congratulations on your new art career! Glad to be of help. Enjoy!

  41. I’m really grateful for the info you’ve provided! I have a much better understanding on colour mixing now. Thank you 🙂

    • Very glad to be of help!

  42. awesome tutor!

  43. Thank you so much Julie :-)). I’m a mom who has 2 month baby. While I am feeding her I read your website. You inspired me and teached me essential tips. You are awesome :-)))))))),

    • Hi Maryanne,
      I am so glad my website is helping you. When my children were small is the time I began to really get into art so I understand where you are at. The playpen became my ‘studio’ actually!! It looked pretty funny if someone came to the door and Mum is in the playpen while the children play outside of it. Good luck with your art & please feel free to send any images to me. I would love to know how you are going. Julie


    • Hello Fredrick, I suggest to start by looking at the category marked “Colour Mixing & Paints in General” on which should cover answers to your questions. You have to buy the primary colours (red, yellow & blue) as they cannot be mixed, then all other colours are created from them (+ black & white). The basic greens created by mixing yellow & blue can be made into olive greens by adding small amounts of red or orange to the mix. Enjoy.

  45. Hi Julue,
    Thank you for giving us so much of your wisdom from many years of painting.

    I really appreciate your generosity and believe that what you have imparted will help me in my creative painting journey.

    Bless you richly!


    • Hello Trish, Lovely terminology “creative painting journey”. I wish you joyous challenges along the way and thank you very much for your comment. Julie

  46. very helpful page… pls suggest way to reuse dried poster colors(mix with some oil etc.)

    • You can simply mix your dried poster colours with water for use. Julie

  47. This is really helpful!! I am a beginner to painting, I can’t wait to start mixing! Thanks for this!

  48. Hi! I saw you and your work only now. I’m delighted! God bless you forever more… Congratulations and thank you. (Of Brazil people) I think I will return here often. Bye!

    • Thank you Clara! Happy painting! Julie

  49. My query is to do with landscape/seascape colours of Australia. I attend classes but when at home I always hit a brick wall when I come to wanting to mix colours for the Australian bush which is so different to that of Europe, and I have so far not been able to find instructions on line and nor have I found any books that cover the topics of Australian colours. When instructions are given,( as in how to make green for example) the actual yellows and blues are not given. Each make entirely different greens and depending on where on the canvas they are to go, may dictate whether the colours need to be warm or cool. I would find having this information at home extrememly helpful as l simply don’t progress at home. I am trying to paint fine day clouds at the moment but don’t know the colours I need to use other than white mixed with a red (but which red?) or blue (but which blue?) or yellow (but which yellow?)

    • Hello Jenny – Thank you for your question re Australian colours in landscapes and seascapes. In order to help specifically I would need to know which paints you are using, because colours are named differently by various brands, especially in acrylic ranges. What I can say is that colours found in the Australian landscape are generally much more olive than those found in Europe. This means that there needs to be some red or orange added into the greens created by blues and yellows mixed together. There is no exact formula for sky, clouds, landscape or seascape colours because colours vary so much with the time of day and atmospheric conditions. May I suggest applying an overall colour mix wholistically to a painting rather than looking for a formula for say Please let me know which paints you are using and I will be happy to try to help further. – the shadows on clouds etc. as separate to other elements in the landscape. As for greens, one can achieve a range of subtle olive greens by mixing yellow with a tiny bit of black (instead of blue). Also whether you are working from life or your own reference of a place you know well. Close observation and plenty of practice mixing colours – warming and cooling them, lightening and darkening them – these are the keys to your success.

      • Dear Julie,

        The paints I use are a mix of Art Spectrum, Daler Rowney Georgian, a couple of Windsor and Newton’s Winton and a couple of Mont Marte, depending on where I am, prices and availability. If I can I try to buy Art Spectrum but I can’t afford the more expensive colours in this brand. I recently bought cadmium red in Georgian due to cost.

        I am assuming by your comments above, that unlike the actual landscape, there are no specific colours for the clouds here in Australia, and that it is more to do with (as you have said), time and atmospheric conditions.

      • Hi Jenny, Ah good – now that I know you are using oils I can indicate colour names as most oil manufacturers use the same names. You will find the earth colours very useful in Australian landscapes: Yellow ochre, Indian red, Burnt sienna, Raw sienna, Raw Umber & Madder brown. Blues: Coerulean blue, French Ultramarine & Cobalt. Avoid buying sap green as it may not be permanent (cracks when dry).

        For an olive green range: Using Yellow ochre as a base, mix a little Cobalt blue and Indian red into it. Then add gradually more Cobalt to the mix alongside. Then alongside again, add a little more Indian red into it. Finally, lighten with white where needed. For a sunnier look, try lightening with lemon yellow + white. Remember you need at least 3 tones to make something look 3D – a dark, a medium and a light.

        I seldom use any colour that is a mix of only 2 primaries (red/yellow/blue) – subtlety comes with mixing all three in various amounts, even if one is just the tiniest touch added into the other two. Using all 3 means you can play with warming or cooling the mix.

