Using Color Theory to mix and match colors

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As per some requests, I found a couple hrs tonight to just type away hehe.

This is how I approach matching a particular color, but there are many methods to do this. I'm just a very technical person and want to know exactly how everything works and why.

First you have to start with the basics, the fundamentals.

The 3 primary colors
Blue, Red and Yellow. : these are the colors that you cannot mix from any combination of any other colors.
The 3 secondary colors
Orange, Violet, and Green. : these are a mix of 2 primary colors. For example: mix primary colors yellow and red to make secondary color orange.
These 3 primary and secondary colors make upthe basics of the color wheel.
This is in my opionion, the primary tool the color wheel serves, as for choosing paint to mix/match a color is dependant of factors of your physical paint. What I mean by this is something called "color bias."
For example: Cadmium red is an orange red, and will be bias towards yellow.
There is no such thing as a "pure red" or a pure "blue" they don't exist. Every paint brand uses different pigments to acheive their color, and use different colors to make their particular color.
Take the color crimson for example. You can mix this several different ways. Typically, crimson is mixed using blue and red, therefore will have a bias towards purple. I have used green to tint back the blue so its not as cool before. This would then have a bias towards yellow, IF there is enough yellow in the way your green is made, lol. There really is no exact formula and this is why it's critical to stick with the same paint system and learn it well. This is the only way you will ever be able to match a color by eye.
Tertiary colors
These are the mixtures between the 6 colors mentioned above. While important, its not as important for mixing colors. This lends a hand more towards coming up with your color palette or scheme on an original piece.
Analyzing the 3 properties of color
To accurately mix or match a color you need to analyse it's properties. This takes a long time so don't get frustrated, it all comes with practice and understanding.

The 3 properties are as follows; Hue, Value, Saturation

Hue
: Best way to explain this is it translates the color. The sun has a yellow hue, literally means if you had to mix the color with the closest pure color you can think of, as in red, orange, yellow etc, but not necessarily bright yellow.

Value:
How light or dark the color is if it was a black and white photograph. This is one of the most important factors in mixing accurate colors, but one of the hardest to master. If you have ever notice a painter squint, one of the reasons is squinting helps the eyes'black and white receptors to make better value judgments.

Saturation
: how bright, or intense the color is. It's sometimes referred to as Chroma or Intensity

Now on with the fun part and what we are after. How to match that freaking color!
Visual representation is best for this part. I don't have any paint near me at the moment, so I will just attach pictures found on the internet that hopefully most monitors will view the same. I will walk you through analyzing the 3 properties I just mentioned, and put them to practical use.

CC9900.png Target Color

First Step: analyze the hue - what color is closest on the color wheel?

Bright yellow paper.jpg

Lets go with the obvious choice of yellow. I've found that most yellows have an orange/red bias.
Looking at the yellow against the color wanting to match, you can see that it's too yellow and the target color has a much more orange hue to it. I would add a little bit of red, which most I've found have a bias towards yellow. This should be mixed until an yellow-orange has been achieved.


FFCC00.png

Second step: analyze the value - How light or dark is it?

If you find your mix is too dark, you can add white, if its too light, we can add the complementary color.
Looking at the color wheel to see what is opposite the yellow-orange we have mixed, you will find a dark blue-purple.

Third step: analyze the saturation - How bright or dull is it?
More than likely it will be too bright, so add just a little touch of blue-purple to tone it down. Be careful with using darker colors as they are stronger and tint easily so add very minute amounts and keep mixing until desired color is achieved.

images.jpg

The final picture attached shows how purple added to yellow orange will darken to a point, then shift towards purple. controlling this slowly is key to getting a spot on color match. As you add very small amounts of blue-purple to your mix, you should eventually hit the target color.

Hope this helps someone, I've tried to simplify classic teaching I received years ago when doing oil paintings. The other method is what helped me figure out the bias of the paints, but takes longer to catalog in your head and remember on a regular basis. This would be just mixing colors and see what happens. You will noticed a lot of artists, especially those in the auto industry that have to churn out large amounts of work quickly, will stick to the same color theme for most things. This is because they know their colors well, how to mix and match them, and this comes in handy to always have supplies ready, assisting in speed of job completion, and repairing damages and scratched airbrush work without having to redo the entire thing, saving you time, and making the customer freaking happy as hell. Well sometimes, you can't please everyone in this day and age.
 
