Color mixing chart

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Do an image search on ”mixing watercolors” or similar, and you will get results that look like the image above. Diagrams of different watercolors mixed in a grid, which I’m sure takes a long time to achieve.

Not only are these charts illustrations of how different colors can be created, but they are usually accompanied by a description of how you can make such a chart yourself.

You are promised a better understanding of how color mixing works and which colors are suitable to mix with others. The same thing happens with a similar search on YouTube.

I have fallen into this trap myself, as a beginner I made such diagrams. Large charts of all my watercolors and how they work with each other. I then put these charts in a drawer and never looked at them again.

Namely, they are totally useless for describing color mixing. It’s just a formal and rigid way of creating a meaningless grid of different colors. Moreover, almost all such schemes and mixtures consist of only two colors, while in a painting several colors are often used together.

Real understanding of color mixing is only gained after painting many paintings. In which you actually mix paint, wet on wet, layer on layer or flat washing, there are many ways to mix paint.

Yet many watercolor educators in books and on the Internet seem obsessed with charts, some artists have built a career on creating charts, imagine if they had spent their time creating art instead of painting little squares in a grid.

To quote Bruce MacEvoy “ok, jeanne, i’ve mixed a lot of greens … now what?” Those of you who read a lot about watercolor painting in books and on the Internet may know which Jeanne he is referring to.

Therefore, my advice is to ignore charts and other “aids” such as what is often called a color wheel, two circular disks that can be rotated independently of each other to show different color mixtures.

Paint a lot and you’ll learn how your colors work with each other, it’s much better than all these theoretical constructions, and remember that a wrong color mix can be more beautiful than what you originally intended.

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