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How to Mix Custom Colors


Painters who produce a large number of paintings and those who work large scale need to mix large quantities of colors. Mixing small piles repeatedly makes covering large areas with continuous color nearly impossible, and consumes valuable studio time. Preparing convenience mixtures in advance saves time and ensures a consistent, signature look will be part of every picture. As an added bonus, purchasing bulk quantities of color and replacing brand-name convenience mixtures with your own hand-made product reduces materials costs and saves money.


Empty aluminum paint tubes

Quart-size Utrecht titanium white oil color

New, fresh tubes of oil paint in your favorite colors

Glass palette

Mixing trowel

Tube Crimper

Start by identifying a mixture that recurs on the palette in the normal course of painting. For some, this might be white tinted with a blend of earth colors; another useful mixture might be a warm neutral glaze, made out of a favorite combination of transparent colors. Dark, concentrated colors like Phthalo Blue and Alizarin Crimson only reveal their maximum color when mixed with a small amount of white to reflect some light through the paint; chromatic, opaque versions of these colors can be prepared by adding Titanium White to these most concentrated, transparent pigments.


1. Deposit desired colors on glass palette. (Use only freshly opened paint for this procedure to guarantee maximum shelf life for your custom-mixed paint.)

2. Begin blending colors a small amount at a time. When creating high-value tints, mix white gradually into colors to avoid over-dilution. To ensure a homogeneous mixture, use the trowel alternately spreading out and scooping up paint until no streaks or marbling remain.

3. When the desired color is achieved, use the trowel to fill empty aluminum tubes. With each scoop of paint added, tap the tube (cap down) sharply against a table or the floor to pack paint down and remove air.

4. When the tube has been filled to within an inch of the opening, flatten the end of the tube. Fold the end of the tube, using the palette knife to crease. Seal the creased end tightly using a manual tube crimper.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Keep detailed notes about the contents of your custom-mixed palette, so you can reproduce successful mixtures again and again. Label tubes with a Sharpie marker, and store like commercially-produced paint.

Try making a base color or imprimatura based on color harmonies that commonly occur in your work to give a unified harmony to your paintings. Observe as your new works exhibit a more polished, professional appearance, and desired color mixtures are achieved quickly and easily.

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