Recently blog reader S. J. asked me whether I premix colors on the palette or just mix each color from scratch from the component pigments.
It’s a good question, and I don’t recall any of my teachers ever talking about it.
The answer is that in the studio I usually do premix colors. It saves paint and it saves time. If you don't premix you waste effort with the mechanics of color mixing and you use up a lot of palette area. Mixing with the brush alone often leads to skimpy mixtures. There’s also the tendency to end up with habitual mixtures—reaching for the same colors over and over again.
Early in my career I was influenced by the teaching of Art Student's League instructor Frank Reilly (known mainly now from the excellent instructional works of his students and grandstudents).
Mr. Reilly had his students mix several strings of colors from light to dark tones. He used a 10-step value or tone sequence of each principal hue, along with a corresponding scale of grays. But I think ten value steps is more steps than you really need. Mixing four or five steps gives you plenty of control for intermediate values.
If you’re curious about that color wheel at the top of the palette and how those colors were chosen, I’ve done a lot of blog posts about my color wheel masking system. If you click on the “color” button at the left of the blogroll, you can read those back posts.
In a future post I’ll show how I use premixed color for plein air painting.