Colour Mixing Taster

two hand filled with paint

Colour Harmony

In this short live demonstration I am giving you an example of the kind of exercises, teaching and materials you can expect from my international online abstract art course Directions in Abstraction.

In this short colour mixing exercise you will be able to begin to explore some of the following questions:

How do you find your preferences and palette in how you use colour?

Are you drawn to strong and unsaturated colour or more muted and unsaturated hues?

Are there particular colours you keep repeating in your work?

What range of colours do you notice in your work?

From the exercise in the video you will see how to use colour to create more harmony in your work and so use colour expressively.

Exploring Colour Harmony

This is an exercise to explore creating colour harmony. For this exercise choose three colours. I suggest that you do not use the three primaries yellow red and blue but a different combination. An example might be cadmium red, sap green and cerulean, or vermillion, yellow ochre and cobalt blue.

The process is a simple one and begins with mixing a harmony colour from the three colours. You will then go on to create a wide spectrum of new hues using this fourth colour mixed in different amounts with your original three colours resulting in an exciting range of colours which harmonise.

Put a generous amount of each of the three colours on your palette. Roughly about a good tablespoonful of each. Then take an equal amount of each (about a teaspoon of each this time) and mix these together on your palette to create a fourth “harmony” colour.

You can use your sketchbook for this exercise or a large (A3 or bigger) piece of paper.  Now divide your page horizontally into 5 segments. You are going to paint a series of small squares of colour, moving horizontally across the page using incremental amounts of each of your starter colours mixed with increasing amounts of your harmony colour.

Begin with one of your original colours. Paint a small square on the left-hand side of the page using fully saturated colour straight from the tube. Next, mix a small amount of the harmony colour in with this original colour. About 10% mix is a good place to start. Paint another square next to the first one. Take a moment to look at how the colour has changed with this small addition. Continue to add incremental amounts of the “harmony colour” to this mix, painting a square each time. Stop after each square and notice the differences.

Experiment with adding this harmony mix to your other two original colours in small incremental amounts. Create another grid of small squares as you are doing this. With this exercise, it can be useful to keep notes of what each row is and the proportions of paint added. Notice the way the colours interact up and down your verticals and across the horizontals. Are there any particular hues that really catch your eye? Make a note of the ones that you really like and also the ones you do not.

Other variations on this exercise are to repeat the process above with each colour plus the harmony colour, then to add separately a row using white, black and then grey.  The variations are many!

Sketchbook Practice

Play in your sketchbook with more colour.  You might like to repeat this colour exercise with a range of different colours.  Maybe choose some colours that you habitually find in your work.

If you use Pinterest you might like to begin some boards about colour.  See what kinds of hues really speak to you in other artists’ work.

You might like to collect items with colours you like, or photographs of colours that appeal to you.

Reflections and Mindset Work

What did you find interesting or exciting from the colour mixing exercises?

What have you learnt from this exercise about the qualities that are important to you in your use of colour? See if you can come up with lists of words that express this for you.

How easy or difficult did you find the exercise?  What were you telling yourself as you were completing it?

Look at some of your existing work. What do you notice about how you have been using colour? 

Are there colour combinations that you repeat? Are there colours that you don’t use? What do you find yourself strongly drawn to?

You can download this exercise as a PDF below.

If you enjoyed this exercise and want more then please do take a look at my international online abstract art course Directions in Abstraction.

Published by Lin Cheung

I am an artist and teacher and I love working with people to help them be more creative.

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