To mix acrylic paint well you need clean brushes a palette and 2 tubs of fresh clean water. If you are painting on paper it is best to stretch the paper first. Use a board and water activated tape. Wet the paper thoroughly and tape the edges, then just allow it to dry.
When it is dry it will be stretched taught. This means when you paint onto it, however much water you use the paper will return to a flat surface when it is dry.
Because acrylic paint is water based you can keep it ready for mixing by adding a little water. However, Acrylic paint is fairly opaque. The more water you add the more transparent the paint will become. Also, the more you water the paint down the less of the paints texture will be apparent in the painting you do.
Where do I Start?
To begin, put a blob of any two colors on the edges of your palette. It is also good to have a little white in case you need to lighten up the color. Take a clean brush and dip it into one of the paints and move some of the paint to the centre of your palette. Clean the brush thoroughly and do the same with your other color. Gradually mix small amounts of the darker of the two colors into the edges of the lighter color.
As you mix the two colors together you will see that the tone of the color starts to change. The more you add of the darker color the more the lighter color will change.
Changing the colors you mix will create all the different colors you need. For example, If you want to mix green you would start with a yellow and a blue color. You should also remember, when it comes to many hue’s there is more than one way to achieve the same mixed colors. We go into how to mix different individual colors in much more detail in individual blogs, but there are practical ways to improving your basic mixing techniques too.
Basic Mixing Technique
If you want to create a flat even color you will need to mix the paint thoroughly on your palette. However, in most paintings you will want varied tones of the same basic color to paint the areas where light and shadow affect the original color you mix.
You can achieve this in various ways, but one way is to not mix a single color. Mix your paint roughly. If we use orange as an example, you would use a red and an yellow.
With a blob of red and a blob of yellow in the middle of your palette drag some of each color into an area in the middle and roughly mix them.
Then add more yellow to one side and more red to the other. Mix these again and repeat the process and you will have 5 tones of orange very quickly.
On one side you will have a deep “reddy” orange that will be used in the darker or shadowed areas of the painting. On the other side you will have a much lighter “yellowy” orange more useful for the highlights and brighter areas of the painting.
How to Create Color Gradients
Mixing paint like this will give you a gradually changing gradient of colors within a certain range. This is much more useful and will help you create more realistic colors. You will need to use these colors to help you create both shape and depth in your paintings.
You will need to work quickly with acrylic paint because it dries faster and once dried it cannot be remixed. It is possible to extend the drying time by adding a little water or even a retarding agent, but remember, both will make the color more transparent and less intense.
Something else you need to consider is that some acrylic colors will get slightly darker as they dry. You will notice this as you paint more and with practice you will adjust the colors you are mixing slightly to compensate.
Try experimenting to see what different results you can get. In time you will begin to understand which technique will suit the painting you are doing best.
Acrylic paint is a great tool. Learning how to make the most of them will take time, but as you learn, your ability will improve.
The skills you learn will improve every painting you do.
Enjoy experimenting to see what effect it has. Yes, you will make mistakes, but you will succeed at times too. Each lesson you learn will help you to understand how to make the process of mixing colors easier.