How To Mix Acrylic Paint For Beginners

If you’re new to painting, then learning how to mix acrylic paint is one of the most important things you need to learn. This can be a daunting task, but with these 10 tips and tricks, you’ll be able to create beautiful paintings with ease! In this blog post, we will discuss the different colors you need for your palette, how to mix them effectively, and some common mistakes that people make when mixing paint.

How to mix acrylic paint; the right way!

The colors you’ll need for acrylic painting will vary depending on the palette you want to create. However, there are some basic colors that every painter should have in their arsenal. In this section, we will discuss the colors you’ll need to mix paint the right way, and how to use them effectively.

how to mix acrylic paint
Color mixing chart

First, you need the right six primary colors

  • Red: This primary color is essential for mixing other colors, and you need a cool and warm red. I use alizarin crimson (cool) and cadmium red light (warm).
  • Yellow: Another primary color, yellow is also necessary for mixing other colors. I use yellow ochre (warm) and cadmium yellow lemon (cool).
  • Blue: The last primary color, blue is important for creating darker shades of green and purple. I use cerulean, and sometimes cobalt blue (cool), and ultramarine blue (warm).
  • White: White is key for lightening colors and creating tints. We will talk about this later on.
  • Black: Black can be used to create shadows and darker shades of colors. I mix grays and blacks using primaries. Again, we will cover this later on.

Now create a 6 primary color chart

Create a color wheel using the six primaries. The image illustrates where to place cool and warm hues. You can use it to follow along in the video. Once you make the chart, you’re well on your way to mixing paint like a pro! Now that we’ve gone over the basics, let’s move on to learning how to mix any color you need!

Mix paint with paint brush
Set up palette zones

Two methods for mixing hues

It’s pretty simple, either use a palette knife, or paint brush. Place hues near each other as opposed to touching. This way you can gradually mix the hues. Be sure to clean palette knives and brushes in-between mixing tasks.

How to manage your palette

Managing your palette means keeping colors organized. If done correctly, your mixing will be easier and less chaotic. There are several methods artists use to organize hues. I’ll share two useful tips that work well.

Place paint around the outer edges of the palette, while reserving the inner-space for mixing. In the demo I placed similar colors next to each-other, and put the white off on it’s own. This, in theory, helps to keep the colors less contaminated.

The mixing area can be divided into spaces that are dedicated to specific hues. This can be done vertically, horizontally or quadrants. Having zones will help you mix more efficiently and lessen the chances of making a huge mess.

Tinting colors by mixing white
How to shade colors

Two ways to tint hues

Tinting hues is a great way to lighten value and create pastel shades. There are two ways to do this: adding white paint to the hue, or adding less paint to the hue. For example, if you want to create a tint of green, you can add white paint to yellow paint to create a lighter shade, or add less yellow paint to blue paint to create a pastel green.

An alternative method is using a color within the family. However, this only works if the color you are tinting is fairly dark. It’s a good way to tint hues without losing saturation. But again, it’s not always possible.

Two methods to shade hues

Shading hues is another way to create different colors. This can be done by adding a complimentary hue, or adding a similar valued gray. Keep in mind that when you add a complimentary color to a hue, it loses intensity. So, it’s basically neutralizing the color.

You can also use a color within the hue family to shade. But, as with tinting, you have to have a color that’s already light in value. If so, then try using a darker color in that family to darken it. This will keep the color from neutralizing as it did using a complimentary hue.

How to desaturate colors using gray

Chroma, saturation & intensity

It’s all the same. The three terms are used to describe how pure a color is straight out of the tube. A saturated, intense, and chromatic color is free of white and, or gray.

Reducing intensity can be done a few different ways. We have already some of them, hopefully you remember. But let’s say you want to reduce intensity, and maintain the value of a color. Not easy, but doable. Try mixing a gray that’s equal value as the red. If done correctly, you can lower saturation and keep value the same. Pretty cool stuff!

How to use complementary hues to desaturate

Complementary hues are two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. When these colors are mixed, they can be used to desaturate other hues. For example, if you want to create a muted green color, you can mix complementary yellow and blue hues together.

To maintain value, reduce, or increase, the complimentary color to a similar value to the color you are working with. This will keep the color within the same value range when done properly.

Color mixing harmony

Color combinations and color harmony are better choices for choosing colors. Most beginners get caught trying to color match natures, and that’s a losing battle. There are any strategies that work much better, here are several;

  • Primaries – use the three primaries
  • Secondaries – another great choice
  • Tertiary – use these colors for a harmonious palette
  • Complimentary – you should know these by now, and they make great color options
  • Analogous – colors located next to each other on the color wheel, it works great!
  • Split-complimentary – use any two complimentary hues, and add one of the colors beside it on the wheel
  • Triadic – any three colors that form a triangle on the color wheel
  • Tetradic – any four colors that form a rectangle on the color wheel
  • Monochromatic – use one color and tint and shade it
  • Shades – pick a color and only use shades of it
  • Tints – try starting with a dark hue and tint it
  • Warm – use mostly warm hues create a lovely, harmonious palette


We hope you found this blog post helpful! Learning how to mix paint is an essential skill for any painter, and with these tips and tricks, you’ll be a pro in no time. Thanks for reading!

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