View Full Version : Question about working methods / premixing

04-03-2015, 04:25 AM

Can somebody please give some thoughts on premixing values and colours for acrylic painting?

I paint still lifes, and I find blending or any type of edge work is very difficult, as I am a beginner, slow and the paint I use dries really quickly.

Most of the instructional videos I have found are for oils and many of them advise premixing colours. If I keep my premixed acrylic colours on a stay wet palette, they run together invariably.

Do you mix your colours on the go, or premix a few or all? Hoping for some tips.

04-03-2015, 06:13 AM
Try looking at "Clive5art" and "SchaefeAart".
Both can be found on YouTube.
There is plenty of useful information on both sites.

04-03-2015, 07:14 AM
Thanks for your help.
I have come across videos by Clive5art, scheaffer art, willkempartschool and Karenilari on youtube and continue to learn from them :)

04-03-2015, 07:23 AM
Check out the information kiosk in this forum. Plenty of information on all kinds of topics.

04-03-2015, 08:23 AM
Thanks, I have been reading the Information Kiosk posts, a lot of good info there.

04-03-2015, 09:45 AM
Hello again, I was hoping that some of the veterans here would share whether they premix colour strings for their acrylic paintings. You know, just to get a feel of how people who actually do good acrylic paintings go about it.

After months of trial and error and 'one step forward, two steps back' I have finally come to some sort of working arrangement. I thought I would mention it here, it may help some beginners. I lay out my tube colours in a couple of 'seven day pill boxes' ( each a strip with 7 wells, with individual lids so that colours not used in the current painting can be kept closed after a spray of water). They can be placed along the sides of my palette and go into a box with a tight lid and damp towels when not in use. The weather here is hot most of the time and with my current budget I use a local artists grade paint which dries in a couple of minutes when painted on. I tried working on a glass palette (an old picture frame), with a mister, but the paint dries too fast and the mister makes puddles and makes the colours run into each other as my paints have a creamy consistency. Now I use an improvised stay wet palette. Still I need to mist it. In fact I have gone back and forth between a stay wet palette and a glass palette a few times. I have spent more time improvising solutions than actually painting :crying:

I have read that premixing colour strings helps to bring the colours into harmony, and is the way to do fine blending with acrylics. I tried using mini ice cube trays to put premixed colours in, so that they would remain separate. Cleaning is difficult if they dry and it is difficult to line the trays with wet tissue and wax paper.

I am trying to avoid retarders if at all possible because I read that they affect the chemical composition of the paint. The obvious solution is to upgrade to a better quality slow drying paint brand, but my budget doesnt allow that at this stage:)

Hoping to get some feedback from people who premix and people who dont!

04-03-2015, 10:52 AM
I've only been painting for two months, so I might not know what I'm talking about here, but:

I don't have any problems with my paint running together in my stay-wet palette. Do you keep yours flat? I don't take mine anywhere, so it doesn't get jostled.

My mixed colors last for a couple weeks without any spraying. I just keep the sponge that's under the palette paper wet, and close the lid when I'm not painting (I only paint 1-2 times a week). Small amounts of color dry faster, so when I have less than a tablespoon or so left over after a session, I use it for something else instead of trying to save it for next time.

04-03-2015, 12:08 PM
That was helpful, thanks. I mix very small quantities of paint, maybe one of the main reasons why it dries fast on the palette. I have tried only small canvases. I do try to keep my palette level, but overnight, sometimes I see that the paint has absorbed more water and spread on the palette. May have to do with the paint quality too.

04-03-2015, 02:34 PM
Hello msoshu, I'm a fellow hot-weather painter, so I can definitely relate to what you're saying here. I can say that it all has to do with the weather! I also watched a few videos by SchaeferArt, and he once said that the paint stays wet for five minutes, and I went :eek: :confused: :rolleyes: . Because, for me, the paint only stays wet for a minute, maximum.

I tried a stay wet palette for some time, but it went moldy so I couldn't put up with it. I now use a flat glass palette. I spray the paint every now and then, and when I'm away, I cover each colour with plastic bottle caps. If the stay-wet palette works well for you, then by all means keep using it. If the colours run into each other, go for a larger size. Mine is 11x14".

Re: pre-mixing. I pre-mix the paint for each area in the painting, not the whole thing. Some artists I've seen, mix every shade and colour they need. I only mix the main colours (local colour, shadow and the brightest area).. and make adjustments as I go, or just blend to get the colours in between.

For a perfectly smooth finish, I'm afraid what only works for me is a retarder! I paint a thin layer without thinning, then go with the base colour on the whole area, and finally add the shadows and highlights. I use one brush to lay in the colours and another to blend immediately after laying them. Even with a retarder I only get 2-3 minutes of blendable paint. More than that, it starts lifting off. I hadn't known it affects the paint quality :confused:

I don't know if the quality of paint matters, as most of my colours are still student grade. I'm slowly migrating to artist grade and hope it will make a difference. Also ask around whether different paint 'consistencies' would be better for you; for example, soft body paint, or fluid paint. I haven't tried, myself.

Finally, I've seen both your pear and shell paintings, and I'd say they're really well done.. I think it's a matter of time and you'll master acrylics :thumbsup:

04-03-2015, 03:21 PM
I don't premix my colors, just mix them on the fly. Litttle piles dry out too fast to premix and I don't like to mix big piles if I don't need it. Frugal and cheap.:D

I mist the piles from the tube that I originally lay out... often... a light mist, not drenching. I use a piece of glass in a stay wet palette and when I close it I lay a small damp sponge inside which keeps the paint wet for several days. Too long and it will mold and be really smelly. That's Florida for ya!