        The colours in everything we see change with the light, time of day and weather conditions. When we paint, we take much more notice of these changes around us and these observations become an added joy in appreciating life. Good luck Jenny. I hope this is helpful. I am thinking of adding another post re Australian colours very soon so stay tuned. Julie

  50. nice blog i need to make a gud painting out of poster paints but i mnot gud at painting at all wat shuld i do to make a nice painting pls tell thanks in advance

    • Hi Robin – There is only way to learn to paint and that is by trying. Why not set up a bowl of colourful fruit on a table and have a go at painting it. Have fun!

  51. I was just writing my ‘Kids Creativity’ blog about mixing colours and found your article, I think it’s great so I’ve added a link at the end of my blog in case any older kids/parents want to know more. My blog is aimed at parents of pre-schoolers so the ideas are very simple! xx

    • Hello Clare – Congratulations on your website – very interesting – and thank you for linking to this site. For young children, I have created an animated story about colour mixing which may interest you, called “THE RAINBOW FAIRIES”. It is on under the ‘STORIES’ icon. There are also lesson plans for colour mixing under ‘PAINT’ and ‘KINDY KIDS/ACTIVITIES’ icons. Colour mixing is such a magical experience isn’t it?

  52. Hello – I am new to painting and am really glad I found your site as it’s very informative. When you are using just one row of colours from the colour wheel as in Yarramalong Eucalypts, how do you decide which colour to put where, as these are not the actual colours you see in the scene. Thanks for you help.

    • Hi John – Thank you for your comment & question. There is no set formula for choosing where colours go in your painting. This is where personal choice and preference come into play – so welcome to the world of the individual artist! One general guide that may help you though (in a landscape) is that warm colours tend to belong more in foreground and cool colours recede. This is because the atmosphere of air between us and the distance reduces the brightness in colours.
      If you work in quick drying acrylics, you can easily try things out and paint over them until they please you. Good luck!

  53. Hi,

    I wasnt to do a painting with poster colors + acrylic. Please comment on with possibilities and tips.


    • Hello Hermant – Both poster colours and acrylics are water based on and can be diluted with water + brush cleanup is with water. The difference is that acrylics have a binder mixed into the pigment which seals the paint so that it does not move again once dry.
      Poster paints can be wetted up and made soluble again after they are dry. Because of this difference, acrylics can be laid down over one another without disturbing the layer beneath, whereas poster paints can be softened and blended by adding fresh paint or water to them after they have dried. Good luck.

  54. What a great blog and your lesson on mixing colours for kids was great advice!

    I bet you turned on a lot of kids to loving art using your approaches.

    Thanks for setting this up!

    • Wow! Thanks Tim. I hope you are right – nothing would please me more. I have also just put up a short animated story on colour mixing for kids – and open the “Stories” icon, then “The Rainbow Fairies”.

  55. hello mam,
    its faria .i am from bangladesh is in south asia .i saw ur website its really helped me to do work for my boutique.but mam i need to know which colour goes with what colour as example we know red & green goes nicely but some i am bit confused which colour match with purple. please if u let me know i will be greatful to u. bye

    • Hello Faria, I am very glad my website has helped you. As to your question, if you want harmony in your colours choose the ones next to each other around the colour wheel. However if you want contrast, choose the opposite colours on the colour wheel. For instance: harmonious colours for purple are blue and red but the contrasting colour for purple is yellow (which is opposite purple on the colour wheel). When you say you like red and green together, this is probably because they are opposite one another on the colour wheel too. Apart from this guide, it really is a matter of personal taste. I hope this is helpful to you. Best wishes, Julie

  56. G’day from Northern Ireland

    I’m just starting out with acrylic and was trying to use a brush to mix colours – messy and an overloaded brush. Will now go and buy a palette knife!

    Great site which I intend to visit often. Thanks.

    • Hi Gary, Yes definitely buy a mixing knife – one with a raised handle is handy to keep your knuckles out of the paint
      while mixing. These are called “painting knives” rather than “palette knives”. Plastic ones are cheaper than metal & wood.
      You will be able to mix cleanly, wiping the knife clean on a rag or tissue – then pick up the required amount of paint on the brush. Saves paint and much neater working method. Dont’ forget the golden rule of mixing – add darks to lights VERY gradually, then you can always add more as needed. Good luck! Julie

  57. Hi Julie,

    Just to let you know it went perfectly! It also inspired me to do a few follow up sessions and demonstrations that also went well so thank you!


  58. Sorry you have trouble viewing this post Pirsey – I can’t see how I can improve on that as the picture file sizes are quite small. It comes up quickly for me & others I know on Google. Thanks for letting me know though. Julie

  59. If you ever want to see a reader’s feedback 🙂 , I rate this post for four from five. Decent info, but I have to go to msn to find the missed bits. Thanks, anyway!

  60. Wow! That’s a fantastic and original idea. I really appreciate that and will try it out next week. Will let you know how it goes!

    Thank you Julie!

