Colours: Mixing a Basic Spectrum


Today's focus is on painting colours that we will be using this week. We'll be mixing and painting a basic selection of colours in preparation of this week's main collage project.

High Flow

Golden Acrylics High Flow paint colours are used as central aspect to Flower Collage. This paint used to be an airbrush paint, but has since been rebranded as a sort of 'hybrid paint', behaving more like a concentrated ink than a traditional acrylic paint.

The viscosity of this paint makes it a versatile material suitable for different applications, like watery ink and similar to watercolour paint. It is also paintable as thin layers used for the tissue paper collages. When mixed with the paint medium it becomes more like a regular acrylic paint, suitable for painting on canvas and paper.

The basic set of ten paints in the High Flow set offers all that is needed to develop a full spectrum of colours by mixing primary colours as well as the alternative options with Magenta and Pthalo Blue. The Burnt Sienna brown and Azo Gold colours are useful for shading and creating richer depths of colour. Pthalo Green is a pure green colour and ideal for mixing tints of mint green and turquoise.

White is used to create hues and tones of opaque pastels. Small amounts of black added will create shades of colour, although keep in mind that this is a very powerful paint and it it is to be used with caution! The paints are very concentrated and ideal to use with a dip pen. They can be diluted with up to 50% water to make them more suited for drawing with this tool.

Matte Medium

In order to create uniform layers of translucent colours, High Flow can be mixed with matte medium and painted in very thin layers on deli sheets. Diluting paint with water will create a more uneven colour spread, but this is also an interesting surface.

The main purpose of matte medium is to be used as regular painting medium, aiding control of colour application as well as medium for mixing and making it more translucent. For Flower Collage it is also the material used to create the collages: it is used as ‘glue’ for the different layers of paper and the sealant on top once the collage had been stuck together.

The matte medium is also useful for creating a suitable surface for drawing on top of the collage with a pencil or other medium.

Shading and Painting

Matte medium is also a key component for general painting and for adding colour or shading to the collage artworks. The fact that it was used in putting the collage together will make it bond with additional layers of paint.

Basic Colour Spectrum

Today’s focus is about making ranges of colours and painting them on deli paper to be used for the collages.

Start off by painting two 10”x10” deli paper sheets with each colour in the set, including white and black. Remember to shake the bottles of paint beforehand to make sure the pigment is property dispersed in the paint liquid. You should be able to get a uniform colour across the sheets using a flat brush or fan brush. Don’t worry too much about getting the colour perfectly flat and even, the variations and brush strokes make it interesting and this is good to get a feel for the paint.

TIP: Dip the brush in water before you start painting, adding a few drops of High Flow paint directly onto the paper. If your deli paper doesn't absorb the paint easily, turn it over. One side sometimes feel a bit more waxy than the other side. You can also dip the tip of the clean paint brush in the painting medium and mix it with the paint, it will make the paint adhere better to the paper.

TIP: Keep the layers of paint very thin, you do not want too much paint on the sheet. Start with just a few drops and move it around the paper - you can add more drops of paint and a few drops water to make the brush move around more easily. Keep the layers of paint very thin.

Leave the sheets to dry and don't stack them on top of each other whilst drying.

Developing More Colours

The basic sheets of colours will be used in the collage projects and you can now expand the ranges of colours by mixing them with each other. Focus on creating secondary and tertiary colours at this point. More colours will be added in the next modules.

By mixing two primary colours a secondary colour is created. Purple, orange and green are secondary colours.

Notice how these will change when you make them using the different paints. Ultramarine Blue and Red will give a different result to Magenta and Ultramarine Blue. The green achieved by mixing Ultramarine Blue and Yellow is limited in brightness and vibrancy compared to Yellow and Pthalo Blue. The set's Red and Yellow create a predictable bright orange whilst Magenta and Yellow offers a slightly different cooler orange.

Tertiary Colours

How are these created? By mixing a primary colour with the secondary colour next to it on the traditional colour wheel!

For instance, one part yellow added to an orange made of one part yellow and one part red will result in an orange with a stronger yellow colour intensity.

You can experiment with making the wider range of colours by either painting directly on the deli sheets or by first making colour dots on watercolour sheets or in a sketchbook.

See the videos for ideas on how to create colours, and (importantly) how to remember what they were made up of afterwards. I glued colour wedge circles and flower shapes in my sketchbooks where I stuck petals made up of the different colours to remind me of the colours used. Developing colour ranges is something that is good to do even if you are familiar with the wider spectrum.

Experiment with creating wider ranges of colours as you see fit. This week’s collage project will focus on primary colours, so you can keep colour experiments to these: mix the colours in the set with each other colour on a section of the tissue papers. You do not need to create a lot of papers at this point - it is more important to see what happens when you mix them together. You can do so on one sheet of paper to start off (see video demonstration).

Additional Colours

By mixing white with the colour ranges, opaque pastels will be created (but this is not so important for this week’s project). Pastel colours will be used in Module Three of this course.

This video shows an additional way to quickly mix colour ranges from the basic set.


Colours are fascinating and I find that I discover something new every time I mix them from the basic options. Varying translucency, colour ratios and combinations constantly develop new colours shades and hues. It is important to make time to rediscover the magic of colour mixing.

© 2020 Esté MacLeod

© 2020 Explore Colour