How to Watercolor: Color Mixing

Watercolor Paint Mixing Chart

Now that you've learned some techniques for creating washes and textures with watercolors, you need to learn a little bit about color mixing..... and I have a really cool project you can practice this with.  

It's not your typical color wheel.  It's a color chart!  It takes some time to make, but it's great for beginners and it really helps you figure out how to get the colors you want.

 Here's the chart I made way back in my college days:

Color Mixing Chart

Large sheet of watercolor paper (mine is about 16 in x 14 in)
Long ruler
Watercolor Paints

Set-up:  First take stock of how many different colors of paint you have.  With a pencil and a ruler, you are going to create 1-inch squares with the number of each paint color along the top and the left side of your paper, making a grid.  See below.  I had 13 colors, so I measured 13 1-inch  spaces along the top and 13 1-inch spaces along the left side.

  • On the top, number from left to right- assigning each square a number. 
  • On the left side, number from top to bottom.

Make sure to leave some blank space on the right side of your paper- to the right of the grid.  You'll use this space to list your colors.
How to make a color chart

I've circled the beginning three numbers for the top and the side in the picture below.

How to make a color chart

Along the right side, assign each paint color a number and list them vertically.  This is your key- your reference for mixing your colors.

Each color's number will correspond with the numbers on the grid- both on the top and the left side.

How to make a color chart

Now on to the fun part.... mixing!  For this chart you will never mix more than two colors at a time. The point of it is to mix every color with every color- equal parts of each- to get all the combinations possible- with mixing two colors.

Row #1

  • Start with your first color, the one you have assigned to your #1 spot on your list. In my case, I had Cobalt Violet.  That's the color that will go in your square labeled with a #1 on the top and a #1 on the left side. You don't need to mix this one, since it is the same color for both sides.  Just paint a nice even wash of your #1 color in that square.
  • For the square directly to the right of the first one- the one with a #2 above it- you will mix the second color on your list with your #1 color- since it is on the same row (row #1 on the left side).  So for me, I mixed equal amounts of Phthalo Blue and Cobalt Violet.
  • Continue across to the right, with box #3.  Mix your third color with your first color and then continue on to the right, filling each square with the right combinations, according to the numbers on the grid. This way, your first row will be all the variations of every color mixed with your first color.  
  • Make sure to mix equal amounts of each color with equal amounts of water for each box.  Also allow the squares some drying time, so they don't run into each other.  Use a blow dryer if you get impatient.

How to make a color chart

Row #2

Once your first row is done, start with your second.  You don't need to mix your #1 color with your # 2 color here, because you already did that in the first row.  So start on the second square over- in my case that was Pthalo Blue.

Mix Phthalo blue with the corresponding colors for each square.

How to make a color chart

Paint each square with its corresponding mixed colors for each row until your chart is finished!  The beginning squares of each row with have repeat mixtures from the previous rows, so you don't have to paint those ones again.

You'll end up with a triangle shape- like my chart below.  It's fun to look at all the shades and compare them. So many colors! It also works as a piece of abstract art!

How to mix paint colors
watercolor paint mixing chart

I hope this complicated chart makes sense to you.  Let me know if you have any questions on this post or any others from my How to Watercolor Series!

Up next.... still life painting!


  1. I never really learned about this when I started painting. This is a great tutorial. I'm going to have to give it a try!

  2. Love this idea of using the colors we have, and creating a record for future reference!! Thank you for sharing!

  3. I will do this tonight!!! Or very very soon, anyway. A fantastic reference tool, and if you ask me, a great piece of art! I'd frame it and put it on a wall


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