COLOUR 1: Exercises in colour mixing

As I’m trying to get more into watercolour painting (especially for the background of my poster)- I thought I would make up some colour palettes last night, following the wonderful exercises in Natural History Painting and Exotic Botanical Illustration– both by Meriel Thurstan and Rosie Martin. These colour mixing exercises are all based off a limited palette of one each cold and warm of all three primary colours. Its quite a useful exercise to do as it reveals the huge array of colours that can be made from just 6 tube colours. Besides that- don’t they just look pretty!?

I use Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolours and the 6 basic colours I used were: Lemon Yellow Hue (W&N 346), Cadmium Yellow Light Hue (W&N 119), Ultramarine Blue (W&N 660)/ Cobalt Blue Hue (W&N 179), Pthalo Blue Hue (W&N 327), Alizarin Crimson (W&N 003) and Cadmium Red Hue (W&N 095). I have to say after doing this exercise though- that neither of the blues I used were really very cool (Prussian Blue would have been better), and the warm yellow could have been warmer! But that’s just what I had at the time- so this colour mixing exercise has really been quite valuable in bringing that to light.

Colour mixing exercises, gradients from each of the primary colours, and a diluted version below each strip. Yellows and Reds, and Yellows and Blues

Colour mixing exercises, gradients from each of the primary colours, and a diluted version below each strip. Yellows and Reds, and Yellows and Blues

Colour mixing exercises, gradients from each of the primary colours, and a diluted version below each strip. Yellows and Blues and Reds and Blues
Colour mixing exercises, gradients from each of the primary colours, and a diluted version below each strip. Yellows and Blues continued and Reds and Blues

I also did the complementary colour chart- where you mix the first colour (equal parts of two of the primaries) and then do a gradient mixing to the third primary.

Complementary colour mixing! Each of three primary colours is mixed to form shades of brown and grey
Complementary colour mixing! Each of three primary colours is mixed to form shades of brown and grey
Complementary colour mixing! Plus, a few colour mixes with some extra tubes I had on hand (Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna and Permanent Rose).
Complementary colour mixing! Plus, a few colour mixes with some extra tubes I had on hand (Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna and Permanent Rose).

The last few rows are colour mixes with some other premixed tubes of I had on hand (Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber and Permanent Rose). Mixing the Burnt sienna with Alizarin crimson got exactly the bright shade of red colour that I had always wondered how to get!

If you are interested, I found this useful guide on the W&N website, which lists the best colours from all their paint ranges, for the three primary system and for the 6-colour system.  They also have practical tips for colour mixing, which is worth a read. Here is also a really useful resource from Golden Artist Colors. SO many things to learn about colour!

Does anyone have any good examples of watercolour painting technique books? I’d love to know!

emma

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