How to Mix Bright Luminous Secondary Colors.

Mixing secondary hues (colors) from a split primary color wheel (with a warm and cool red, blue and yellow) is the best way to produce the purest (clean), intense (bright) secondary colors. To do this, the primary colors chosen must lean towards the secondary color that is being mixed.

In grade school, we learned the theory that 2 primaries mixed together=secondary colors, that is:
Yellow+Red=Orange
Yellow+ Blue=Green
Red+Blue=Violet or purple

However in reality, when you mix secondary colors, they are sometimes dirty looking and mixing purple often gives something close to brown!!!! Why is that?

The color wheel on the left shows dotted lines; this divides the color wheel into quadrants which are all biased (leaning towards) a particular secondary color. Staying within these quadrant/families assures clean bright secondaries, so when the dotted lines are crossed and quadrants are “contaminated”, the colors can become “sullied” and dull.

For example, mixing luminous violet/purple requires:

  • Warm Blue (Blue leaning towards violet) + cool red (red leaning to the violet) = bright luminous violet/purple. Going outside the dotted lines and mixing cool blue (green bias) and warm red (orange bias) will produce a brown-purple!

Similarly, mixing a luminous clean green requires:

  • cool Yellow (yellow leaning towards green) + cool blue (Blue leaning towards green)= bright clear green (and probably very unnatural looking!) Again going outside the quadrant lines and mixing a warm yellow (leaning to the orange) and warm blue (leaning towards violet) will give an olive green or brownish-green! (which is sullied but closer to the greens appearing in nature). More on mixing greens later!

The theory applies to all the other hues (colors)….

The purest, most intense colors come from combining colors that lean towards the color you are trying to mix. 

This includes tertiary or intermediate colors (which are produced when a primary and secondary color are mixed). eg. red and orange=red orange or orange red.
NOTE: The more colors that are mixed, the duller (greyer and sullied) the combination will become. Try not to mix more than 3 colors in any color mixture to keep colors bright and clean.

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