Playing with color mixing

Last night’s project did inspire me to see what kind of a color gamut I’d be able to produce with gouache (opaque watercolor). I also took note of the fact that colors mixed using the same pigments tend to harmonize.

With that in mind, and also knowing that I didn’t know my gouache well enough to tell how each color related to the next, tonight I just sat down and started painting out and mixing colors (without attempting to do anything like the lightfastness chart I completed last night for my transparent watercolors).

prismatic (rainbow) color mixing chart
I seem to have missed an intense red-violet and yellow-green. Right now I’m wondering what kind of muted colors and chromatic greys I can get out of this prismatic range.

It’s probably immediately apparent that I seem to be interested in cool colors more than warm ones. The above chart was made using seven colors, all Holbein with the exception of Permanent Rose and Intense Blue, which are Winsor & Newton brand:

  1. Permanent Rose
  2. Primary Magenta
  3. Ultramarine Light
  4. Intense Blue
  5. Peacock Blue
  6. Lemon Yellow
  7. Permanent White

Pretty much all the colors in the image are mixed rather heavily with Permanent White, so that the colors can actually be recognized. Both of the brands of paint I used here don’t have white as a filler in the gouache itself (neither does M. Graham & Co.). This is a sign of quality. It also means that the paint often needs to be mixed with white for both opacity, and for the color to be visible: I can see that if I use these often, I will likely need white in a larger quantity.

However, I don’t need it yet.

Peacock Blue is the only paint here which contains more than one pigment in its tube (there is some Phthalo Green mixed in there along with Phthalo Blue), and is also the only paint containing a pigment which isn’t essentially a primary color.

I used three blues, here, because I wanted to see what they would do. Intense Blue is a Phthalo color, while Ultramarine Light is…what it looks like. I wanted to see if I could make clear violets out of it, and the answer is apparently yes.

The Ultramarine I had experience with, prior, was Ultramarine Deep — it makes violets so dark (close to black) that I haven’t made the time to properly dilute them to see their actual character. Ultramarine can come with a green or violet bias. It looked like Ultramarine Deep was a violet-bias paint while Ultramarine Light was a green-bias paint, but the latter still works well for violets (apparently!). It just needs a nice violet-leaning reddish color like Permanent Rose or Primary Magenta.

I tried to mix colors which I thought would be adjacent to each other on the color wheel — so, for instance, I didn’t try mixing violets with Phthalo Blue as a component. Not yet.

Something that did surprise me is that Permanent Rose (top left corner) plus Lemon Yellow make a color extremely similar to Flame Red, even though both Permanent Rose and Lemon Yellow are on the cool side of the color gamut for both red and yellow. Flame Red, however, is a warm, intense red-orange. The mixture I’m referencing is in the lower left corner of the image above, and closer in color to Winsor & Newton’s Flame Red than Holbein’s Flame Red.

Given that…I am wondering if I got Peacock Blue because it was close to cyan, or just because it was pretty…the fact that red can be mixed from magenta + yellow is something I had heard about but not experienced, until now. (I’m talking about the CMYK system of color mixing, where red is not seen as a true primary color because you can get red from magenta + yellow, but you can’t derive magenta from anything we presently know of.)

Alright, I’ve talked enough tonight. I’m kind of itching to get back to my planning journal — I’ve been making notes about the content of future posts without the necessity of actually publishing them, yet. The fact that I had discovered that Web Production could be a full-time job is part of what I mentioned last night…essentially it’s like being an editor, but online.

That would be a really interesting outlet, I think! It involves the generation and development of ideas, content, and — likely, if my instruction in Marketing serves — the questions of relevance to the organization’s goals and user base. This would be in contrast to making the website functional (Web Development), or making it aesthetically pleasing and communicate in a user-friendly manner (Web Design).

I generally shy away from being in charge of things, but I could see myself working in a Web Production capacity, especially if I were passionate about the project…


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Haru ("Codey") is a third-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

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