By Nicole Tinkham
If you’ve painted with watercolors at any point, you’ve probably run across a question most artists do: should you use a black watercolor paint right out of the tube or mix your own? Sounds way easier to get the pre-mixed version, right? You should know that pre-mixed black watercolor paint tend to be neutral and dull. By mixing your own, you’re able to adjust the tone going on either the warm or the cool side. Doing this will bring more life into your painting. We like to think of these as “darks” rather than blacks but we’ll get more into that later. Mixing your own black watercolor paint also puts you in total control. Your dark background can support your main focus in the painting and really make it stand out. Playing with warm and cool darks also creates depth in your painting. Are you interested in learning how to mix your own blacks? We’ll show you how to do this like a pro with these 5 simple tricks.
1. Use three basic colors:
When mixing the three, keep in mind the color of the object you want to stand out in the painting. Our objective here is to produce a complimentary color. Say you’re main subject is red. In this case, you’ll want to compliment the red with green. To do that, you would mix Alizarin Crimson and Phthalo green with only a touch of Phthalo Blue. Basically, you’re favoring the complimentary color when mixing your black.
2. Think of them as “darks” not blacks
In your painting, you don’t always have to use straight black. Dark blues, greens, and browns are also an option. You can still get a rich, dark color this way and it prevents that dull and muddy look of using too much straight black.
3. Use little water
The less water you use, the more pigment you will have and the more intense color you will produce. So if you’re looking for that super rich black, don’t load your brush up with water, don’t constantly wash your brush between colors, and be sure to use plenty of paint.
4. Play around with mixing
Just like mixing other colors, mixing black will take practice. Use the basic formula (color 1 + color 2 + small amount of color 3) then add even more of one of the colors. See what you get. Try different types of red, blue, and green paint. How does it differ?
5. Mix with Ivory Black
If you want a very dark black, you can use Ivory Black in the tube and mix it with either red, blue, green, or yellow depending on what tint you want the black to have. This is the shortcut to mixing black but still produces lovely dark colors.
When it comes to mixing paint, don’t be afraid to jump right in and experiment. This blog features 5 tips for mixing your own black but it’s only meant to be a guide to get you started. Feel free to ditch the “rules” and figure things out for yourself by playing around with color. Whatever you do discover, we’d love to hear about it! Leave a COMMENT below with your findings and your own tips for mixing watercolors.