Your miniature questions are welcome here!

The original Miniatures Question and Answer Blog was the brain child of Nikki Rowe from Witch and Wizards Miniatures. Lately, she realized that she was spreading herself way too thin to continue doing all the things she's involved with well.

Since we all wait in anticipation of what awesome item she'll create next and we all want her to concentrate on making those fabulous mini's that we love, I have agreed to take over the responsiblity of the Miniature Question and Answer blog.

Format is the same. Once a week, on Sunday or Monday, a new question will be posted, researched and, with any luck, answered. You are all welcomed and encouraged to comment with your own answers and suggestions.

If you have a miniature related question you'd like investigated, the best way is to send me an e-mail.

But you can also put it in the comments section as a suggestion for the following week and, hopefully, I'll find it.

Nikki will be deleting the original blog so you will have to "re-follow" here, but I have saved all the questions...and answers and comments and they will be the subject of the first post.

Sounds like fun, eh?



Sunday, October 10, 2010

In Search of the Perfect Color...

...or, sometimes red and yellow DON’T make orange!

Janice of On Being Minimom recently posted a question about mixing colors:

"I am not very good at mixing colors, is there a site that gives you a mixing list...?"

Today, I read some posts on Facebook from a very frustrated miniaturist trying to make orange from red and yellow. Sounded like a topic that might interest more than a few people so here’s what I’ve discovered.

Most of the information I’ve reviewed deals with artist acrylic paints, which come in a tube or a jar, as opposed to the type of paint we are used to using called acrylic craft paints. There are rather significant differences between the two.

Artist Acrylic Paints
Artist acrylic paints use pure pigments, usually a single pigment or color. Each pigment dries to a different sheen, from matte to very glossy. Depending on the pigment, colors range from very transparent, semi-transparent, semi-opaque to opaque. These values are always indicated on the tube when using artists paint.

Within this category, there are both “student grade” and “artist grade” acrylics. The available colors are standard, though, regardless of grade. You will find colors such as Cadmium Yellow, Cobalt Blue and Phtalo Green. The colors are intended to be mixed to create different hues. The paints can be used as they are, directly from the tube or jar, but they are usually thinned with water or an acrylic medium.

Craft Acrylic Paints
Craft acrylic paint is made using fillers & opacifiers to allow the paint color to cover another color. Craft paint generally dries to a matte finish unless it indicates “gloss” or “shiny” on the bottle. Often the individual colors are created by mixing several pigments together. This makes mixing colors somewhat tricky as one is very often likely to get dull brown in the end.

Although there is no “student” or “artist” grade in craft acrylics, there is great variety among brands in terms of coverage and consistency of color. Some of the more familiar Brands are Ceramcoat, Americana and FolkArt. JoAnne’s has now produced their own brand of craft paint. The colors ranges are vast. I once saw a color chart in the store that matched a color of one brand with that of another, but I cannot vouch for the accuracy of that comparison.

Personally, I use both the Artist acrylics and Craft acrylics in my work, depending on my project. If I am painting the interior of a room or the exterior of a dollhouse, I will actually use latex paint from the paint store. I used to buy a quart of the color I wanted (of course, it was way too much) but now it is possible to buy sample colors for most brands. I prefer the latex house paint for the big jobs as it goes on nice and smooth and clean, isn’t streaky at all and I don’t have to buy multiple little bottles. Some dollhouse shops sell this type of paint in the same small quantity cans…must be about a pint, I think.

I use the craft acrylics when I am doing different painting techniques such as crackling furniture or with aging effects. I used craft acrylics on the wicker chair in the previous post. Craft acrylics dry much faster and have a much shorter “working time” than artist acrylics so that might be a factor when choosing between the two.

When I paint on polymer clay, however, I am usually going to use the artist acrylics, mostly because I find they stick a little better. I used a combination of both artist and craft acrylics on the Carnival masks I make a while back.

Color Mixing
I think most crafters have a box load of craft acrylic paints… I know I do. I love the variety of colors within a hue…so many different reds and blues and greens…that would be almost impossible to reproduce with any consistency. And the reason for this is because these colors are not necessarily made from one or more pure pigments.

With an artist acrylic, a true “'Cobalt Blue”, for example, will contain cobalt pigment and no other. But a craft acrylic “Cobalt Blue” may be a mix of white, black, blue and green and possibly even violet, depending on the brand.

Blue + Yellow = ?

Here are the results of a little experiment I tried. I took equal amounts of Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Yellow from both artist acrylics and craft acrylics. I also used a color called Bright Yellow of craft acrylics because it looked closer to Cad Yellow to my eye.

I mixed them together on a ceramic tile.

Then I painted each on white paper.

