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Color Pile - reuse or start new for each color group?

Yeah, this is a real "noob" question, I think from the video on color mixing, Mark simply uses the same mixing pile for every group, but I can't tell for sure, so my question is do I start a new mixing pile for each color group or can I work from the same mixing pile for every color group?



  • dencaldencal -
    edited January 2016

    Welcome to the Forum.

    I keep the base colors (red,blue,yellow,brown,white and black) premixed in 100ml glass jars. These remain useable for two years.

    For each colour group in a painting I mix about eight to ten values and a complementary greying color in plastic, snap cap containers (75ml-2.5oz, 50ml-1.7oz, 10ml-0.3oz). Size dependent on area coverage and size of canvas.

    The plastic snap caps remain viable for a month or two while the painting is assembled, I like keeping them this long for retouching or reworking small areas. However, on completion the snap caps are cleaned out or used to tone my next canvas.

  • SummerSummer -
    edited January 2017
    @George Welcome to the forum.  I asked myself the same question and came to the conclusion that most of the time Mark makes a fresh base puddle for every new line of values/steps that he creates.  Especially if there are a lot of values/steps in one vertical line.  That's what I am doing.  He creates from the darkest values to the lightest.

    While you are creating steps/values and you think that you have a step, save a sample of it next to your base puddle. Adjust if necessary. When it's right, place a puddle of it on the palette from which you will be painting. When you are finished with an entire line of values from dark to light on the palette from which you will be painting, clean off the base puddle and adjacent value tests from your working palette before you lay down the next base puddle in your color group for the vertical line of values/steps you are about to create. Hope this isn't too confusing.

    Good question.


  • Being the new-bee here I am trying to learn how to do Mark's method, though it seems simple, it is also confusing to me in some areas.  I can't figure out the purpose of the 'steps'.  Are they just for reference to arrive at the right colors.  Do they only reflect an ascending value (light to dark) and when a step is too big or small what does that mean exactly.  I see the difference in the steps visually but I can't grasp how many steps to make!  Once I have all these beautiful steps painted on the palette are they just wiped off when I'm finished with the painting?  I want to understand this because I think it will really help me paint more efficiently.  I don't really consider myself a painter, but I would like to become one and I like what Mark does a lot.  Can anyone make this 'step' he does a littler clearer for me??  Thanks in advance!
  • SummerSummer -
    edited January 2017

    @nancyjean You have probably seen this video already:

    Here are a couple of things that come to mind that may help:

    These groups and steps are only the beginning. You will be mixing more nuances of colors and values as you paint, so, leave enough room between rows for more nuanced mixing.

    One of the main purposes of the steps is to save time once you begin to paint. We naturally just want to paint and get frustrated when there is a lot of mixing required. By preparing most of the mixing ahead of time, there is less frustration and more painting accomplished in a painting session. It also gears up your mind to see more clearly what it is you are about to paint. And, it let’s me know if I’m getting low on a color in my stash.

    When a step is too big or too small, don’t panic, it means you either prepared too many values or not enough values. All that means is that you will be spending more or less time mixing to get the values right when you get to that part of the painting. No harm done. This is partly the nuanced mixing I mentioned earlier.

    "Do they only reflect an ascending value (light to dark)?" Not sure what you mean here. If you mean dark to light in sequential order according to value, yes, because you will be developing the values for the painting from the darkest to the lightest in that order.

    Make as many steps as you decide that you need, usually 6-12 per group.  Some monochromatic paintings may require 30 or more but they will have fewer groups.  You will be spending more time mixing while you are painting if you mix too few steps. If you prepare too many steps, you can use it later during nuanced mixing or as part of the tone for other canvasses as I mention in the next paragraph.

    Unless you are painting from containers, yes, the paint gets wiped off the palette. Hopefully you will use most of it in the painting. I use a spatula to scrape off what’s left over into a container and reuse that now “gray” paint to tone small cheap canvasses that I use for studies.

    And, as Denis mentioned earlier, it is best to mix enough for each step.  Try not to run out of a step.  Yes, the steps all seem uniform in size in the tutorials, but sometimes you know that you will be using more or less of a step.  I make these steps fatter or thinner in size accordingly.

    And, as Dan (Flatty) mentioned, mix for value first, color second, and value, again, third.    


  • Ya'll are awesome.  I will watch the video again and again and along with your input I feel I will eventually get it.  I'm so excited to start REAL painting but I have to finish my studio and while doing so I am trying to understand Mark's methods well enough to forge ahead.  A big thank you!!
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