View Full Version : Mixing paints

10-02-2006, 01:01 PM
I am fairly new to art in general and painting in particular. I've spent the last couple of years practicing drawing and I'm now excited to make a foray into the world of painting. I've experimented with gel media, washes etc, but I still find that I've having difficulty with (at least) two aspects of mixing colors. First, I find that I'm wasting a lot of paint because I'm either mixing way too much of a particular color for my need or, the need is very, very small and it would be impossible to mix, say, 1/2 gram of paint with any kind of control over the color I want. Do you folks find that you are sending a great deal of unused paint down the drain?

Another aspect is that if I mix too little of a color I can never duplicate the shade or tint I'm after. I'm also concerned that I'm working too slow and that my colors are going to become permanent adjuncts to my pallette and that because the bristles become caked with paint that my brushes will become usable as darts. I try to be very conscientious about soaking brushes I'm not using in water, but I find that going from the easel to the sink so frequently is disrupting my work flow to the point that it is distracting.

Any tips on paint mixing and/or working habits that will address my issues?


Greg S
Cleveland, OH USA

10-02-2006, 01:09 PM
Part of it does come with practice... but for the water part, why are you going to the sink frequently? I have 2 large pots of water, one for really dirty brushes, then transfer to the cleaner pot. I usually don't change the water at all in a day's session. Perhaps try some larger jars/pots for your water and have 2 or even 3 - always put brush in the dirtiest water first to get as much paint off as possible, then bung in the last pot until you need it. :)

I also have a 'scrubber' wire thing in my pots so it's easy to scrub the brush in the pot and get paint off. Mine's just a circular wire cutlery dryer but is a perfect fit for my giant yohurt pots. :)


10-02-2006, 02:45 PM
Hi Greg...i don't waste any paint as i mix smallish ammounts....and yes have to try to get the the approx. shade (sometimes it adds to the painting)...also i try to keep the paint out of the base of the brush..not always easy..
I think if i worked really large i would have problems...as Tina says it all comes with practice. About brushes...while i'm working..i have a shallow dish nearly as long as the brushes and i pop them in there after cleaning in the two pots of water..keeps them ready to use...and i don't have to reshape them all the time...when i'm finished for the session i then wash them at the sink in soapy water rinse and reshape...one trip to the sink...hope this helps you:wave:

10-02-2006, 04:09 PM
I have real trouble mixing colors period, my eye doesnt "see" small variations, sometimes I don't see large variations either. Ive heard of artists who make up mix books and write down something like a dab of white, 1/4 dab of blue, drop of red etc. I am NOT that orginized! If I run out of a color mix, I try to get as close as possible but I figure some variation in color is good so .... If I mix to much, I have a couple of the weekly pill orginizers that keep paint more or less fresh for a couple of months and hold upto a teaspoon or so of paint, for larger leftovers I have small takeout plastic containers that hold a couple of tablespoons worth. Sometimes I just use the left over on another surface and call it an abstract like below


10-02-2006, 05:53 PM
Greg S-- I use a baking pan (grocery store) about 1/3 filled with water and rest my used brushes in there, leaning the handle against the shorter side of the pan. That way, they stay wet and don't lose their shape. I often pick them up, wipe them off with a paper towel and use them again. I wash them in running water when I'm finished for the day. --Merritt

10-02-2006, 06:17 PM
im pretty new also and have a terrible time mixing too much paint. i dont just have a few teaspoons leftover...its not unusual for me to have around 10 - 20 teaspoons left over! its mostly because i am so afraid of running out of a colour half way through too. i save all of my empty paint containers and store the new colours in them. (once they are washed out) or you can usually buy empty containers at art stores also.

10-02-2006, 07:51 PM
To keep the water clean, it also helps to wipe the brush on a rag until most of the paint comes off, and then stick it in the water. I use a juice container with the top cut off for a water container. I put a strip of sticky-tac along the top, and I press the brush handle into it, at such a height that the bristles are in the water, but not resting on the bottom. That keeps them from getting funky-shaped.

10-02-2006, 09:04 PM
I use a home-made version of a stay-wet palette and I mist it often and cover it when I take a break and the paint stays workable for days, even weeks. I also everyday pour a little water under the waxpaper or tracing paper that I use as my palette (over wet newspaper cut to size.)

10-03-2006, 12:26 AM
I ate my way through one of those vegetable party trays from the grocery store (here it's Albertsons). The container has an airtight lid and has deep compartments and a little container where I keep water. While I'm painting I spray the paint. Nothing dries out. The compartments are big enough that I can have mixes going up the sides of the compartments as well as on the bottom.

When I'm tired of the colors I use them all as underpainting or make a painting from them much like the previous poster above.

