Colour mixing made easy

This Post provides a link to Chapter 14 from my book“Painting with Light and Colour”, which is the fourth of the five chapters devoted to colour mixing. Its purpose is to show that all the complications of colour theory proposed and explained in the previous chapters, need not be a barrier to our creativity when it comes to their practical application. Quite the reverse. Below the image of a student at work, is a  reprise of the “Introductory” to Chapter 14. If its claims make you want to find out more, click on the link beneath it to obtain a .PDF version of the chapter, which will explain how it can be made easy (a) to mix and (b) to make use of any of the thousands of subtly different, complex colours required for exploring the full extent of colour space.

colour mixing


This Chapter suggests a practical way of getting around the seeming obstacles discussed in the previous chapters. At first sight the method proposed may appear to involve important sacrifices, but upon further investigation it turns out that even its shortcomings can be interpreted as powerful advantages.




The other colour mixing chapters

Other chapters from “Painting with Light and Colour”

Other Posts on colour and light in painting:

Chapters from “What Scientists can Learn from Artists”

These deal in greater depth with subjects that feature in the other volumes


Return to top

Return to list of contents

5 thoughts on “Colour mixing made easy”

  1. Colour is my passion and I really love playing with colour. I think my response is related always to my feelings rather than knowledge. What I mean is that I put down a colour and then something comes into my head and I add something to the colour I have put down or just select another colour or colours. The process does not seem to me to be rooted in a theory of colour mixing – rather a making a series of recipes. I love layering and playing with texture. it’s late at night so will try and remember to do this again if you find it helpful.

  2. I still find colour mixing time consuming, difficult. However, my series of visits to Castelnau de Montmiral, in particular your school Francis, where I discovered I could use “wild pyrotechnics”, have been the most informative, of all my colour studies, most influential for all the subjects I paint, marine, landscape, portraits, aircraft and so on, and that includes my 5 years at Art colleges in England. Thank you Francis.

  3. Thank you, Francis. This is a welcome review of a very significant breakthrough discovery I made during an early summer session with you. Your gentle, supportive guidance with complex colors gave me great courage and the freedom to trust myself and freely explore all my new paints and brushes on paper. Up to that discovery, I was frozen solid with fear.

  4. Hi Francis, This is brilliant, rare information. To me, this information is at the centre of what your teaching at Montmiral offers. At the start of your Chapters on colour you say that much has been written already concerning complementary colours but I’ve never come across this information anywhere else. That is extremely surprising because when explained as you have it become obvious that their effective use is vital for any artist who wants to create paintings with a wide range of realistic colours- [even if that painting is essentially abstract.] I’ve never come across this knowledge in any Foundation or Fine Art degree course, or in any book. Before attending Montmiral [20years ago] I noticed that my oil paintings had a richness lacking in my first attempts at acrylic; after attending I realized the complexity I achieved with oils was happening because I was doing what you suggest by accident, whereas the fast-drying acrylic wasn’t allowing me to intermix pure colours with that tiny bit of ‘mud’. With your knowledge and assisted by a little retarding gel I can now achieve a colour complexity in acrylic equal to that in oils. The rapid acrylic drying time, [even with retarding gel] also allows me to use many glazes on the same day, so in fact, it’s become a very expressive medium with perhaps even more possibilities than traditional oil.

    During my 20 years teaching in adult education painting classes I attempted to introduce this knowledge many times. With mixed success; the paintings of the students who got it rapidly became more interesting and realistic. However, it wasn’t easy to turn folk away from reliance on old habits, particularly the recipe method of mixing; like learning a language eventually one has to break away from phrasebooks and actually learn the grammar. I did credit you- by the way!! And pointed students towards Montmiral.

    This is the grammar of colour, yet it’s unknown anywhere else. So thanks for the teaching and for these chapters. Mark Gibbs
    P.S. Have you thought of making a simple You Tube clip demonstrating elements of the content? I think it would make it even more accessible.

  5. Thank you for this comment. My Polish painting teacher, Professor Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, would have been so very pleased to know that his synthesis of the wisdom of his Modernist predecessors (Seurat, Cézanne, Bonnard and many others) has found such enthusiastic support from an artist and teacher in the 21st century. In over 50 years of teaching these ideas (a) at all levels in in Art Schools, (b) in evening classes and (c) at the Painting School of Montmiral, I have never met anyone who was acquainted with them. As you know they not only helped me as a teacher but also as an artist and as a scientist. If it had not been able to make sense of them scientifically, I doubt whether I would ever have set up the Painting School of Montmiral. For me the science was a catalyst to so many of the insights found in my teaching and my books.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *