Mixing neutrals from primary colors with acrylic paints

I had so much fun mixing these neutral paint swatches from my set of primaries! I could have sat there for hours doing it, even though the colors started to repeat themselves. This exercise was inspired by a video course by Pat Weaver, who does a great job of showing that just about any color is possible from the primaries plus white.

acrylic paint neutral swatches mixed from primaries plus white and black
By adding white (part way into the top row), these swatches became a lot more dense and creamy.

acrylic paint neutral swatches mixed from primaries plus black
This set doesn’t have any white mixed in and the colors are less neutral, but I like how they’re much more muted versions of the full strength primaries. 

I was fascinated to see how the color mixes are more transparent before the white is added. My full set of 6 Blick Studio Acrylics came with Titanium White, Mars Black, Cadmium Red Medium Hue, Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue, Ultramarine Blue, and Phthalo Green. For these swatches, I used the red, yellow, blue, and black. For the white, I used Golden Heavy Body Titanium White.

Lately I’ve been thinking about what I actually want to be painting… I haven’t come to a clear conclusion, but I do know I’m more drawn to studies in value and neutral colors than most people seem to be. Often I hear that what people love about painting is bold, bright color. I find myself being much more interested in muted colors, subtle textural qualities, and value contrast — whether it’s strong or slight contrast. Even in college, during my photography class I was way more interested in black and white photography than color. I’m sure it has to do with my personality tendencies, which favor direct and straight-forward over provocative or dramatic.

Another reason I wanted to play with color mixing is because I want to do some experimenting using burnt umber and other earth tones for toned grounds and underpainting but I didn’t want to have to keep buying paints. Now I know I can just mix those colors myself!

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