I agree, I never did figure out the mixing potions that go 3:1 and so on. By the time I figure out a measuring device, I've gone on to another color that's "close enough"

10-03-2006, 02:23 AM
I keep several palletes of different colours going for a couple of weeks at a time with a home made stay wet pallete:
kitchen towel soaking wet wrapped in baking paper size of the lid of a plastic container and cover with the container upside down - I use an icecream container - plenty of those in our house. lol and it closes airtight. If it is open for too long - I just sprinkle water over it all to keep it nice and damp - this also means that the consistency of paints are usually just right to collect a dab which controls the paint overloading the brush.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Oct-2006/83066-pallette.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Oct-2006/83066-pallette1.jpg
I usually don't rinse until I make a major colour change - It helps to blend to just keep going. I actually use my rinse water more for keeping a damp brush on the go for blending/ softening edges.
With time you judge better how much paint to use too, although I always have a pile of white left .....

10-03-2006, 08:17 AM
Wow! thanks everyone for all of the great suggestions. It is a little heartening to know that I'm not the only one who struggles with this issue and even more encouraging to know that with practice and good habits that I will be able to work through it. Thanks again!

Charlie's Mum
10-03-2006, 01:15 PM
Hi Greg - you might also like to check out the Tips thread in the Information Kiosk in the forum - it has variations on the stay-wet palette and ideas about all things needed with painting in this medium! :D

10-03-2006, 03:54 PM
I pre-mix a lot of the colors I know I will need a lot of throughout the painting's progress. That way, I will always have a correct match when I have to go back over certain areas or touch up here and there.

As others here have mentioned, I keep a couple containers of water near at hand during the painting session. A smaller one contains distilled water for actually mixing with the paints and diluting them into washes. I keep a large container of regular tap water for rinsing out and cleaning my brushes. I wipe off the excess paint first on some paper towels, then rinse the brush in the brush cleaning container. This water can become pretty dirty after a time, so I change it for fresh water when needed.

After I have rinsed my brushes, I lay them on a home-made brush keeper to keep them moist until I need them again or until the painting session is done and it's time to really wash out the brushes. I use a shallow, rectangular plastic tray such as a Rubbermaid storage container. The container is the right length for long handled brushes and only about 1 1/2 inches deep. I keep a wet sponge in one end and let the brush bristles/hairs rest on this wet sponge. The handles rest on the edge of the container at the opposite end. I can put a second wet sponge in the container about mid-way to let short-handled brushes rest on this one. The wet sponge keeps the brushes from drying out no matter how long I'm painting and the sponges are the right thickness to let the bristle/hair ends of the brushes rest on them at a slight angle so they won't become bent. I like this method over one that allows the bristle/hair ends of the brush sit submerged in water for a long period of time because too much soaking time in water can cause the glue that holds the bristles in the ferrule to weaken and for the bristles or hairs to fall out. You also run the risk of having the wood near the ferrule start to crack and the finish peel away from it.

Keep a spray bottle filled with distilled water handy during your painting session to spritz over your paints to keep them from drying out on your palette.

There have been many good discussions on this forum about methods for keeping your paints and brushes moist. Some searching will turn them up.


10-03-2006, 04:15 PM
I keep a lenght of plywood (see previous post) for cleaning the majority of paint from my brush, then wash in 3 stages of water containers and lay them on a pad of newspaper. Sometimes I may only use a few brushes on a work other times there maybe 15 or 20. I dip each brush into the middle clean water then stroke a few times across the paperpad to remove most of the water b4 dipping into paint.

10-13-2006, 08:36 PM

A Clevelander! I have fond memories of Cleveland. Wish I was there, in fact.:wave: :wave:
I actually use teeny, tiny little jars of water--usually two. One for the initial cleaning and one for the final rinse. Then I dry the brush on a paper towel to soak up the dirty water. (Sometimes I wipe the brush on a paper towel first.)

Since the jars are teeny, I spend a lot of time at the sink changing the water. That works for me because I want really clean, clear colors. Color is very important to me. I do like grayed colors too, but I usually do a little mixing on the painting for variation.

Speaking of mixing, I must confess that I spent hours, and hours, and hours mixing and painting little swatches of colors. I lableled all of them so I would know what colors I used to make them. I think some of my friends thought I was wasting my time. (I wondered if I was avoiding the real stuff--painting.) Now that I am past that phase, I find myself referring to those color swatches. Glad I gottem now. Might even make some more. :lol: Great way to relax!

10-16-2006, 04:49 AM
Big thanks to all of you from another beginner in acrylic.....I've learned a lot
Dragica :)

10-16-2006, 12:07 PM
I use only "distiled" water for both my acrylics and watercolors... The only time I use sink water is is in the last cleaning, then rinse in distiled, wipe, then hang to dry. I keep two jar containers of water(one has that wire thingy in the bottom) and a spray bottle at my side, have all the colors I need and roll of paper towels, but will have to admit to wiping my brushes on my pant leg or shirt tail then go on to another color.:eek:
I do not pre-mix unless its a new color and not sure of it. Most of my mixing is on the paper/canvas painting. I also use the dirty water for glazing sometimes.

I am pretty good at matching colors so don't worry about 'exact' matching. I use to get really really crazy about that.
Tiasa, has given you some great advice.... get to know your colors and make yourself *your* own color chart with your brand of colors. But most of all....
Just have fun!!! Azure