Master Your Palette:  Secrets to Successful Color Mixing 

Penn Studio School - ONLINE!

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August 6 to August 27 (Saturdays), 12 PM to 3 PM, EST

All sessions will be recorded; students don't have to be present. Recordings will be available for students up to two months.


 Course Description

If you struggle with muddy paintings, chalky colors, or color mixing, this workshop is for you! It is open to all levels, beginner through advanced. Any opaque painting medium is welcome (oil, acrylic, gouache, etc.).

When I began painting, one of my biggest roadblocks was color mixing. You see, some artists do this intuitively, but not me. I was constantly perplexed about mixing the colors I desired. And when I found the "right" color on my palette, it often looked wrong on the canvas. Over the years, I discovered several methods that improved my color perception, color mixing, and color relationships. I've been sharing these tips and tricks with my students with excellent results over the last two decades, and now I would like to share them with you!

We'll begin this course by attuning your color perception. Spoiler alert, colors can be deceiving! I'll teach you how to identify tricky colors and mix them effectively. We'll also briefly investigate the various color theories of Goethe and Johannes Itten with painted exercises and slide talks. However, most of your work time will be spent painting your chosen subject matter (still-life, landscape, figure, interior, etc.)

I'll offer individual and/or group critiques every session, where we will address the complex system of color relationships within your painted works. We'll also discuss all the things that contribute to chalky or muddy paintings. Yes, overmixing and too much white/black can produce mud/chalk, but there are other reasons why this happens. Together we'll turn those muddy or chalky paintings into works with color clarity and harmony.

I'm positive this workshop will dramatically improve the color in your paintings, just as it has for countless painting students in the past.

One on One critique and feedback with each student throughout the course.

Course Outline:

Session 1
Material overview
Discussion Topics: Color Physics, Color Wheel, & The Elements of Color
Mixing demo & exercise
Assignment #1: Color mixing exercise & Spot Screen construction

Session 2
Critique/Discussion over Assignment #1
Color Discussion Topic: Color Theory, Color Perception, & Paint Mixing
Painting demo
Exercise & Assignment #2: Small observational painting from subject of choice (landscape, figure, still life, interior, etc.)

Session 3
Critique/Discussion over Assignment #2
Color Discussion Topic: Color Relationships
Painting demo
Exercise & Assignment #3: Small observational painting from subject of choice (landscape, figure, still life, interior, etc.)

Session 4
Critique/Discussion over Assignment #3
Color Discussion Topic: How color creates form and space
Painting demo
Exercise 4: Small observational painting from subject of choice (landscape, figure, still life, interior, etc.)

Final Critique

Course Materials

Oil, Acrylic, or Gouache Paint
- Titanium White (alternative: Cremnitz White)
- Cad Red Light* (alternatives: Pyrrole Red or Napthal Red)
- Quinacridone Red (alternatives: Alizarine Crimson or Thalo Red Rose)
- Cad Yellow Lemon* (alternative: Hansa Yellow light)
- Indian Yellow - preferably Williamsburg brand
- Veridian Green
- Permanent Green Light (alternatives: Cinnabar Green or Cadmium Green)
- Ultramarine
- Cerulean Blue*
- Dioxazine Purple (alternatives: Egyptian Violet)
- Ivory Black

*try to avoid colors labeled as “hues”

Palette knife - At least one trowel shaped knife between 1” – 2 ½” long

Brushes - I recommend long-handled bristle (nylon for guache) flats or filberts, sizes 4, 6, 8, & 10, but using what you have is perfectly fine.

Solvent for Oil Paint - I recommended Turpenoid Natural for a non-toxic brush/palette cleaner. Gamsol is another good option, but must be used with adequate ventilation since it emits toxic fumes. Generic odorless mineral spirits are also an option but have higher evaporation rates than Gamsol and emit even more toxic fumes. Turpentine is fine too; again you must take care to have adequate ventilation to avoid inhaling toxic fumes. Gloves are always a good idea to wear when using these materials.

Solvent / Water Container - I recommend Silicoil Brush Cleaning Tank. They are inexpensive and clean brushes well. Of course, any glass or metal container with a lid will work.

Painting Surfaces - 5-6 surfaces, around 8”. They can be a little smaller or larger, square or rectangular. Acceptable painting surfaces include: gessoed paper, canvas board, canvas pads, stretched & primed canvas, or primed panels. For acrylics, make sure the surface is acrylic primed and not oil primed. For gouache watercolor paper or Bristol will work well.

Palette - NO WHITE PALETTES.  Palettes can be wood, glass, or disposable. Wood also creates a nice neutral tone to mix on. If using glass or disposable palettes, choose ones that feature a neutral grey mixing surface. Glass palettes can be easily transformed to a neutral color by applying grey paper or grey spray-paint to the underside. You can find various neutral grey disposable palettes on the market.

Paper towels / Rags 

Disposable Gloves (optional)

Painting Medium (optional) - I use Gamblin’s solvent-free painting mediums for oils. There are numerous types and purposes for mediums. Bring what you normally use. I would be happy to have individual conversations on the various painting mediums available for oil & acrylics.

Using Format