Thanks, now I have an exercise to do, painting myself one of those wheel thingies. I have never been to technical about this, just went with gut feel, but sometimes that just fails. Then thus willcome in handy.
 
Very informative Justin thanks, its one of many areas i need to work on getting to know colors and mixes, ill have to re-read it several times before it all sinks in, i think this should be made a sticky by the powers that be
 
Well done Justin, I've been wanting to print myself out a good color wheel for reference. Since reading this I know for a fact I would've gone a different route and NOT ended up coming up with the same color lol, good info bud!!!
 
many thanks for taking the time to put this together , if its not been put in already maybe a mod can link my thread in the newbie section to this as its an invaluable piece of information for newbies.
 
it was so right on and its crazy to think that my child is learning the color wheel in paints and even in college art class we were taught this and it all rings a bell, but how quickly we forget when we don't practice lol. Thanks very informative
 
As per some requests, I found a couple hrs tonight to just type away hehe.

This is how I approach matching a particular color, but there are many methods to do this. I'm just a very technical person and want to know exactly how everything works and why.

First you have to start with the basics, the fundamentals.

The 3 primary colors
Blue, Red and Yellow. : these are the colors that you cannot mix from any combination of any other colors.
The 3 secondary colors
Orange, Violet, and Green. : these are a mix of 2 primary colors. For example: mix primary colors yellow and red to make secondary color orange.
These 3 primary and secondary colors make upthe basics of the color wheel.
This is in my opionion, the primary tool the color wheel serves, as for choosing paint to mix/match a color is dependant of factors of your physical paint. What I mean by this is something called "color bias."
For example: Cadmium red is an orange red, and will be bias towards yellow.
There is no such thing as a "pure red" or a pure "blue" they don't exist. Every paint brand uses different pigments to acheive their color, and use different colors to make their particular color.
Take the color crimson for example. You can mix this several different ways. Typically, crimson is mixed using blue and red, therefore will have a bias towards purple. I have used green to tint back the blue so its not as cool before. This would then have a bias towards yellow, IF there is enough yellow in the way your green is made, lol. There really is no exact formula and this is why it's critical to stick with the same paint system and learn it well. This is the only way you will ever be able to match a color by eye.
Tertiary colors
These are the mixtures between the 6 colors mentioned above. While important, its not as important for mixing colors. This lends a hand more towards coming up with your color palette or scheme on an original piece.
Analyzing the 3 properties of color
To accurately mix or match a color you need to analyse it's properties. This takes a long time so don't get frustrated, it all comes with practice and understanding.

The 3 properties are as follows; Hue, Value, Saturation

Hue
: Best way to explain this is it translates the color. The sun has a yellow hue, literally means if you had to mix the color with the closest pure color you can think of, as in red, orange, yellow etc, but not necessarily bright yellow.

Value:
How light or dark the color is if it was a black and white photograph. This is one of the most important factors in mixing accurate colors, but one of the hardest to master. If you have ever notice a painter squint, one of the reasons is squinting helps the eyes'black and white receptors to make better value judgments.

Saturation
: how bright, or intense the color is. It's sometimes referred to as Chroma or Intensity

Now on with the fun part and what we are after. How to match that freaking color!
Visual representation is best for this part. I don't have any paint near me at the moment, so I will just attach pictures found on the internet that hopefully most monitors will view the same. I will walk you through analyzing the 3 properties I just mentioned, and put them to practical use.

View attachment 30592 Target Color

First Step: analyze the hue - what color is closest on the color wheel?

View attachment 30593

Lets go with the obvious choice of yellow. I've found that most yellows have an orange/red bias.
Looking at the yellow against the color wanting to match, you can see that it's too yellow and the target color has a much more orange hue to it. I would add a little bit of red, which most I've found have a bias towards yellow. This should be mixed until an yellow-orange has been achieved.


View attachment 30594

Second step: analyze the value - How light or dark is it?

If you find your mix is too dark, you can add white, if its too light, we can add the complementary color.
Looking at the color wheel to see what is opposite the yellow-orange we have mixed, you will find a dark blue-purple.

Third step: analyze the saturation - How bright or dull is it?
More than likely it will be too bright, so add just a little touch of blue-purple to tone it down. Be careful with using darker colors as they are stronger and tint easily so add very minute amounts and keep mixing until desired color is achieved.

View attachment 30595

The final picture attached shows how purple added to yellow orange will darken to a point, then shift towards purple. controlling this slowly is key to getting a spot on color match. As you add very small amounts of blue-purple to your mix, you should eventually hit the target color.

Hope this helps someone, I've tried to simplify classic teaching I received years ago when doing oil paintings. The other method is what helped me figure out the bias of the paints, but takes longer to catalog in your head and remember on a regular basis. This would be just mixing colors and see what happens. You will noticed a lot of artists, especially those in the auto industry that have to churn out large amounts of work quickly, will stick to the same color theme for most things. This is because they know their colors well, how to mix and match them, and this comes in handy to always have supplies ready, assisting in speed of job completion, and repairing damages and scratched airbrush work without having to redo the entire thing, saving you time, and making the customer freaking happy as hell. Well sometimes, you can't please everyone in this day and age.
This is one of the things I am struggling with the most, thanks for the post, it helped a bit!
 
Coming in a bit late with some experience in color mixing, though as a cosmetic chemist, if you're trying to get the barest minimum set of paints and there is both a warm yellow-toned red and a cool blue-toned red in your choice of paints, get them both, along with blue, yellow, white, and black. That's because you can go a long way if you can match tones to your target color and you're using red. It's VERY easy to turn your yellow red into purple by adding blue, so it's better to just use a color that uses a blue-toned dye/pigment to begin with. And because you won't have to fight the undertone of the red, you'll get more vibrant colors. You can be extra and do it with your other colors too, but imo if I can only get one extra, it's gonna be that red.

If you want to go crazy, get yourself a cheapie colorimeter from amazon and get acquainted with the CIELAB color space, it can be fascinating what you find out.

Also, this is super fun and you can make your own palettes: https://trycolors.com/
 
Coming in a bit late with some experience in color mixing, though as a cosmetic chemist, if you're trying to get the barest minimum set of paints and there is both a warm yellow-toned red and a cool blue-toned red in your choice of paints, get them both, along with blue, yellow, white, and black. That's because you can go a long way if you can match tones to your target color and you're using red. It's VERY easy to turn your yellow red into purple by adding blue, so it's better to just use a color that uses a blue-toned dye/pigment to begin with. And because you won't have to fight the undertone of the red, you'll get more vibrant colors. You can be extra and do it with your other colors too, but imo if I can only get one extra, it's gonna be that red.

If you want to go crazy, get yourself a cheapie colorimeter from amazon and get acquainted with the CIELAB color space, it can be fascinating what you find out.

Also, this is super fun and you can make your own palettes: https://trycolors.com/

or simply buy transparent CMYK + white colors.
Now forget about traditional color theory and read this:
http://www.wilsonstreetstudios.com/wilson-studio-blog/the-new-practical-artists-colour-theory

;)
 
There is no such thing as a "pure red" or a pure "blue" they don't exist. Every paint brand uses different pigments to acheive their color, and use different colors to make their particular color.

First of all - Concise and clear explanation on what to consider when mixing colours! Thank you for your time and imparted knowledge.
I'm getting a feeling this is aimed at automotive paints. While it is true that mots paint brands use different (i.e. more than one colour) pigments to create a certain colour, there some (at least for hobby miniature painting) that (claim to) use single pigment for each color (I'm thinking of Kimera Kolors). As far as I understand, that (i.e number of pigments) will affect how well they mix in order to get another colour.
And there is another way to think about colours. RGB is commonly used when object emits light (like computer monitors). But when object reflects light (such as painted miniature) - it helps to think in CMYK (Cyan Magenta Yellow Key=Black). There is nice video by State of Play that explains it.
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Thanks for doing this, I have been struggling a lot with mixing colors. This is going to help me a lot 🙏👍😉
 
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