Monday, April 20, 2009



In watercolor painting, you have many choices as to how to lay down your color. Each way will have a different effect, and if you know what you what and how to achieve it, that is great! However, there are many of us who would like to have our paintings turn out like an admired artist, but no matter what we do, it never seems to happen!

One of those techniques which can change your painting results entirely, and make them bright, pure, colorful and exciting is the mingling of pigment versus the mixing of pigment. You can lay colors side by side which normally would produce "mud" if you mixed them, but when they are allowed to mingle on the paper, they produce exciting and interesting areas.

In the picture below, I have mixed 2 pigments  and placed the result in the first square. When I mixed the blue and the red, I achieved a beautiful purple. If that is the color I wanted, then that is fine. But when I allow these same 2 pigments to mingle on the paper, each stays bright and beautiful. The place where they meet and mingle, (depending on the amount of water I have used), produces a lovely purple transition area.

When you mix 2 colors that are opposite on the color wheel, you will end up with a very greyed down color, which in many paintings can appear dull and lifeless, such as this mixed red and green. However, when you lay the 2 colors side by side and allow them to mingle on the paper, each retains its beautiful brightness and where they mingle is not the dulled down version we see on the left.

In order to mingle colors, you need to wet your paper, then let the shine begin to disappear from your wet paper. Once the shine is just gone, place pure pigment where you want it to be. Depending on how close you lay one pigment to another, when they flow together there will be a larger transition color or less of a transition color. You can also pick up your paper and move it to cause them to flow together more than if you left your paper flat. This intermingling of color creates unexpected and most often happy surprises.

Here you see the same 3 colors laid side by side, and the exciting darks created where they have mingled. If you use this method, your darks will never appear dull, flat or lifeless again!

One of the best books I have collected on this method is "Daring Color" by Anne Abgott. Another artist who uses this method in her fabulous watercolor florals is Birgit O'Connor

Try mingling colors that you use often in your paintings and see what the results can be. Make little squares on your watercolor paper, and record which colors are in the practice squares so that when you go to paint, you can choose from your sample squares - no more guessing. It really is worth the time spent to do this with all the colors of paint you normally would use.

Happy mingling!


Michelle said...

Great tips - you are making me want to experiment with watercolour again!!!

Kim said...

Do drinks come along with all the mingling? Is this 'social networking' painting? Haha, just kidding. Loved the technique tips. I think I might just get into mingling.