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My 5 Favourite Colour Mixes!

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

Shhhhh……Don’t tell anyone. This is just between us. Here are 5 top secret colour mixes that you may not have tried, but if you do they will ramp up your palette to the maximum!

#1 - Cadmium Yellow Light with Cadmium Yellow Deep.

Here is a little secret. Cadmium Yellow ( middle) although labelled a ‘middle yellow’ actually isn’t. It looks like it’s the middle of the road but it is a sneaky little colour that won’t go to either side of yellow. It is yellow but it always has a green tendency. Its green underbelly makes this colour near-impossible to make warm and it's green lean makes it look cool. Cadmium Yellow Medium is a TOTAL pain in the patootie if you want to paint warm yellows like fall trees.

All is not lost! Cadmium Yellow Deep to the rescue. This yellow has more of an orange cast and wants to stay warm, and is not a green-leaner. Now your Cadmium Yellow Light is the yellow to make greens. Cadmium Yellow Light will make some stunning greens with just about any blue. (I think it secretly wants to marry blue) But here’s the best part. If you mix Cadmium Yellow Light with Cadmium Yellow Deep you will get a perfect middle yellow WITHOUT the green bend - and you can do just about anything you want with that combo! Warm fall colours, spring greens, and you could even paint a perfect broccoli floret still life…… Try it, you’ll thank me later.

#2 - Pyrrole Scarlet and Quinacridone Rose.

As Sheldon would say…"Bazinga!" Do you want a mouth-watering red? Try this combo, Pyrrole Scarlet (or Cadmium Orange) and Quinacridone Rose (also known as Permanent Rose)

These two colours make an intense iris-popping orange-red. With the right tweaks, it can go from intense orange to vibrant pinky-red. As these two are mostly transparent they will allow the light to penetrate the layer and give you the underbelly vibrant glow that makes this combo work. This wild colour is great for a bridge colour on skin, poppy paintings or the perfect fruit still life.

Painting of a glass with wine in it.

Yummy Karen O’Neil painting.

#3 - Ultramarine Blue with Manganese Blue Hue.

Here is another secret mix that will save you money. If you mix these two friends together you will get a stunning cobalt blue (that now you don’t need to buy! - and we all know how expensive cobalt is.) This blue mix is a stunner for skies. Here’s the key. Ultramarine blue leans to the red side and manganese has a green lean. The red and the green fight each other just a little causing a colour vibration and it’s this vibration that gives you the colour pop. As mentioned, it’s perfect for skies, mountains, or incandescent iridescent, translucent water!

WAIT! Don’t order yet, here is a bonus just for you. If you want to lighten a sky and keep it looking fresh and not chalky, try mixing in Gamblin Radiant Turquoise instead of white. This can give your sky a dazzling zippiness that will be the envy of your fellow artists.

Blue landscape painting with the moon in the background.

Ultramarine and Manganese Blue were mixed to make the snow colours you see here.

#4 - Ultramarine Blue with Maroon Perylene

Ever try to make a deep dark red? It is very difficult to do. It seems that everything you try to use to darken a red either makes it turn to mud or turns it purple. Well, if you want warm darks, here are two spicy colours to twirl your brush in. Ultramarine Blue and Maroon Perylene. This dark warm transparent red stays red when it is mixed with the blue leaving you with a super yummy delicious red. If you can’t find the Maroon a good Cadmium Red Deep will work too, it’s just a tad more expensive. If you mix a touch of Chroma Black into this you will get about the darkest warm colour you can make with paint. Try it!… "Hey, Mikey…. He likes it!" Find Maroon Perylene in oil here.

Blue landscape painting with a purple tree leaning.

Ultramarine Blue and Maroon Perylene make up most of the dark shadows in this little tree study.

#5 - Ultramarine Blue with Quinacridone Rose.

When in doubt, use purple. The wonderful thing about the Ultramarine Blue/Quinacridone Rose combo isn’t that it makes fresh purples, it’s that it makes a ton of different purples. Everything from a bluish Dioxazine purple to a Red Magenta Fuschia and everything in between. Both are super transparent so they are great for washes, glazes and semi-opaque passages.

Grey house painting with a yellow fence.

Ultramarine Blue, Quinacridone Rose and a little Yellow Ochre will make just about all the colours needed to paint this William Wray Street scene.


#6 - Last but certainly not least and the latest addition to my palette…. Let’s talk about BLACK.

Black is one of those colours that gets a bad rap. Some artists will tell you to never use black while others will show you a Degas or a Monet painting with loads of black in them. My thoughts on black were in the “don’t use camp” for a very long time, mostly because students would use it as a grey colour instead of using complementaries, causing dark, muddy, almost sullen paintings. Most blacks are very strong and overtake other colours on your palette and can kill luminosity.

Let me introduce you to M.Graham’s Chroma Black. This is a new colour for the M.Graham line and I fully approve. Chroma Black is a transparent black. It has a low tinting strength which will allow you to use more of it without robbing your mix of colour. The transparent nature of this colour lets the light in, giving your darks a luminosity, whereas most blacks are opaque and stop the light from penetrating your mixed colour... I use this colour not only to grey other colours but I use it on its own as a lovely blue-grey. Its subtle undertones do not overwhelm. Its low tinting strength allows you to slather on lots of it without fear of it overtaking your palette.

Painting of a dark washed street scene.

All of these beautiful greys in this Jeremy Mann scene can be made with the addition of Chroma black.

Find your strength in colour mixing with these five secrets that you now know and keep those brushes swinging.

Your friend in art,


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