Why take the time to make watercolor mixing charts?
Color Mixing Charts (or grids) are terrific tools for learning, for color referencing, an excellent way to understand your DANIEL SMITH Extra-Fine Watercolors, and see some of the range of colors that can be mixed. For our example, we’re making a color mixing chart or grid with the 6 colors from the DANIEL SMITH Colors of Inspiration Watercolor Half Pan Set.
As a Learning Tool
When you are mixing colors for your chart, you are learning what colors can be made with each color mixed with every other color on your chart, and get an idea of the color range that can be mixed. Without the opportunity to explore (play!) and see what your colors can do with one another, you may never discover some gorgeous color mixes! You can make glazing color charts, mix colors on your chart (wet into wet) or as we’re doing for this article, mixing them on a plate or palette then painting them onto our Mixing Chart.
While this might seem like a chore to do, it is actually really interesting to see what your colors can do, it is color swatching with a purpose! We generally try to vary the how the watercolors are painted for each box. For example, a little heavier application on the lower right, lighter at the upper left to show more variation for each color and mixed color in the boxes. Painting them that way allows you to see some of the colors’ properties like transparency and granulation. Every color mixing chart you paint becomes a helpful reference tool, so be sure to keep them and make new ones when you add more watercolors!
How the Mixing Chart is organized
The colors are laid out chromatically in both the horizontal rows and vertical columns as shown in the example below for the DANIEL SMITH Colors of Inspiration Watercolor Half Pan Set.
Wisteria, Lavender, Rose of Ultramarine, Moonglow, Shadow Violet and Serpentine Genuine.
Photo 1. After transferring the lines from the downloadable pdf. (link further below) label your colors as in photo 1., and paint out in the order shown in Photos 1 & 2.
- Paint the first vertical column with your colors, we used less water for deeper colors.
- Paint in the first horizontal row with the six colors, here we did a mid-tone wash.
- The main diagonal, we painted with a light wash.
- Using different ratios of water allows you to see a range of each main color, deep, mid and light.
Photo 3. Now the color mixing begins!
- Working by columns painting both down the column and across a row at a time, you can begin mixing your first color in column 1, Wisteria.
- Mixing Wisteria with Lavender, in a slightly larger portion of Wisteria to Lavender, paint that mix in the box below the light Wisteriawash (that is the Wisteria column) next to the Lavender box on the left.
- Take that same mix of Wisteria/Lavender and add more Lavender and paint that mix in the second column just below the Lavenderbox (that is the Lavender column) in the Wisteria row.
- Repeat these steps for the remaining 4 colors as shown in the following photos.
Photo 4. Lavender column and row.
Photo 5. Rose of Ultramarine column and row.
Photo 6. Moonglow column and row.
Photo 7. Shadow Violet and Serpentine Genuine columns and rows.
As you paint your way down each column and across each row, it becomes faster and faster until your fifth color, Shadow Violet, only has 2 boxes, and the sixth color, in this case, Serpentine Genuine is finished when you finish the fifth color!
Adding extra colors
When you add new colors, it’s a good idea to mix them with your existing palette of colors like the example above, mixing our new Gray Titanium with our 6 color Essentials Watercolor Set. For this, we used our 6 color mixing chart template, and added a 7th row and 7th column to accommodate Gray Titanium as the 7th color.
We also wanted to see how colors mixed with the Essentials Set colors look, for example, New Gamboge mixed with Quinacridone Rose, an orange, looks when mixed with Gray Titanium:
- New Gamboge mixed with Quinacridone Rose – 4th box down in the Quinacridone Rose column.
- New Gamboge mixed with Quinacridone Rose then mixed with Gray Titanium – 5th box down in the New Gamboge column.
- Note, all the colors below the diagonal wash colors are mixed with Gray Titanium.
- Those boxes with the 3rd color, Gray Titanium, mixed into the 2-color mix are noted with (plus GT) in the boxes in the 7 color diagram below on the right.
You can download the 6 color mixing chart template HERE
The 6 color template was designed to be printed on 8.5 x 11 inch standard copy paper, you can trace or transfer the lines onto 140 lb. watercolor paper, we cut the watercolor paper down to 8 x 12 inches so we would have a wider border.
Adding more columns and rows is easy, just print out more 6 color templates, cut them up and tape the extra columns and rows you need, then transfer to your watercolor paper.
We used the 6 color template as a guide when we did our 15 color DANIEL SMITH Ultimate Mixing Half Pan Watercolor Set Mixing Chart, so you can modify the basic template to accommodate larger collections of colors as well.
As a Color Reference
Once completed, your color mixing chart becomes a wonderful color guide to reference when needed. Painting charts like these are also great exercises when inspiration is low and can help stir your creative juices when you discover beautiful new colors.
Have fun painting your DANIEL SMITH Extra-Fine Watercolors Mixing Charts!