The Magic of Mixing Colours


Creative Sketchbooks

Module 1, Chapter 1
Activity 1.3

Combine two Primary Colours to create a range of secondary colours

Oh wow, what I can say about this… I loved, loved, loved mixing colours… This was absolutely magical, like a form of alchemy – you take a colour, add a second, mix well and, abracadabra, you’ve transformed them into something different. Keep adding the second colour, drip by drip, and you create the hugest range of colours imaginable.  And there’s even more variation, depending, for example, on which tube of blue you select: ultramarine mixed with lemon yellow gives a different colour to ceruleum mixed with the same yellow. Dark and light colours give quite different results, as do cool and warm.

 Do all these new colours have names I wonder? Or could I give them names myself?

I played around a little with mixing colours for my wall, when I did the Embroidery Taster Module, but nothing on this scale. At that point I was inspired by Paul Klee, because I love his work, and I’d been to see the exhibition at Tate Modern, which was amazing. At the moment I’ve got pictures of some of my favourites pinned up on my ‘Ideas Board’. I keep looking at the gradations of colour in his paintings and wondering: “How did he do that?” 

I’m not absolutely sure if there are recommended tools for adding and mixing colours – I tried cotton wool buds (hopeless, they soak the paint up); cocktail sticks and lollypop sticks, which weren’t too bad; straws, which were a bit unwieldy; and a children’s paintbrush, which was the best of all, so that’s what I used. 

I was looking for gentle transitions of colour, but I didn’t always achieve it – it was tricky controlling the drops of paint, and my colours were a bit unpredictable. Sometimes I didn’t add enough colour, so there was virtually no change, and sometimes I overdid it, and the change was quite startling, but I got better as I went along. However, I’m not sure I could reproduce the colours I made, although I suppose they act as a kind of pattern, because as long as you keep notes on what you do, you should be able to match the colours. That’s the theory anyway! I forget to make proper notes on some bits, but I should be able to work it out, because I can check the base colours with tubes of paint.

So, Note to Self for future… Always keep a record of what you’ve done, however rough itmay be, because you won’t remember it later on, and this is what happens….

I think I was playing around with madder and lemon yellow, and white… but maybe it was something completely different. So, I shall get my paints out, and hold them against the sample, and see which ones look the most similar!

And another Note to Self… Keep cleaning your painting brush thoroughly as you go along, because if you don’t it can affect your new colour. And lots of clean water is essential – dirty water affects the colours as well.


About chrisharding53

I'm a former journalist and sub-editor who loves needlework, reading and writing, and is still searching for the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Until I find the answer I'm volunteering at an Oxfam Book Shop and learning about Creative Sketchbooks!

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