The resulting greens all vary but the mixture of the artist acrylics produces the clearest and cleanest color while the two greens from the craft acrylics are lighter and duller. Also, the green produced by the Bright Yellow craft acrylic is closer to the range of the acrylic, even though it is considerably lighter. When it comes to craft acrylics, name probably mean very little.

I did the same with Bright Red, Cadmium and Bright Yellow with the following results:

The Artist acrylics are on the left and the Craft acrylics are on the right

They are all "orange" of a sort but the Artist acrylics (on left)  produced a much clearer color...on the top I used red with a spot of yellow; on the bottom, yellow with a spot of red.  The "oranges" in the right photos are from the Craft acrylics and they are more of a salmon/coral or brick/terra cotta.

So that's all I know about mixing colors, more or less.  One rule of thumb is always start with the less intense color and mix a bit of the other in gradually.

Here are a few links I found:  all deal with Artist, not Craft, acrylics but the principles are the same.

Acrylic Painting for Dummies

Color Theory and Recipies

How to Mix Colors

I am sure that many of you  have developed your own tips and tricks! 

Care to share?  Let us hear from you!



Janice said...

Thank you Tabitha, you have given me an excellent spring board to be more confident and adventurous in my mixing.

I will also have a good look at the links.

Debbie said...

Thanks Tabitha, for running the tests. I use both kinds of acrylics, so will definitely be checking out the links. x

Tabitha Corsica said...

Author and artist BillPowell has a great book out. Here a video clip where he gives a quick "how to"

Michelle's Mad World said...

I have both types too, but I mainly have and use artist's ones as I find they are better all round both for quality and also you get more for your money (you need less paint to get the right colour) and you can buy it larger amounts than craft acrylics.

I used to know all the colour names, but I have been away from painting for too long...I need to go the Hobby Craft etc and have a good look and also increase my colour range.

I needed the colour that iron goes when it ages...that sort of bluey green, as I didn't have a colour that was a near match in a tube I had to mix my own. I will show it on my blog and you can see if I'm near to the right colour! lol I think it's a tad bright (I had no photo/picture to look at), so I might just remove it and buy the right colour!

Michelle xx

nikkinikkinikki72 said...

Susan i commented on the ladies post at facebook about her pumpkin colour as follows.

If you use process yellow and cadmium orange you will get the perfect pumpkin orange. More yellow than orange is needed, say one third of the yellow and two thirds or the orange.
But to dull it down a little add some ochre.
Primary yellows an...d reds will make the same orange, although more ochre would need to be added.
Some people notice they create an almost pink tone kind of like salmon sometimes when mixing these two to create a typical orange. Its because the two base colours they think are primary turn out not to.
To lighten the orange its best to use a white thats classed as a mixing white. Its not so intense and will create a nicer colour rather than using for instantce a titanium white. Mixing white is available by daler rowney system 3
Adding some creams can create a pink tone because they have a pink tone added to keep them warm, well more red was added into the mix in its creation to keep it warm. For example magnolia on walls is the home is a common choice because although light and airy it still gives a feeling of cozy/warm.

I find looking at colours in the tube/pots good. Know that sounds daft, but look at it and see if you think it looks warm or cold, colours kind of tell you what they are and what they mix well with. Kind of imagine the colour desired, say for instance a green olive, mix blue and yellow then look again and think what else does it need, and keep adding that way. Maybe a little cobalt blue, just a dot, maybe a little brown, just a dot, maybe some ochre. By just adding the dots you are not totally changing the colour but instantly it tells you if your heading in the right direction. If its right just add more.
I never follow a colour wheel and just play and mix and look etc. But just a little dot to start with is the best way say at one side of the colour you are mixing. If that bit goes wrong you can just scrape it to the side and still have loads left in your mix. If its right just push it into your whole mix and keep going like that. Stops wastage.

Michelle's Mad World said...

It's me again!

I should add that iron goes rusty, the colour I wanted was the colour bronze goes (I think!!) lol

I use my eyes like Nikki when it comes to mixing colours, I usually know what I need to add to get the right colour or shade. I also use little blobs and gradually mix my colours till I achieve the right colour and again add more of the same to get more paint to work with.

If I'm working on an area where I want to have some darker bits but another area lighter, I first mix the dark batch, take some paint out of that dish etc and then lighten that batch. That way I have the same tone and shade and should look more natural if I'm blending or want some merging of the two shades etc.

Michelle xx

Eliza said...

I guess I'm a bit of a paint snob- I have almost no craft quality acrylics. The only time I'll buy craft quality is for colors that I don't intend to mix, like gold or a certain shade of brown. Pretty much any color can be mixed easily with a limited number of artist's acrylics. I try to keep black, white, brown, and a warm and cool version of each primary colour on hand. Of course, you can easily get by with even fewer!

