Aleksandra Bzdzikot




How to create spectrum of colors by simply mixing primary ones?

If you paint, I bet you have asked yourself this question many times: "How do I create many colors if I only have three or four tubes of paints?"

Sometimes it happens that you have the urge to paint, but you discover that you have only limited number of acrylic colors to paint with.


Can this hinder your painting? No. If you know how to mix the colors to produce new ones and widen your palette.

Today I'm going to show you basic color mixing and will encourage you to do more self-exploration with the colors. Enjoy!


"Promised land" - oil and acrylic on canvas


First, a basic question comes to my mind: what is color and how it is perceived by us, humans?


When our eyes see something, let's say a tree, data sent from our eyes to our brain tells us it's a certain color (green). Objects in our world reflect light in different combinations of wavelengths. Our brain pick up on those wavelengths and translates them into a phenomenon called 'color'. Color is a property of our brain. Our experience of color depends not only on how our brain translates this wavelenght for us, but also on the context in which we perceive it.

The perception of blue will be different during a sunset and during a sunrise. That's because of the background colors and different lighting. How fascinating that is!



There exist three primary colors: yellow, blue and red. What are they?


These colors are called 'primary', because they cannot be mixed from other colors. In fact, they are the source of all other colors.

Did you know that the human eye makes millions of colors from three primary colors that it perceives?


Now let's prepare to play with the primary colors and mix them. Here's what you'll need:

  • red, yellow, blue and green (green - I decided to use it additionally) - acrylic paints
  • a palette for mixing volors or a piece of thick paper
  • 4 small brushes
  • water for cleaning the brushes



Start with primary colors (yellow, blue, red) and green. On your work surface dab each of the primary colors.

I organized them in a circle, to show it to you on the example of a color wheel.  I put the names of the colors I used. Please remember that they vary depending on the producer of paints. Just use the very basic ones. Most of them will have 'primary' in their name.




Create secondary colors by mixing the edges of the paints, like in a circle. Make sure to use clean brushes to mix each two adjacent colors. That's why you need four brushes. Stir the colors for a while until the new pigment becomes stable.


Mix the below combinations:


yellow + red

red + blue

blue + green

green + yellow





Are you curious what results you will achieve? A tip: when mixing colors try to mix them 50% each to ensure the even spread of the paints.

These are the new colors that I achieved:


1. Light, fresh green - from mixing green and yellow

2. Deep violet - from mixing red and blue

3. Turquoise, watery blue - from mixing blue and green

4. Light orange or salmon color :) - from mixing yellow and red



How to expand your palette?


Now, you have primary colors and new colors that you have created from mixing the primary colors. Alltogether, you've got 8 of them.

To make your new, brighter colors add some white. You can create different tones with different intensity. That's how you can create pastel colors, like light blue, baby pink or mint green. You decide how much white you add - it's your painting world where you take the decisions :-)

To create brown mix altogether red, yellow and blue.

To make colors with different intensity experiment with how much of the two colors you mix. It can not necessarily be 50%-50%. Try 20% and 80%. See what happens. If you measure the amount of paint you are adding you will get different results.


At the end I wanted to show you an additional mixing. This time I mixed pink and light blue - I got an interesting color of sea blue or hyacinths.

By mixing light blue and yellow - I got a pastel color of mint green.



What do you learn from this simple color mixing activity?


By learning how to combine colors, starting from the basic ones, you will be able to create every color you want, without special supplies.

Beginning artists often believe that first they need to be fully equipped with as many color tubes as possible. That's a gross misconception. I was also like that when I was a beginner. I wouldn't start a painting if I was not sure I had all the colors I needed in my paint tubes. Now, I know that if my violet has run out I can always create it by mixing red and blue.


You don't need to spend a lot for art supplies. Just play with paints, experiment with the amounts and observe. You can create almost everything with the very basic tools - primary colors.



Painting is about discovery. It's about creating your own colors in your own world. Just like in life. You are the creator and you decide with what colors you paint your world.


I will be happy to answer any questions of yours. Feel free to drop me an email.


Wishing you the best week!



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