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Premixing Your Paints: Pros and Cons

A lot of painters have strong opinions about whether or not it is helpful to premix colors on the palette or ‘set’ a palette before painting. I’m not talking about making your paints from scratch but rather about mixing a few colors, or even just one, after you’ve identified what the main colors in the work are going to be.

Then, you don’t have to remix those colors during the painting process. For example, if you are painting a still life with green apples, at the onset you could mix a large quantity of the green you’ve decided to use so that you have it in reserve throughout the process. I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other on this, but here are some of the pros and cons of premixing your colors

PRO: It can be easier to maintain consistent values in the areas of the painting created with premixed colors because you’ll always be starting with the same hue and can concentrate predominately on lightening or darkening the color.

CON: Painting what you see is largely about admitting that colors change quickly and dramatically. Using premixed color may make it harder to address minute changes in light and color as they occur, especially if you are plein air painting or like to create landscape paintings from life.

PRO: You don’t have to scramble or go back to square one each time you run out of color. Premixing means you can stay focused on executing your vision, not on trying to re-create a color that you’ve run out of.CON: Premixed colors can be a crutch of sorts. You may err on the side of sticking with the color you premixed rather than adapting to what you see in front of you.

Some artists feel very strongly about this subject, and others could care less. For me, it’s an interesting learning process to think through both sides of the issue. That’s one of the things I like best about Artist Daily—the myriad details, opinions, and points of view to consider. Taking it all in and being exposed to new views about traditional subjects and techniques makes me more informed in my own artistic pursuits—always a plus!

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