Creative Color Combinations

Mixing paint colors can be tedious. Especially if you’re a student and the teacher says we’re not using black to create darker colors or shadows in paintings.

I’ve started to learn about the color wheel and color combinations very quickly.

I’m currently painting a close up of an angel from Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Baptism of Christ (below, far left of frame) for that class. You can see my progess in the video at the end of this post, but here’s a visual so you know what I’m up against. 

The Baptism of Christ Leonardo Da Vinci

[Sidenote: I’ve also learned in my Art History course that the only appropriate short cut for saying Leonardo Da Vinci’s name in the art world is Leonardo or Leo; never say Da Vinci in reference to him, she says. Da Vinci refers to the village or area that he’s from, therefore, there were many “Da Vinci’s” so that part of his name is essentially irrelevant. Even though he seems to be the only world-renowned Da Vinci, so I think it can still work for the masses when referring to Leo.]

Just like Leonardo, painters need to mix colors besides black and white into other pigments in order to get the most realistic and varied color palette. While I’ve been trying to match his on a small scale, I’ve picked up some things about mixing colors that I’d like to share.


Complementary colors are directly across from each other on the color wheel, for example, green and red or orange and blue. Mixing these colors results in a darker, neutral color. (AKA the way artists create shadows without adding black)

Primary colors everyone should know: red, yellow and blue. The mixture of these three, though, creates a neutral that with the addition of white can create a strong base for skin tones.

In the video below, I create a neutral, mixing the primary colors and white, and by adding more red, create a nice (in my opinion) baseline for the lips of the angel (near Hinder reference for music fans).

The physical action of mixing these and other colors is important, also, because you don’t want streaks of red or yellow coming out of your brush onto the canvas. Combining colors thoroughly with a palette knife (like I use in the video) can significantly help create an even color in the end. Continually piling up the paint and flattening it out helps accomplish this as the colors blend into each other.

I’ve named the video “Happy Painting” after Bob Ross’s many reference to “Happy clouds, happy clouds” and the like, and also for the general sentiment it expresses. Happy Painting!

Hopefully this has encouraged you to start/continue painting and experiment with your color palette!


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