We all learn to adjust and eventually find something that works for us. Everyone has a different way of doing things so don't despair. I am still learning new things all the time.

You might want to watch Jerry Yarnell on YouTube if you have not seen any of his videos. He makes it look easy. :lol:

04-03-2015, 04:12 PM
I often dry brush (no medium or water) the underpainting. When doing this I mix one tone at a time. First the darkest tone, then the next lightest and so on. Then I glaze or paint the final colours with washes and impasto etc. I find this to be a very efficient way of working. Dry brush does not require any mixing of medium and can be done very quickly. Then it is a matter of putting on the final layers. I also try to keep the work for each layer to a minimum, concentrating on tonal values for dry brush underpainting and colour for the top layers.

Charlie's Mum
04-03-2015, 04:54 PM
I don't pre-mix paint - I lay out the colours I'm using at the time - not necessarily all I'll use in a piece of work.
I don't use a lot of paint - tend to paint in layers and small amounts do dry quickly.
Mist the canvas periodically to keep the surface moist - not wet - if you're having problems.

I don't know what kind of colours you're wanting but I'd simply judge what's needed for the 'mix' and paint directly, working them together or maybe a little mixing on the palette - but never enough to have to keep to another session.
For tones, the same thing - have whatever colour you'll darken with on the palette (I don't use black) and also have the white handy - from your base colour, add colour for whichever way you want to go in the scale.

It really boils down to experience and the more you try things out (practice small areas on scrap) the more you'll gain confidence.

If you look up some of the PALs in the Information Kiosk you'll be able to see how some works progress and build.

Keep trying - and enjoy the journey!:)

Jon Bradley
04-03-2015, 05:14 PM
I never found pre-mixing to be really effective, at least for acrylics and using quite a few colors. I always have a sort of color in mind and go for it with what's already out, unless I need more.

I like sta-wet palettes a lot, and for what you get, they're worth the little change fuss. I recommend you add a little body medium to prevent over flow, or just hurry up and use the paint! (lol)

Good luck!

04-03-2015, 06:29 PM
Pre mixing colors makes sense if the final color is hard to duplicate and you know you will need to match it later.

Otherwise don't because the only way you will learn to mix colors and repeat the mixes is by mixing colors.

At your stage of development I would advise putting more paint than you think you'll need on the palette. I think your problems with paint handling come about, in part, from being too miserly with the paint.

Tell me if this isn't what happens: put a tiny dab of color on your palette. Put an equally tiny dab of another color on also. Mix them together and the result is a thin film of paint on your palette with maybe one thick edge. The color is correct, so you put some on the painting. Come back to the palette and Horrors, the color is already starting to dry. What to do? Spray water on it, maybe mix it together. Paint again, spritz again. Soon the paint is a runny useless mess.

04-03-2015, 11:17 PM
When I premix I use these and save them, I often need the mixed color for touch-ups later. Cheap storage. The paint will last 4-5+ days with lid on. Sometimes I add a little water before saving them.
Cups (http://www.webstaurantstohre.com/search/2-oz-cup.html?gclid=CM3z7ZLW28QCFQ8oaQodTRMAvQ)
Lids (http://www.webstaurantstore.com/dart-solo-pl1n-small-clear-lid-for-souffle-portion-container-100-pack/999PL1N.html)

04-04-2015, 12:05 AM
Wow, thanks to all for your response.

Ms.Sakr: Nice of you to share your working methods. I think our working conditions and materials are very similar so I can learn from it. I like your idea of covering the colours on the glass palette with bottle caps. I don't really prefer using a wet palette, so I will try your method with a glass palette.

Patti Lou: I would really like to become good enough to mix colours on the fly!

EnPassant: Thanks for sharing. I have tried drybrushing on the top layers for blending. I usually do only minimal underpainting, then go for colour. Your method is new to me.

Charlie's Mum: I am nowhere near mixing paint on the canvas! What I try do now is a bit like what you said. I mix two or three tones, usually the darkest and the middle, for an object/area and adjust what else is needed as I go along. You are right, more and more practice is what I need most. I will look at the PALS, thanks.

Jon Bradley: Thanks for your encouragement. Aah, if only I could mix faster and paint faster! (lol) I admire people who can do that. Maybe one day I will get there :)

Stumblefingers: You are right, I sometimes think I prioritize not wasting paint over painting well. Have to change my mindset. I tend to mix half-pea sized piles of paint for little shapes.

04-06-2015, 01:38 AM
don't be afraid to mix more paint than you will probably use. the thicker the paint on your palette or canvas the longer it will take to dry. Also I make painting videos over on youtube, hopefully one of my lessons could help you a bit in your further painting: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL96251A0AFD6FD2F7

04-06-2015, 06:28 AM
I have watched a couple of your videos earlier :) Thanks for the link, I will be watching more.

04-09-2015, 10:06 AM

Can somebody please give some thoughts on premixing values and colours for acrylic painting?

I paint still lifes, and I find blending or any type of edge work is very difficult, as I am a beginner, slow and the paint I use dries really quickly.

Most of the instructional videos I have found are for oils and many of them advise premixing colours. If I keep my premixed acrylic colours on a stay wet palette, they run together invariably.

Do you mix your colours on the go, or premix a few or all? Hoping for some tips.

--I'm thinking your sponge might be too wet. If you're using heavy body acrylics and painting all in one session, they really shouldn't run together. I don't usually premix as I'm still getting refamiliarized with acrylics and I want to be certain that the first color I mix is the right color and value before I bother tweaking it. And usually for me, it just takes the addition of a small amount of another color to adjust a value or color. Hope this helps..

04-09-2015, 01:42 PM
Thanks for sharing, it does help.