6 reasons you should try pre-mixing your paints

6 Reasons to mix your paints and choose your colour palette, before you start painting | Deviate&Flourish Blog

I shared in a recent post, how I’ve only just started painting again after stopping for over a year. When I started painting again a few months ago, I made some really simple yet crazy effective changes to my process. In this post I want to tell you about one of those changes.

Pre-mixing my Paints

The first of the changes I made was pre-mixing my paints. It’s completely changed my painting experience and has made the creative process so much more smooth and enjoyable. It has also lead to my paintings looking and feeling so much more harmonious. I think you’ll find it really helpful so I’ve put together a list of the 6 benefits I’ve experienced by pre-mixing my paints.

When I first started painting, colour mixing took forever. I would spend ages mixing the perfect colour then once I’d used it up I’d never be able to mix the same colour again. I’d end up painting and repainting the same bit, over and over again because I couldn’t get my colour mixing right! It was frustrating to say the least.

6 Reasons to Pre-mix your Paints


1. Plan your colour palette before you start. I think it’s important to have a cohesive colour palette planned out before you start adding any colour to your work. The colours you choose to use in your work say as much, if not more than any other element of the piece. Colour can communicate so much to the viewer (without them even realising), so it’s important to choose wisely and decide what it is you’re actually trying to say.

It can be easy, once you’re well into the creative process, to forget all of your initial planning and research. Especially if you’re getting bogged down in other things (like how to stop that cloud from looking like a bush, for example).

Planning and pre-mixing your colours allows you to stick to your original intentions whilst you concentrate one the other million and one things you need to be focusing on.

If you’re a beginner, it also gives you the chance to take your time whilst choosing your colour palette. You could even pop over to Pinterest for some inspiration!

2. Working from a limited palette helps to create a more unified painting. Starting with 2 to 4 main colours and mixing from only those colours (and maybe black and white) helps to create an effortlessly harmonious piece.

In his amazing book, Color and Light, James Gurney talks about limited palettes and “going on a color diet”.

“Going on a color diet can keep your color schemes lean and strong. A limited palette (also called a restricted palette) is a small selection of pigments, often resulting in a painting with a more unified or harmonious effect.

More colors don’t make a better color scheme. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Instead of stocking the palette with a wide range of intensely chromatic colors, it’s often effective to limit your palette.”

p. 104 Color and Light, James Gurney

He goes on to show examples of paintings which initially appear to include a huge array of colours, but have actually been painted using only 2 or 3 initial colours. (This book is amazing. Anyone who works with colour needs to read it).

3. Create a cohesive series of paintings. If you’re creating a series of paintings, you’ll probably want the series to sit well as a group. Following the advice in step 2 and mixing most of your colours from one initial palette, will allow your paintings to sit harmoniously together without necessarily looking like they have exactly the same palette.

4. Create swatches for client approval (and easily stick to them!). If you’re painting a commissioned piece or working for a client, it’s a good idea to agree on your colour scheme before you actually start painting. Having swatches approved by your clients, will allow you be sure that both of you know where you’re at.

Having those approved colours pre-mixed means you can stop worrying about sticking to the colours you’ve agreed on and actually get on with painting.

paint swatches

5. Pre-mixing your paints will save you sooo much time and frustration!! This is the main one for me. I can’t even imagine the amount of time I’ve wasted trying to recreate a colour that had dried on my palette whilst I worked on something else. It’s honestly part of the reason I stopped painting. The whole thing was just soooo frustrating!

It’s a million times easier to remember that I added tub 2 and 4 to make the colour of this rock than it is to remember the 6 it would actually take to make it from scratch (not forgetting that I’d have to remember the quantities!).

TIP: It’s also a great idea to keep a note of the colours you’ve used to make each tub. Like little paint recipes. That way, if you happen to mix a colour you absolutely love, you can create it over and over again. Who knows, it could become your signature colour…

6. Paint over longer periods of time. Life can get pretty busy. Some of us can only snatch an hour here, half an hour there, to work on our creative projects. Pre-mixing your paints means they’re ready and waiting whenever you are.

If you’ve only got 30 mins to paint today, you don’t want to spend 15 of those mixing paints.

My schedule and the way that I like to work, mean that a painting can often sit for days without being touched. When I’m feeling stuck on a piece, I like to take a break from it but leave it somewhere where I can see it easily. This allows me  “see” my work properly. Often I find that I need this change in perspective and the time away from the canvas, in order to overcome whatever I’m struggling with. Pre-mixng my paints has been a total lifesaver for this and has allowed me to jump straight back into painting when I realise what’s not quite right with the piece.

Do you pre-mix or pre-plan your colour schemes? How is it helpful to you? If not, grab yourself some little tubs / jars / pots- anything with an airtight lid, and give pre-mixing a try. Let me know how you go on, ok? If it’s not for you, I’d love to know why.

Colour Palettes on Pinterest – here

My Colour Palettes – here

Color and Light by James Gurney – This book is a must read! Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

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2 thoughts on “6 reasons you should try pre-mixing your paints

  1. Love this post! This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I just dabble with watercolor and have been trying to erase the “cute” factor…

    1. Happy to hear you liked the post, Kim! I’d love to hear how it goes if you give pre-planning your colours a try. Good luck with your watercolours :)

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