Saturday, 2 July 2016

Understanding colour mixing: create a colour wheel in three easy steps

It is often so easy to simply stick to the colours we buy or the colours we are given as part of our kits but the truth is that a small number of colours can mean endless tints, tones and shades. If you aren't sure how to mix colour, we are here to help. 
Before we learn how to create colours, it is important to know how they are made. There are only three colours that exist - Primary Red, Primary Blue and Primary Yellow. Black is a mix of all three and white is the absence of colour.
Folk It's version of the Ives colour wheel containing the three primary colours

All colours are created using these elements - the three primaries, white and black. Learning the theory behind colour mixing and about the Ives colour wheel will not only help you with your painting, it can help when decorating and furnishing your home, choosing your wardrobe and make-up!
The theory of mixing paint is completely different to mixing light. If you mix three paint colours, you get black. When mixing light however, the colour is subtracted so the end result is white. Although it seems complex, colour theory is revolutionary.
Consider the Ives colour wheel as a clock - both with 12 points. Containing three primary colours (pure pigments), in between these are the secondary colours (2). By mixing 2 primary colours, you will create your secondary colour. (Think 1+1=2)
Folk Its version of the Ives colour wheel - containing primary and secondary colours

Next are the intermediate colours (2a). These are still created by mixing two primary colours together but in different quantities. On one side of the secondary colour will be a red orange, on the other, a yellow orange. The amount of intermediate colours you can create is endless - just play around with the ratios.
Folk It's version of the Ives Colour wheel containing primary, secondary and intermediate colours
Alongside Secondary and Intermediate come the Tertiary colours - these are created when you mix all three colours together. In different quantities they make black and other 'muddy' colours such as brown.
Folk It's version of the Ives colour wheel - containing tertiary colours as well as Primary and secondary ones
Creating your own Colour wheel....
To understand paint mixing, you can read about it but you will understand it more by getting out your paints and mixing them yourself. Although the Series 1 kit doesn't have primary colours as they are not pure colours (for example, the Baby Blue has white added to it) they do contain Red, Blue and Yellow. These are a great place to start learning about where they sit on the Ives colour wheel.
1. Using Tomato Red, Yellow Ochre and Baby blue, paint a flower at 12 o'clock, 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock. This leaves enough space between your primary colours to mix your secondary and intermediate colours.
Folk It's version of the Ives colour wheel using Series 1 DecoArt americana colours. Not true primaries as there is a lot of white added but you can still learn so much from completing your own.
2. Mix your secondary colours and paint smaller flowers (at 2 o'clock, 6 o'clock and 10 o'clock). This will help you differentiate between the primary and secondary colours at a later date. 

NOTE: A secondary colour is not equal quantities of 2 primaries. When mixing your secondary colour always start with the lightest colour- so if mixing yellow and red - yellow would be the lightest. Slowly start adding the darker colour (red). You are mixing the 2 colours together until the colour resembles neither of the primaries - ie: when mixing green stop for a second and see if you think you can still see a yellow hue, if you do add more blue. If it starts looking too blue add more yellow. You will learn so much from experimenting.

I always like to paint strokes when doing the Ives Colour Wheel or any paint mixing - it looks prettier and it's good practice! Make the primary colour flowers big and the secondaries smaller to differentiate between the 2.

3. Next mix your Intermediate colours. Do this by adding different amounts of primary colours to the secondary colour.  I always like to paint strokes when doing the Ives Colour Wheel or any paint mixing - it looks prettier and it's good practice! 

Above, I have painted the flower in Violet (secondary colour) which is made of red and blue. To the right, each time I painted a comma stroke, I have added more red to the violet which creates a Red Violet and to the left, I slowly added more blue which creates a Blue Violet. Imagine how many hundreds of different hues there are between the violet and the red!

You can't learn about colour mixing for your designs by reading about it, I do hope you get out your paints and create your own version of the Ives colour wheel.  Please do post pictures of your completed colour wheels on our Facebook page this week - we do love to see how you are all getting on. 

Love Carol x


  1. I like this example very much, a great way to encourage students to play with colours thanks Honor


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