Mixing Paints – Pigment Undertones – What Exactly Are They?

by Neadeen Masters on August 7, 2012

When Mixing Paints think of pigment undertone like a hidden personality trait.

It’s time to start mixing paints. However there is something important you need to know before you begin. Have you ever picked up a tube of green pigment only to discover it is really quite yellow and not the green it looked like in the bottle or tube? I’m sure this has happened to you at least more than once and with many other colors too! That surprise color tone is what we refer to as a color bias or undertone. Think of pigment undertone like a hidden personality trait. When we learn to mix colors correctly, we can avoid many mistakes and a lot of wasted paint. Mixing paints can be a painless process if we get to know each tuble of paint and how it will perform for us.

Pigment Undertone - Art Apprentice Online - Mixing Color Pigment Undertone – Art Apprentice Online – Mixing Paints

Mixing Paints with Pure Pigments

When pure pigments are mixed with other pure pigments it can become even more evident. These quiet personality traits show up and change everything when we least expect it!  The undertone can cause a color to lean towards another. For example, yellow can lean towards orange, or it can lean towards green. Red can lean towards orange or lean towards violet. It may seem simple, but it isn’t always so obvious to the naked eye. Pigment undertones don’t always reveal themselves at a glance. That is…when you look at the mass tone of two pigments, they may look quite similar sitting side by side on the palette. They can look almost identical in value and hue, but they can also hold a secret color bias that is yet to be discovered!

So why do we need to know this? It’s simple, when we paint we don’t want surprises!  For clean clear color mixes,  select colors with undertones that work together and not against each other. For example…Ultramarine Blue PB29 + Red Violet PV19 – the bias of both pigments lean towards each other or towards the violet end of the spectrum, so the resulting violet mix will be clean and pretty. If you select colors with opposing undertones, the resulting color mixes can be dull and muddy.

For the artist learning to paint with pure pigments and learning to mix color for the first time, this can be very frustrating and scary. However, there is an easy solution…It’s always good exercise to experiment with each pigment in your paint box to discover their hidden undertones. Experiment with each pure pigment and learn how a certain color choice will perform for you. Pre-screen your colours for their hidden undertones. It makes for educated choices when color mixing resulting in greater success.

Art the Art Apprentice Online we offer many color theory online classes that will empower the artist with a greater understanding of pigments and the ability to control their palette with confidence.

Sign up for free our newsletter to recieve tips,

specials and keep inspired to paint!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: