Seeking a a color mixing chart?
I love seeing all the colors in neat order, like a rainbow.
But do you know how you can use a color chart to get the specific colors you want?
This can be useful for business colors, interior color schemes, or for hobbies like painting and dyeing.
Let’s get to know the color mixing chart, and see what a powerful tool it can be!
RYB vs RGB colors
First let’s clarify. This article is about the RYB color wheel used by artists and designers working with paint colors, pigments, or dyes.
Those could be acrylic paints, oil paints, house paint colors, hair or fabric dyes, etc.
But it’s not about the RGB color model that’s based on light.
The RYB color model is subtractive, which means colors get darker as you add more colors or blend them together. This is also true of CMYK ink colors used by printers.
The RGB system, which we won’t delve into here, is an additive system, which means colors get lighter as you add more color – since they are made of light! Makes sense, right?
You can see in the simple illustration below that the absence of RGB color is black, and the sum of it is white – or white light.
Now on to our primary story!
What are primary colors?
Top of the list are the primary colors: the three colors that cannot be mixed from other colors.
In our traditional color wheel (RYB), that’s red, yellow, and blue These three colors are then used to mix virtually every other color.
The exception to this is white. While black is made by mixing all three primary colors together, white is the absence of color. In the RYB system, white is a bit more challenging.
We’ll discuss black and white more later when we talk about shades, tints, and tones.
What are secondary colors?
Secondary colors are colors that you obtain by mixing two of the primary colors together.
There are three main ones: orange, violet (or purple), and green.
You mix red and blue to get violet, red and yellow to get orange, and blue and yellow to get green.
Of course, there are yet more colors.
What are tertiary colors?
Tertiary colors are created by mixing two colors on a color wheel, one primary and one secondary.
These are sometimes known as fractional colors because they aren’t as pure as primary or secondary.
These are the type of colors seen in nature, where the very brightest shades are less common.
The main ones are:
- Yellow orange or amber
- Red orange or vermillion
- Red violet or magenta
- Blue violet or purple
- Blue green or teal
- Yellow green or chartreuse
Each sits between the primary and secondary color on the wheel. So yellow orange is found between yellow and orange, while blue violet sits between blue and violet.
Admittedly there’s a lot of confusion in the nomenclature of purple vs. violet. You might even be curious to know what color is indigo!
Understanding the color wheel
We’ve mentioned the color wheel as we talked about these types of colors, but let’s take a moment to better understand it.
The color wheel is a color mixing guide that helps to understand how colors work together.
There’s lots of different kinds and styles, but the basics of the colors on them are always the same. The colors always blend from one to the next, like a spectrum, except in a circle.
There are three main ways to combine colors using a color wheel: complementary, analogous, and triadic.
Complementary colors are those that sit directly opposite each other.
They complement each other and produce a bright, eye-catching effect.
For example, yellow and purple, or blue and orange.
These colors are opposites, so the effect is strong. There is no purple in yellow, nor blue in orange. That’s as different as two colors can be.
Our example shows yellow green and red violet.
Analogous colors take three colors next to each other on any part of the color wheel.
So you could use green, blue green, and blue.
The effect here is softer and less contrasty, as the three colors will all share one color in common. In the above case, it’s blue (since green is blue + yellow).
Below, the colors all share red, as they are orange (red + yellow), red orange, and red.
Triadic colors are evenly spaced out around the wheel. If you were to draw a line inside the circle from one to another, it would form a triangle.
One example is yellow, red, and blue, the primary colors.
The secondary colors are another set of triadic colors.
What are tints, tones, and shades?
We all know there’s a lot more colors than the ones we’ve mentioned here. There are hundreds of different proportions with which you could mix the pure colors on the color wheel.
Below we show 36 different blends.
Then after these basic ones, there are tints, tones, and shades of them.
A tint is a color mixed with white to make it lighter. If using a transparent medium like watercolor paint or dye, you can also use more water and less pigment to create a tint.
You can add varying amounts of white, or your paint thinner, to get many different tints of the same color! Below we see 50% tints (equal blends of color + white).
A shade is the color mixed with black to make it darker. If you don’t have black pigment, you can mix it yourself as I discuss in the next section.
A tone is produced by mixing a color with grey, or sometimes by tinting and shading. So you can add both black and white to the color to make a tone. This provides a similar effect to adding gray, which is black + white already mixed.
Now we have hundreds of different colors. There are even more that the human eye can discern. But you’ve got a great start!
Check out 240 different color names and swatches.
Mixing colors: equal parts
When it comes to mixing colors to build a wider color mixing chart, you’ll need to understand the ratios or parts used.
Mixing equal amounts is the most basic format.
For example, if you mix equal parts of the three primary colors, you get black.
Equal parts of the two of them produce the secondary colors.
And equal parts of one primary + one secondary color makes the tertiary colors.
You can also mix equal parts of the color plus black, white, or grey to get basic tints, tones, and shades.
Be sure to see the full chart at the end of this article!
Mixing colors: proportional parts
The best way to get a whole range of related colors is to mix in proportional parts.
This also makes it easier if you need to recreate the color when using paints or other physical mediums, because you know what went into it.
Proportional mixing involves using simple ratios of the colors. You might add two parts white to one part red to create a pink tint. Or add one part black to two parts blue to create a dark blue shade.
Mixing colors: warm and cool shades
Finally, when thinking about mixing colors, remember that some colors are seen as warm and some cool.
Warm colors are ones like yellow and red, while blue is considered cool.
But you can use color mixing to create a warm blue or a cool red. Tone down red with a touch of blue to cool it off.
How to mix difficult colors
Some colors are a little tricky to mix – with brown and grey being top of the list.
These are both classed as compound tertiary colors that are created by mixing each of the primary colors in different ratios with other colors.
How to mix brown
To make a warm brown such as the color of tree wood or bricks, then you want to take a warm green (mix a yellow with some red with a blue with a touch of red) with a warm red.
For a cool brown, use red and green then make it cooler with blue. It is ideal for things like dark brown hair.
Darker brown is best made by adding red or blue to your existing brown, not by adding black. Light brown is simply adding white to the brown you have.
How to mix grey
Like brown, grey is a little tricky. You can’t just add white to black to get it just right.
That’s because black is technically a mix of the three primary colors!
Instead, it is better to add orange and white to a blue until you get the right shade. You can often add a little red or green for a more delicate shade or purple or yellow for a warmer shade.
Making the Most of the Color Mixing Chart
There are lots of reasons you would use a color mixing chart.
From understanding the range of colors that work together for a branding palette, to choosing colors for a bedroom or a painting, it can help.
Learning your primary or base colors and how they mix with others helps you understand things like warm or cooler colors.
And it is very important if you are interested in any artistic hobbies that use color!
Before choosing your colors, be sure you understand color symbolism, as this is a critical part of visual communication.
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