  61. Hi there,

    I was wondering if you knew of a way to teach pre school children to mix their own secondary colours? I am a teacher training student and would like to try something like that out with my nursery class…



    • Hello Al – Please check the beginning of this Post No. 11 for a new addition covering your enquiry. Julie

  62. Could you send any hints for air brushing with water based paint some times it clogs what type of thinner can a person try to stop this !! HELP

    • Hello Cecilia,

      I have only airbrushed with water based inks on papers
      and with water based fabric inks on tee shirts so my experience is limited
      but I will give you what I can…

      The thinner for water based paint is water.
      Thinners for enamels are various solvents (as used in spraying cars, etc.)

      However, if you thin your waterbased paint further than in its original
      form, you
      will also thin the pigmentation and reduce the amount of coverage when you
      spray – so I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are
      using old paints that have condensed. Are your paints designed for

      I recall having clogging troubles early on and learned that I had to put the
      brush into a tub of clean water and blow EVERY time I walked away,
      even just for a cup of tea. If any paint partially dries in the airbrush it
      want to accumulate and block – especially if using waterproof inks,
      which become non water soluble when dry. Cleaning the nozzle regularly
      is a nuisance, but has to be done I’m afraid.

      Shaking the paint well before use and running it through a fine sieve to
      remove any particles can help prevent clogging too of course.

      Sorry I can’t be more specific. Airbrushing is for patient people isn’t it
      as the fun spraying part lasts so little time compared to all the
      and cleanup time. That’s why I gave it away in the end – that and the
      noise of the little compressor, which I found offputting to creative

      Good luck Cecilia – let’s know how you get on.
      Best wishes, Julie

  63. This is a really interesting blog post,I have added your blog to my favourites I really like it,keep up the good work!

  64. Greetings Husein…
    Re your enquiry re using poster colour on plywood…I am not an expert, but am happy to share what experience I have.

    I would suggest that you would need to first paint the ply with flat white water-based undercoat -otherwise the colours may not be as bright because of the paint sinking into the wood.If the plywood has a varnish of any kind on it already, it may not take
    water based paint -in which case you would need to use oil base paint. However if it is plain untreated ply
    water based paint should take to it OK.

    In my experience in Australia, poster paints have been pretty much superseded by acrylics, which are much more permanent because they are waterproof when dry – whereas the poster paints I have used are not. Therefore acrylic paint would be my preference to use on plywood. However if you still choose or need to use poster paint, I suggest using a minimum amount of water with it.

    You have not mentioned if your poster paint is in dry pan
    form or in tubes -also different brands vary. The principle is the same though – using just enough water to make the paint fluid enough to spread will give the best coverage. Kind regards, Julie Duell

  65. Hello, I need your help:

    1. I want to draw picture using poster colour on a piece of plywood (medium brownish colour plywood with wooden texture), do I need to paint white colour first to hide the brownish textured colour before I paint with other colours? Or just directly paint the colours I want, without put white first?

    2. What is the ratio of poster colour & water should I mix?

    Thank you very much for your favor.

  66. PS to above reply: Sonja if you look at Julia’s colour wheel at the beginning of this Post you will get an idea of the red, yellow and blue needed to mix just about all greens you would want.

  67. Hello Sonja,
    Happy to try to help. Mixing from primary colours (red, yellow and blue) varies with WHICH red, yellow and blue you start with and then there are hundreds of tints achieved by the amount of white added or the amount you dilute the mix. The purest mixing comes from:

    1. a red which has no yellow in it to start with (Called different names in different brands of paint – e.g. Rose madder, Magenta, Crimson)
    2. a yellow which has no red in it to start with (a Lemon yellow) and
    3. a blue without any red or yellow in it (French ultramarine).
    Fabric colours might be called different names. If you have a colour printer, you could look at the colours used in the inks to get an idea of what the 3 primary colours should look like – otherwise go to an art shop and get a colour sheet showing the oil colours, which will have the colour names I have used above.

    If you are not using black and want to mix dark colours from your primaries, you will need a darker red (crimson) and a darker blue (Ultramarine).

    Your purest greens will come from a lemon yellow with Cyan blue (Coerulean is another name for it) – once again, look at the colour printer blue ink and try to match that.
    Then you can lighten with white or in fabric paint, dilute with clear to make it lighter (if you are working on white fabric). If using coloured fabric, lighten with white.

    If you want your green to be more like an olive green (as in Australian gum trees for example), you add varying SMALL amounts of red to the yellow/blue mix until you get the colour you want.

    If you want a darker green, then you will need to use a darker blue to start with, such as Ultramarine.

    Remember that all greens need a VERY small amount of blue in relation to the big amount of yellow, so add the blue to the yellow GRADUALLY. (that way you can always add more a bit at a time until you find the colour you are after.)

    Good luck! Julie

  68. Hi i just want to know can you please just give me tips how to make colours like Fresh leafe and avo etc. I am just a person trying to help myself in my fabric painting. For example:
    Yellow + Blue = green. Some of those kind of tips please.
    Your work and paintings look exellant.

    • That is exactly the color information I have been seeking and cannot find anywhere!!!

      • So glad it is helpful Judy. It’s the topic I have been most asked to demonstrate over the years.

  69. best site I have seen yet. thanks

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