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Did you know?
       "Some watercolorists
        prefer to use distilled water
        to mix with their paints."


Home  Basics and Skills   How to Mix Watercolor

    adding water to your mixing well

How to Mix Watercolor

  • Beginning with water
  • Adding your color
  • Mixing your desired color and value
  • How to clean your pigments after mixing

Watercolor pigments arrive to you at their full paintable strength, either in a tube (moist color), or in a pan (dried color). To use watercolor, you dilute it first by mixing it with clean water. How much water you mix it with it determines both the depth of it's hue and value.

If you are new to watercolor, this is an excellent quick start guide on learning how to actually how to make, and mix, a puddle of color.

How to Mix a Puddle of Color  -  Tutorial
For this demonstration, I will be using two tube colors; New Gamboge and Permanent Rose. Both of these tube colors have already been allowed to air dry in my palette, and are no longer moist.

Step 1

Begin with water

beginning a puddle with clean water
To start your puddle of color, take your clean watercolor brush and touch the bottom of your clean water container. This will open up the brush hairs to the ferrule. Take your fully loaded brush, and either thump it a couple of times in your mixing well to release the water, or slide the brush against the rim of your mixing well to release the water.


Step 2

Adding color

mixing Permanent Rose with the clean water
Stroke your wet brush across the top of your pigment, Permanent Rose. Bring your watercolor brush back to your puddle of water and mix the two together. Do not rinse out your brush. Just slide your brush against the rim of your mixing well once.
Continue to add more brush strokes of the Permanent Rose, until you get the correct value of color you are trying to achieve.

To add another color:  do not rinse out your brush after completing Step 2, and move on to Step 3.

Step 3

Adding a second color

adding New Gamboge to the puddle
Stroke your watercolor brush across the New Gamboge. Bring your brush back to the puddle, and mix the New Gamboge with the Permanent Rose.


Step 4

Mixing the desired color

mixing New Gamboge into the puddle

Continue adding brush strokes of the New Gamboge to your puddle of Permanent Rose, until you get the color, and value, you are trying to achieve.
personal note   This method of mixing watercolors is my personal favorite. It helps me achieve the right color and value with the least amount of attempts. Don't worry if your paints get dirty. I will show you how to clean them.

How to Clean Your Watercolor Paints
  Once your watercolor paints have been allowed to dry in their designated wells, there is really no need to rinse your brush between colors. Here's why: Once the pigment has been allowed to dry, only the top layer will get contaminated. The color underneath remains pure. When you are making a puddle of watercolor, just switch back and forth between the two watercolors you are mixing until you get the correct color, value and size puddle you need. No need to rinse. Otherwise you will be rinsing out good pigment as well as lightening the value of your puddle by adding extra water from your rinsed brush, making it harder to achieve a darker value.  
Step 1

After you mix the color you want, take your clean wet brush and tickle it across the top of the paint to loosen the contaminated color.
tickling a wet brush over the dirty pigment
Paper towels seem to work best for this method of cleaning your watercolor paints. Tissues tend to stick to the moist paint and often leave lint particles.
Step 2

Then take a moist paper towel and lift out the dirty color.
tickling a wet brush over the dirty pigment

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