Why bother mixing your own paint colors when most DIY stores will give you any shade you want?
While most prominent paint suppliers will mix your paint to order and offer a range of shades and tones, something is satisfying about creating your own unique paint colors to fit your needs.
Plus, when you mix your paint colors, you can consistently reproduce them years later when the paint manufacturers change their products, or when you want to reapply the same unique colors after buying a new home.
Best Color Mixing
You can create all the colors from the three primary colors and black and white.
The three primary colors are:
How do you get secondary colors?
The secondary colors come from mixing two of the primary colors to produce a new color. A traditional color wheel shows you the classic combinations:
- Red + Yellow = Orange
- Yellow + Blue = Green
- Blue + Red = Purple
The precise shade you get depends on the proportions of the colors, and the addition of black and white gives you darker or lighter tones.
Primary and secondary colors relate strongly to color psychology, and commercial space operators and offices adopt varying shades to great effects.
How do you obtain tertiary colors?
When you mix three primary colors or a primary and a secondary color, you get the tertiary shades like brown.
Before mixing paint in bulk, it makes sense to try small-scale mixing with artists’ paint to feel how color mixing works. Practice creating your color combinations to see how the addition of more or less of the colors changes the results.
When you mix tins of decorating paint, you can still do a small-scale test using spoonfuls of the color to work out the proportions before using the full containers.
Paint Color Mixing Guide
You create colored paint by suspending color pigment in a suitable medium – higher densities of pigment give a greater intensity of color.
When it comes to decorating paint, there are two types to consider – oil and water. The fundamental rule is that oil and water do not mix.
How do you tell the difference between water-based and oil-based paint?
You know you are dealing with water-based paint if you can clean your brushes with water. Oil-based paint requires white spirit or a proprietary brush cleaner to remove paint from the brushes. Oil-based paint takes a longer drying time and gives off more paint fumes.
Water-based acrylic is easier to deal with and is more versatile for color mixing options, and is easier to use and clean up.
If mixing oil-based paints, use the same brand of paint for successful mixing.
How to make different paint colors?
You can create colors by:
- Mixing tins of decorator’s paint together – either oil with oil or water with water.
- Starting with water-based white paint and adding tubes of acrylic color to tint the paint.
- Starting with water-based white paint and adding powdered acrylic color.
- Starting with colored paint and adding artists’ paint to tweak the color in a warm or cool direction.
The essential trick to successful and repeatable paint mixing is to take clear notes recording quantities and colors.
The paint must be stirred or shaken together for consistent mixing – undermixed paint produces unexpected effects with streaks of the original colors visible in the paintwork.
What is the best way to mix paint colors?
An electric or manual eggbeater lets you mix paint efficiently, but stirring with a wooden spoon or metal rod achieves the same effect.
Can You Save Money by Mixing Your Own Paint Colors?
Branded colored paint with fancy names like sea mist or heritage colors often sells at a premium price, where white paint and a tube or two artists’ acrylic paint represents a considerable saving.
Tubes of high-quality artist’s acrylic paint contain a higher density of pigment.
These tubes are ideal for tinting white paint to a desirable pastel shade. But the number of tubes needed to switch the white paint to an intense hue may be more than the cost of buying a ready mixed tin of paint.
Powdered pigment mixed with white paint as a base achieves a higher density of color, but you want to keep an eye on the cost compared with premixed paint.
How do you mix acrylic paints?
You can create acrylic paint by mixing acrylic powders with water but plan to use the paint immediately or add an extender to the mixture to keep the paint workable for longer.
Investing in primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) in premixed cans of paint lets you mix any color; you can then add white to tone the color down or black for darker shades and achieve an incredible variety of hues.
When you are thinking about saving money by paint-mixing, you can consider buying secondary colors (orange, green, and purple) in mixtures where you need all three primary colors as then you can buy one can of paint rather than two.
How to Make Black Paint?
You create black from all the primary colors. You can use acrylic powder pigments with white paint as a base, in which case the following artists’ pigments work to create a good black:
- Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, and Yellow Ochre.
- Quinacridone Magenta, Phthalo Blue, and Hansa Yellow.
- Phthalo Blue and Cadmium Orange.
- Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber, or Burnt Sienna.
- Phthalo Green and Dioxazine Purple, or Quinacridone Red, or Alizarin Crimson.
Achieving black is also possible with ordinary paints.
You can experiment with the direct mixing of cans of paint to create a black shade if you use the following types of paint:
- Dark red, dark blue, and brownish-yellow.
- Purple and dark green.
- Orange and dark blue.
Black is seldom an inky black but always has a color tint to either dark blue, purple, or green; you need to experiment with a small amount of paint to get a sense of the black shade you will get when you move onto bulk mixing.
For a small budget, it is probably best to buy black paint premixed.
How to Make Gray Paint?
Gray is a mixture of white and black paint. If you want a deep gray tone – add small amounts of white paint to the black. If you want a pale tone, either add black paint to white or use an artist’s acrylic (tube or powder pigment) to tint a can of white paint.
Rather than using Carbon Black artists acrylic, use Payne’s Gray or one of the other dark grey hues as your tinting color for a softer effect.
How to Make Brown Paint?
Like black, brown paint also uses all three primary colors. In mixing black, you use deep tones, but in mixing brown, you aim for the lighter tones of the primary colors – go too far, and you end up with black.
If mixing powdered pigment into a white base paint, opt for Burnt Umber or Burnt Sienna for a rich brown.
If you are mixing tins of paint, the following combinations work to achieve brown:
- Blue, yellow, and red.
- Blue and orange.
- Green and red.
- Purple and yellow.
All the above combinations will give you a brown color. You can make it darker by adding some black or more of the blue and red. Adding more yellow produces lighter shades of brown.
How to Make Beige Paint?
First, make one quantity of brown paint and then add an equal amount of white paint to make beige. You can produce a darker beige by adding less white or a paler shade by adding more.
The alternative is to use a tube of acrylic paint in one of the may brown tones to colorize a can of white paint.
How to Make Ochre Paint?
Ochre is a yellow shade of brown.
Start with a good brown and add yellow until you get the right shade of ochre for your purpose. Alternatively, mix an ochre pigment directly into white paint or water.
How to Make Blue Paint?
Blue is a primary color – you can turn white paint blue by adding blue acrylic color. If you are looking for intense blue paint for a wall, it is more economical to buy premixed blue paint rather than adding enough artists’ blue paint to white to achieve the intense color.
You can mix blue acrylic paint by mixing a powder pigment with water as its binding medium, provided you intend to use the paint immediately.
You can use white and blue paint together to produce lighter shades of blue. You can add a little black to darken the tone.
How to Make Navy Blue Paint?
Navy is a dark shade of blue; add either black or grey in small amounts to a good blue to achieve the dark tone of Navy Blue.
How to Make Red Paint?
Red is a primary color – you can turn white paint red by adding enough acrylic red pigment to the paint. If you need an intense or darker red, you are better off buying a premixed red can of paint.
You can create your own red paint by mixing pigment with water. The best artist’s reds are cadmium, alizarin, crimson, carmine, and quinacridone.
How to Make Pink Paint?
Red diluted with white becomes pink.
You can get pink paint by coloring white paint with artists’ acrylic paints or mixing red and white decorator’s paint. The proportion of red, and the type of red, will give you a range of pinks from dark raspberry to a pale rose. Always start with a small amount of red, and add as needed.
How to Make Dusty Pink Paint?
Add a tube of an artist’s acrylic red paint to a can of white paint to create pink. You can also mix a can of red paint with white. You create a dusty pink by adding a darker tone with black, grey, brown, or purple.
Take careful notes so that you can mix that shade again when you get the precise dusty pink you need.
How to Make Hot Pink Paint?
You can make a hot pink by mixing a bright red with white paint – Cadmium red is one of the most glowing red pigments and will give a vibrant pink. You can mix equal quantities of red and white decorators’ paint or use acrylic artists’ color to tint white paint.
How to Make Yellow Paint?
Yellow is the third primary color, and best bought premixed for cost savings. You can make your own with acrylic pigment and white paint or water.
How to Make Green Paint?
Green is a mixture of blue and yellow. If using powdered pigments, you can buy a range of greens to mix with white paint or water, or you can combine yellow and blue pigments to create your own green.
Green is one of those colors that you can experiment with on a small scale to work out the proportions of blue and yellow before mixing in bulk.
How to Make Forest Green Paint?
All tree leaves are not the same shade of green, so one person’s forest green is the deep dark green of pine trees, whereas another is the lighter green of beech leaves.
You can add black to your green mix to darken it, but a better forest green comes from increasing the proportion of blue in the mix. Start with three parts dark blue to yellow, and decide if you need to add more yellow or blue to your mixture.
How to Make Jade Green Paint?
Start with a bright green (equal parts blue and yellow) and then add a dark blue until you achieve a deep jade green color. You can deepen the tone with a touch of black.
How to Make Mint Green Paint?
Mint green is a pastel shade of green. You can mix green paint first and then add white paint to achieve a pastel tone, or you can use an artist’s acrylic paint to color a tin of white paint to the right shade.
How to Make Teal Paint?
Teal is a blue-heavy green paint, so start with a dark green and add blue progressively until you get the blue-green shade you associate with teal.
No two people will agree on the exact shade of teal as the proportion of blue to green is subjective.
How to Make Turquoise Paint?
Turquoise is a bright blue with a hint of green. One of the best ways to mix an excellent turquoise color is to add artists acrylic Cerulean Blue to a can of white paint until you get the right shade. Otherwise, start with a bright blue and add a small amount of green to move it to a deeper tone.
Turquoise is another subjective color.
How to Make Gold Paint?
If you want metallic gold, you are best to buy premixed paint.
You can buy metallic gold pigment and mix it into white paint or water, but you need a high pigment density to achieve the metallic effect.
