Color Mixing Recipes

Colorbook1

So in an earlier post I mentioned how I became really frustrated during the process of painting my Queen Nefertiti. Well I thought it’d be good to share what helped me get through it. It’s a little book I bought from Amazon by William F. Powell called Color Mixing Recipes for Portraits. I only bought the book years ago as a back up for when I get too stuck and can’t paint my way out of it, and finally I got to refer to it for the first time with the Queen Nefertiti painting.

The main part that I struggled with was the color of the skin. Normally I feel in control, but this time it just wasn’t coming together. I kept mixing muddy colors and then destroying them further when I tried to fix it. I think it was particularly troublesome for me because I wasn’t working from a subject or a picture, just from my own head. Honestly I don’t usually use these kind of color recipe books, because I don’t want to get too attached to using them as a crutch. I need a certain element of spontaneity when painting. The idea of using “recipes” where x paint+x paint+x paint= y color sounds way too technical for my tastes. And not to mention expensive! Who needs all of those particular shades of paint? Where are you going to store it? Is there REALLY a big difference if I just use an orange that I mix up versus the cadmium orange hue scarlet that the book says I need? I think I’ve made decent paintings with a lot less colors than some of these books mention.

colorbook2

colorbook3All jokes aside, the book was actually helpful. I used it as more of a jumping off point and a visual aid rather than some kind of cut-and-dry resource. I took a break, came back to the painting with fresh eyes, and the book became my guide when I just couldn’t really think anymore. So the book, coupled with my own knowledge about color, allowed me to achieve much cleaner shades and tones for that particular painting. If you were ever curious about buying a color mixing book, I definitely think it’s worth it as a backup – especially if you’re already in school or taking private classes. If you’re just starting out and don’t know much about paint and mixing colors, these books can be a bit overwhelming so I wouldn’t recommend you get one until you get more comfortable.

Thoughts? Have you used any color mixing books? Love them or hate them?

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