How to Avoid Muddy Color Mix

One of the essential parts of working with watercolor is to mix colors to get secondary and tertiary colors so that your painting looks richer. But this might become extra difficult sometimes as some colors don't mix well. But why do they yield these ugly muddy colors when they mix? In order to prevent your frustration, I will give you some helpful tips here.

Let's start with the color wheel. The color wheel includes the primary, secondary and tertiary colors. Yellow, blue and red are primary colors. When you mix the three, you get black color.


Every painter should have a color wheel in hand. If you don't have one, I highly recommend you to make one for yourself! I will explain why this is so important in a second.

Secondary colors are formed when you mix 2 primary colors. Thus, orange, green and purple are secondary colors. If you mix a secondary color with a primary color, you get a tertiary color.


We can divide the color wheel into two as "WARM" colors and "COLD" colors.



When you look at the color wheel, the colors that are opposite from each other are called "complementary" colors. This means that when they are used together in the same painting, they make each other stand out! BUT if you mix complementary colors, you will get ugly muddy colors. So make sure that these colors are at a safe distance from each other. Let me show you how complementary colors would look next to each other and when they are mixed together:


Another reason why you are getting muddy colors when you are mixing might be because you are not asking the colors if are working towards the same purpose. Sounds weird, right? Let me explain!


Not every red, blue and yellow are the same. Some lean towards being warmer whereas some has a colder tone. This plays a huge role in mixing the colors. Let's look at these colors below.


Here you have to look at these two different yellow tones and decide which one has more like "blue" in them (COLD) or "red" in them (WARM). If it has more hints of blue, that means this yellow wants to make GREEN whereas if the yellow has hints of red, that means it will want to form ORANGE.



Here you have to look at these two different red tones and decide which one has more like "blue" in them (COLD) or "yellow" in them (WARM). If it has more hints of blue, that means this red wants to make PURPLE whereas if the red has hints of yellow, that means it will want to form ORANGE.


Here you have to look at these two different blue tones and decide which one has more like "yellow" in them (COLD) or "red" in them (WARM). If it has more hints of yellow, that means this blue wants to make GREEN whereas if the blue has hints of red, that means it will want to form PURPLE.



So why are these important? Because you need to mix two color tones that want to make the same color. For example if you mix blue and red to get purple, but you mix

warm red (which wants to make orange) and warm blue (which wants to make green) you will get a muddy color just like below.


As you can see the warm blue and warm yellow also made an ugly green color with warm blue. because warm yellow wants to make an orange whereas warm blue wants to make a purple. Not the same direction they were going for! But the warm yellow and warm red worked perfectly together.


Below we look at the opposite pairs.

Cold red forms a perfect purple with cold blue as they both want to make a purple. Again, cold blue and cold yellow makes a perfect green as they both want to make green. Although it is not clear from the photo I took, cold yellow and cold red didn't mix very well as the red overpowered it.


I hope you didn't find this article too complicated. I tried to simplify as much as I can. It is important to create the perfect color mix. So, I really hope you will find this information helpful and share it with your artist friends!


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Ece

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