You can mix a gold-tone by adding a good brown and white to a yellow base.
How to Make Rose Gold Paint?
Rose gold is a popular color for everything, from phones to cutlery. If you want metallic rose gold, you are better off buying premixed paint.
Alternatively, you can achieve the effect by mixing metallic gold, metallic silver, and red paint to give you a metallic rose gold version. Start with less red and add incrementally to reach the desired rose tone.
Otherwise, you will need to content yourself with a rose pink mixture of red and white without the metallic sheen.
How to Make Golden Brown Paint?
You can color white paint a golden brown with a raw sienna pigment. You can mix yellow paint into brown paint to move it from brown to golden brown.
Golden brown paint can range from dark to light depending on how much yellow you add to the mixture – it is the same as gold paint but with more brown in the mix.
If starting with primary colors – mix to make brown, then add more yellow until you get the gold-tone.
How to Make Purple Paint?
Purple is a mixture of red and blue – you can move your purple to the red end or the blue end by changing the proportions. You can get lighter tones by adding white and darker tones by adding black.
How to Make Indigo Paint?
Indigo is a shade of purple, so your base colors are red and blue. The proportions are one-part red to two parts blue as a starting point. You can then tweak it up and down and lighten it up with some white paint.
Indigo is another color where you want to practice on a small scale before mixing in bulk.
How to Make Lavender Paint?
Lavender is a pastel shade of purple. You can thin down a batch of purple paint with white paint, or you can color the white paint with artists acrylic (red and blue). By adding a touch of grey or black into the mix, you get a dusky lavender.
How to Make Violet Paint?
Violet is very much like indigo; you mix red and blue to make purple and then add more blue paint and some white until you hit that violet shade that reminds you of the flower.
A quick way is to add purple acrylic paint (Dioxazine Purple) to a can of white paint; depending on the can’s size, you may need more than one tube.
How to Make Magenta Paint?
Magenta is a bright mix of red and blue – almost neon bright. You can mix it, but it is a tricky color to get right, and you want to use the most brilliant reds and blues you can get hold of for an effective magenta.
How to Make Maroon Paint?
Maroon is a purple that is more red than blue; you want five parts, red to blue, as a starting point. Tweak the proportions until you get the dark blood color typical of maroon, and then add a small amount of yellow to give it a warm brown tone.
How to Make Burgundy Paint?
The base color for burgundy is red, and to gain shades of burgundy; you can mix in proportions of:
- Brown and blue.
- Green and blue.
- Blue and orange.
You can add combinations of the above to white paint with red to create a brighter burgundy tone, but burgundy is a color you make by experimenting until you get the desired shade.
How to Make Orange Paint?
Orange is a secondary color – you make it by mixing red and yellow. If you want to darken it to a burnt orange color, add a touch of blue at the end.
How to Make Peach Paint?
Peach is a warm pinkish-orange – mix orange with white paint and add a touch more red to the mix.
How to Make Silver Paint?
Metallic silver is another paint that is best bought as premixed paint.
You can purchase silver pigment powder to mix with white paint or water – you need a high density of the silver flecks to give you good coverage of metallic silver paint.
How to Make Skin Color Paint?
A wander down the foundation section of a cosmetics store will reveal a range of skin tones from porcelain to deep mahogany. Mixing a good skin tone is a core skill of a portrait artist.
Most people think of a pinky brown as skin color, but the variation in one family of skin tones is astounding.
To achieve a skin tone in paint, mix brown and white and add warmth with red until you get the warm pinky-brown glow of your preference.
How to Make White Acrylic Paint?
White acrylic paint in cans or tubs is a decorating staple and is typically the cheapest and most versatile paint to buy.
You can make white acrylic paint by mixing the white acrylic powder with water and using it immediately.
The advantage of mixing your white acrylic paint is that the powder pigment stores for a long time, and you can mix up your paint as you need it, rather than storing cans of ready-mixed paint.
Economically, it is easy to buy white paint in bulk.
How to Make Chalk Paint?
There are a lot of recipes to make your chosen acrylic decorator’s paint mix into chalk paint.
Chalk paint recipe: For each cup (approximately ¼ pint) of paint, add:
- 4 tablespoons of Calcium Carbonate and 1 tablespoon of talc. Thin with water; or
- ½ cup baking soda; or
- 2.5 tablespoons Plaster of Paris and a tablespoon of water; or
- 2 tablespoons of grout (not a sand-based one).
How to Make Puffy Paint?
Puffy paint is a three-dimensional acrylic paint useful for adding texture to home décor. It is typically treated as a fun craft for kids and fabric – sneakers and T-shirts become more fun with puffy paint.
Most DIY puffy paint versions involve shaving cream and PVA glue – the shaving cream adds “fluff”, and the glue makes it stick. You can color it with food coloring or acrylic paint or acrylic ink.
If you want to add texture to a wall rather than puffy paint, you are better applying a textured plaster surface or embossed paper and then painting on top.