Lorraine Escapita said...

Such good tips from everyone! So helpful! I always need help in the paint department :).

I don't want to go off topic but can anyone tell me why my white always goes all streaky and starts making it's own "texture" when I really don't want it to? I try to make sure I let it fully dry between coats but it always seems to get worse and worse the more I put on. At first I thought I had ruined my bottle or something so I bought a new one but it still happened. This is with Craft Acrylics, maybe it is not so with Artist Acrylics?

Thanks for any help!

Whittaker's Miniatures said...

Im useless when it comes to painting! I always struggle to get a good 'bone ' colour, that dirty creamy , either comes out too lemon if I add yellow or too brown if adding brown to white, can anyone help on that score? I had problems getting a good brick colour too and eventually got it right but then forgot to write down how I got it so Ill have to go through it all again to find it! So note to oneself, always write down the experiment and results!! Thanks for all the advice , will be scouring those links later! Kate xxx

Michelle's Mad World said...


Streaking in your white? Have you any photo's to show? I'm never found acrylic to streak, but I do use artist acrylic's. I only use craft acrylics when I only want a smidgen of a particular colour.

Michelle xx

Michelle's Mad World said...


Experimenting is always the best way! :o))

Nothing is one colour, and bricks vary a lot! For my own bricks I used raw umber, raw sienna, terracotta and minutes amounts of black and green (for exterior bricks). You can also use rose pink as a shade.

It depends what colour you want your bricks too! Tudor bricks are more red, modern ones tend to be more orangy or pink (no I don't to any extreme! lol)

When I painted my own bricks I wet my brush first and then dipped in a tiny amount of one colour and then another (no mixing of colours prior). I had a test area where I could try the colour if I wasn't sure how it would look.

If you want you bricks dirty or sooty. Personally I have found it easier to mix some of the brick colour with a minute amount of black, but mostly I have coloured my bricks with their colour and then applied a very watery wash of raw umber and a smidgen of black over the top
(black is a powerful colour you only need minute amounts)

The above is from my own experiments so I am sure there are others who might know much more. :o)))

Michelle xxx

Tabitha Corsica said... much good advice.

Lorraine, with regard to your problem with white. You mentioned that you are using Craft acrylic white and therein, I believe, lies the problem. I'd have to say that one of things that nudged me back to the Artist acrylics was the really inconsistant quality of the "white"...or any of the variations.

First off, it was never, well, "white" when I wanted white. And it didn't cover very well. And additional coats didn't improve the you stated, it often made it worse.

Now, when I want "white", I use the Artist acrylics and I usually use Titanium or Zinc White, depending on the brand. Give it a try. I think you'll find a big difference.

When it comes to acrylic paint, though, I find I am not a purist. I still have (and use) the craft acrylics because they just work for some projects...especially when the color happens to be perfect. And when they are on sale at 4/$1, I can't resist. But I have gradually added to my collection of Artist acrylics. I buy the best I can afford, and with a coupon for 40% off, I usually buy the best offered. When it comes to tools, and I consider paint a tool, my father always said to get the best, as you would never be unhappy with it.

Whew, I've realized that was a little convoluted. I hope it was helpful, Lorraine.

Lorraine Escapita said...

Michelle, I don't have any pictures of anything right now. I usually toss it or try to fix it the best I can when it happens.

Tabitha, I think I will try artist acrylics then. Like you said the craft white doesn't coat very well and that is a huge problem for me! I beleive the better the supplies the better the result too, I have been building quite a store of good quality "tools", I guess my paint needs a makeover :).

Thanks ladies! I will let you know if switching fixes my problem.

nikkinikkinikki72 said...

The streaking of the white may have happened if you applied a second coat before the first coat wasnt fully dry, so the second coat took some of the first coat of as you brushed.

I use craft and artist quality acrylics and have even used bargain basement acrylics and like them all equally as much.The american i really love because of the colours available and no need to mix.
I find middle of the road best though, know that sounds daft, but some of the top grade artists paints i have i dont like the coverage over polymer and they tend to dry with too much of a shine.. i suppose good if you want a shine, lol.

Kate, you can get a good bone colour by using buttermilk by americana and mixing with white, then adding raw umber to the mix for the end parts you want to darken a little. Maybe a light bit of ochre added in too.

nikkinikkinikki72 said...

To make you laugh... everyone can make brown with their eyes closed but my browns are never brown, lol

Lorraine Escapita said...

Thanks Nikki, I do get impatient and use a hair dryer sometimes. Maybe I should give it more time... I shall experiment later and see what happens.

Whittaker's Miniatures said...

Thanks Michelle for the brick advice and Nikki for the bone colour, will give them all a go!!! Great blog!!! Kate xx