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The Art of Mixing

The Art of Mixing

“Let’s have a bowl of vinegar for dinner!”

Pre-mixed colors vs. single pigments.

While there are colors that are pre-mixed, and look great, these are not usually the best things for serious artists to use. Pre-mixed colors don’t allow you to mix new colors very well, and you can’t control your overall palette in any given painting. Instead, you should use a mixing palette. A wide range of extremely intense colors gives an artist a huge variety of colors when mixing.

The rewards are vast. It’s worth doing, but learning how to use a mixing palette is difficult.

Use them, but don’t use them alone.

Don’t serve up raw colors on your paintings straight out of a tube. Using an intense single pigment color right out of the tube like you would a pre-mixed color does not work. It’s like serving up bowls of ground pepper, salt, and baking soda. With spoons. Not yummy.

You can serve up pre-mixed colors just like you would buy a frozen entree and do much less work. It makes the kitchen time fast and easy.

But a cook would not do that. A cook considers the kitchen the place where the magic happens. And magic doesn’t come from a box.

Magic for the artist comes from understanding color and learning to create whatever he or she needs at any given moment during the painting.

The nine pigment colors used in all The Art Instructor lessons, and showcased in this week’s Color Star Journal page, should be considered ingredients, not colors. You use ingredients to make dishes, or colors. You set the various dishes out for a meal, just like the colors all work together to create a painting.

A painting is the banquet.

Using phthalo green and yellow together, is just like using vinegar and oil together. They mellow each other out and create a nice salad dressing… or color.

Learning to mix takes time and knowledge. The Color Star is one of the best ways to understand all these single pigment tube colors, and begin to know how they work together. In a couple of weeks, we’ll be visiting the same tube color pigments again, and putting them together as opposites to create beautiful neutral colors. In-between these two journals, we have a fun day of artists’ choice so that kids get some freedom to create.

Enjoy your dinner! The world needs happy artists.

About The Author

Dennas Davis

Dennas is the founder of Firstlight Arts Academy in Nashville, and also of The Art Instructor (formerly ArtSquish). He has been designing, painting, illustrating and teaching in various combinations since he learned how to hold a crayon. He is the illustrator of 24 children's books with over 5 million in print worldwide. See his paintings at


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