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.
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!