Tips to Mix Watercolors Like a Pro

Watercolor is unique because it is ethereal and versatile, capturing light and color beautifully. The ability to mix colors well is one of the most important skills that sets a professional watercolor artist apart from the crowd. But mixing watercolors is not just about creating new colors. It’s also about understanding pigments, how they react with water and what they look like on paper. This article describes how to mix watercolors like a pro, allowing you to paint with more depth, realism and color.

Learn More About Color Theory:

Before you start mixing, you need a good understanding of color theory. The color wheel is your friend because it shows how colors relate to each other. Don’t forget these basic principles:

  • Primary Colors: Red, yellow and blue are the main colors. You cannot mix other colors to make these.
  • Secondary Colors: When you mix two primary colors, you get secondary colors such as green, orange and purple.
  • Tertiary Colors: Tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary color with a nearby secondary color. For example, green-blue and red-orange.

Understanding these connections can help you better guess what will happen when you mix colors so you don’t end up with muddy or unwanted shades.

Know Your Colors:

Each watercolor paint has its own properties, such as clarity, coloring and chipping. Some paints are easy to mix, while others can produce patterns or shades you didn’t expect. Creating a color chart will help you understand your color palette. This chart should show individual pigments and pigment blends so you can see how each color changes when mixed.

Learn How to Work with the Proportions of Water and Paint:

The beauty of watercolor is how bright it is and how soft the washes are. The intensity and brightness of the color are highly dependent on the amount of water used in mixing. Laundry that uses more water will be lighter and more transparent, while laundry that uses less water will be darker and less transparent. By varying the mix of water and pigment, you can achieve different intensities of the same color.

Experiment with Colors on a Palette and on Paper:

You can mix watercolors on a palette or on paper. When you mix colors on the palette, you can control them before they hit the paper, allowing you to match the colors perfectly. But mixing colors on paper (wet on wet or wet on dry) can create beautiful images in itself. Try both methods and see how you can use them to make your art look different.

Preserve the Whites:

Because there is no white pigment in watercolor, the highlights come through the white color of the paper. When mixing colors, remember to keep these white areas. Carefully paint around the white areas you want to keep, or use masking fluid to hide them before you start painting. This method can ensure that your drawing retains clarity and depth.

Use a Small Set of Colors:

Using a small range allows you to blend colors better. When you limit colors, you have to mix most of the colors you need. This will help you learn more about how colors work together and how to make them look good. First, it helps to have both cool and warm versions of each main color. Then use blending to figure out what other colors you can create.

Practice Creating Gradients:

It is important to use gradations or gradients when painting watercolors so that you can show how a color or shade changes smoothly from one color to another. Make patterns on paper to practice mixing colors. Start with a wet surface and add two colors at different ends. Let them meet in the middle and blend. This method not only makes the background smoother, but also gives the object more volume and depth.

Try Changing the Color Temperature:

To mix colors properly, you must understand and be able to change color temperature. Warm colors are red, orange and yellow, and cool colors are blue, green and purple. When you mix colors with the same temperature, you get a clear mixture. When you mix warm and cool colors, you get natural, subtle tones. With this information you can give your work more depth and emotion.

Write Down Your Mixture:

It can be very helpful to keep track of your color mixing efforts. Buy a watercolor notebook or watercolor paper where you can record the colors you mix, the amounts you use and how you use them. This exercise will not only help you remember good mixes, it will also make you think about your mixing methods and make you want to improve them.

Embrace Experimentation and Mistakes:

Finally, the most important advice is: try new things and learn from your mistakes. Watercolor is easy to change and turn into something else. Much of its charm comes from happy mistakes and unexpected effects. Making mistakes is an opportunity to learn more about mixing colors and finding your own style.


Mixing watercolors like a pro requires patience, practice and an understanding of many color theories and how watercolors work. You can learn to create colorful, expressive watercolor paintings by learning to use the right amounts of water and paint, trying different mixing methods on palette and paper, and tracking your progress. Remember that learning to mix watercolors is a slow process, full of new discoveries and fun experiments. Take advantage of every learning opportunity and use your imagination.


1. What color theory basis is needed for mixing watercolors?

Understanding primary, secondary and tertiary colors and color temperature (warm versus cool) is crucial. Learn how to use the color wheel to find complementary and similar colors to better mix colors, and learn why certain combinations work.

2. How do you mix watercolors without creating muddy colors?

Avoid mixing colors that are opposite on the color wheel, as this neutralises the color and creates a muddy color. For more control over color mixing, use a limited palette and a maximum of two or three pigments. Cleaning the brush between colors maintains color clarity.

3. How do I understand the properties of watercolor paint?

By making a color chart or sample book, you gain insight into the quality of your paint. Apply each color and note its transparency, coloration and grain. By combining each color with several other colors on your palette, you can better see how they work together.

4. Why use a palette and paper mix?

Both methods add variety and expression to watercolor paintings. Palette Blending lets you manage colors and consistency before printing on paper, perfect for precision work. Mixing wet on wet or wet on dry paper creates a spontaneous effect that adds depth and interest to the painting. Trying both will increase creativity.

5. How important is a mix notebook and what should I include?

By keeping a mix log, you can track your development, remember successful mixes and learn from your experiments. Review your color mixing, paint ratios and methods. Please note that paper type and water quality affect the final product. Your mix log will serve as a good reference point as you improve your skills and style.

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