Watercolor Mixing Charts: DON'T Make This Kind

art gouache painting watercolor
Don't Make This Watercolor Mixing Chart

Color mixing charts are crucial for understanding your paint colors -- but the most common type of mixing chart is NOT very helpful at all!

In this video, I’ll explain WHY, and what to do instead.

You may have seen those square mixing charts where your colors are written across the top and side kind of like a multiplication table.

You mix two colors together and put the resulting mixture in the appropriate square.

Problem 1: The Colors Are Duplicated

The first big problem with this type of chart is that you’re duplicating the same information on the top and lower halves of the chart.

Some people put lighter values of their mixtures on one half, and that’s an improvement, but that still leads me to my second issue.

Problem 2: The Values Are Too Far Apart

The values from the same paint mixtures are so far away from each other that it's hard to tell they're even related. 

Whereas, if you use smaller swatch cards like the ones below, you can see the lighter values right next to the darker ones.

Problem 3: It Only Shows a 50-50 Mixture

This color mixing chart also doesn't show multiple steps between colors, and all the beautiful combinations that happen when you mix two colors in varying proportions.

To clarify - the chart only shows one combination of two colors, say, 50% red + 50% yellow). But what about the color that results from using 25% red + 75% yellow, or 75% red + 25% yellow?

Again, using swatch cards instead of a big square chart allows you to see more “steps” in between two colors, and you may discover some mixtures that you really love.

You can take it even further and do even more steps between your two colors, like in the swatch card shown below.

Problem 4: It Doesn’t Show Combinations of 3 Colors

The fourth problem with a mixing chart like this is that it only shows combinations of TWO colors. But oftentimes, you’ll have a big mixing area on your palette, and a third color will sneak into your mixture.

Or, maybe you want to try working with a limited palette to have a more cohesive and harmonious painting.

Adding a third “dimension” to your mixtures can result in some really beautiful muted colors.

Isn't it amazing that all of these beautiful colors were created with just three tubes of paint?!

Problem 5: It’s Hard To Pair Colors

And finally, with a standard square color mixing chart, you end up making lots of little swatches without really understanding color or the relationships BETWEEN colors. It’s not easy to find colors that go well together, which can make it difficult to know which colors to use in a painting.

Having smaller swatch cards, however, will allow you to mix and match colors until you find something that looks really good.

Or, you can take things a bit further and create a super in-depth color chart that fully analyzes the potential of just three paint colors.

If you’d love to truly understand color so that you can confidently mix any color you want, so you can easily identify warm and cool colors, and so you can create artwork that looks harmonious, check out my simple-yet-mind-blowing 90-minute color mixing class, Stop Making Mud.

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