Color Mixing Groups

Is it standard practice to mix a variety of steps for major color groups as Mark Carder teaches or do some people mix each color as they need them while painting? I do the latter because it seems like too much prep work but I am new at this and wasn't sure if it is just preference.


  • For the method, you need to go through everything he mentioned in his videos. regular mixing comes after you're done with this training.
  • I don't do large batches of steps any more. But I think it's important to do so when you're just starting out. I had to do it for ages. But once you have a good understanding of colour mixing it's then possible to do it on the wing. Mixing as you go can save paint but only after you've practiced mixing steps and can know pretty much straight away how to mix a particular colour. Otherwise you can end up wasting a lot of paint. :)  
  • Nobody regrets following Carder's color mixing steps when they were starting out. This teaches values as much as colors and teaches you how to mix colors in a way that is more intuitive but as @tassieguy said it takes time and there are no set rules on how many paintings or how much time it will take for  each person. A few months or a few years; every one is different.
  • I recently encountered a situation where it seemed best to mix entire color groups before painting: using a B&W photo for the composition of a portrait I wanted to paint and using a different color photo of the same subject for hues.  I scanned the B&W photo, reduced the number of grey-scale levels (to the smallest number of levels that gave a good representation), and printed the result full size. Then for each color group, testing against the color photo, I mixed the number of steps that showed up in that group's locations on the B&W print.  It was then simple work to apply each step to where it belonged on the canvas.  Where a transition seemed too abrupt, I simply mixed the adjacent steps together. 

  • I've been experimenting with a variation since I've been doing a lot of value-studies using neutrals and near-neutrals.   I've been mixing value-strings of graduated grays, then mixing in the hue rather than mixing the hue and then desaturating it.  So much of a painting, especially landscapes, is white paint so why not start there and add chroma.
  • @TedB
    That is an interesting way of looking at it, start neutral and work 'outwards' so to speak.  =)
  • In part I was inspired by Ted Goerschmer addition of mid-value mixes to his landscape palette ...and by Scott L. Christensen's Vasari Grays.
    I've been using a hybrid Geneva-Zorn palette; Titanium White, Yellow, Red, Ultramarine, Burnt Umber plus Yellow Ochre, Paynes Gray.  I added Sap Green or Teal to widen the gamut towards green to give me more control outdoors.  The skies were I am can be quite cyan near the horizon.
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