Inspiration strikes at funny times; sometimes it strikes when you’re standing in the paint aisle, and sometimes it strikes at 10 pm when the stores are closed and you’re missing one color!
There should be a few staple colors in every artist’s paint color cabinet:
- Red or Magenta
- Blue or Cyan
With these colors, you can create every other color you can imagine…if you know how to do it!
In this article, we’re going to talk about how you can mix these common colors to create rich, cool tone, neutral tone, and warm tone purples to use in your projects! Learn here how to make purple paint!
The Basics of Purple Paint
First, let’s think about color theory for a moment.
If you look at a color wheel, you’ll see the primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. You’ll also see secondary colors: orange, green, and purple. Primary colors are colors that cannot be created using any other colors, and secondary colors are colors that can be created by combining two primary colors together.
In this case, we’ll be combining red and blue to make purple paint. Sounds easy, yes? It is, but there’s a little more work to be done if you want the perfect purple.
Color Bias in Paint
You may be thinking, “I’ve tried mixing red and blue together, and it came out brown”. That’s because of something called color bias.
When you’re purchasing paints, you can often look at the label to see what pigments are present in the paint itself. If you’re buying a true red or true blue, there shouldn’t be any other pigments present. However, sometimes there may be yellow present, which can present an issue when mixing.
If your label doesn’t include a pigment declaration, you can perform a simple test by taking white paint and mixing a bit of it with either red or blue.
If there’s no color bias present in the red, it will turn a soft pink. If there is color bias present, it will turn to a salmon/peach color.
If there’s no color bias present in the blue, it will turn to a soft sky blue. If there is color bias present, it will turn a mint/teal color.
If you find red with a blue color bias and blue with a red color bias, those will still create a beautiful purple for you. But, stay away from yellow or green biased paints, unless you’re looking for brown or grey!
Creating Different Shades
We’re fortunate in the art world to have many different shades, tones, hues, etc. to work with. There really isn’t a limit to the colors that you can incorporate in your pieces!
Making a Basic Purple
This will be the basic recipe that you’ll use as a jumping point for all of your other color combinations. To create a basic purple, mix equal parts red and blue thoroughly until neither color is visible.
Deep Purple (cooler tone)
To create a deep purple with a cool tone, mix incrementally more blue than red. You can mix your basic “recipe” and then add small amounts of blue, a little bit at a time.
You can also achieve a darker purple by adding black, although you won’t get the same richness that you’d get from adding blue.
To create a warm purple, mix incrementally more red than blue. Again, start out with your basic recipe for creating a base purple, and add red a little bit at a time.
If you want a bright, dramatic purple, try mixing cyan and magenta instead for a more “electric” color.
Adding White to Make Your Purple Lighter
You can add white to any of these mixtures to lighten them! As with all of the mixtures, add your white in a little bit at a time to make it easier to incorporate.
If you want to lighten your purple and retain richness, you can also add a lightened blue or red to achieve this effect.
Creating Custom Shades with Pre-Mixed Purple
All of these principles apply even if you’re using a pre-mixed purple. If the purple you have seems to fall flat or doesn’t have the tone you want, you can add a bit more red or blue to customize it or add black or white to change the shade.
Supplies You’ll Need to Mix And Make Purple Paint
Here are the basic supplies you’ll need on hand in order to mix your purple acrylic paint!
- Acrylic paint in red and blue or cyan and magenta, plus white/black for tinting.
- Palette knife, flat silicone stirring stick, or any other flat, flexible utensil. It’s much easier to mix paint with a flexible utensil! Palette knives are easy to find and usually quite inexpensive.
- An artist’s palette or even a clipboard covered in plastic wrap. Using a flat surface to mix your paint gives you the most control over the mixing process. However, if you don’t have these available, you can also use clear, plastic cups.
- Paintbrush. This does not need to be a super expensive paintbrush, it just needs to be clean so that you can use it to brush a bit of your paint mixture on a test surface to make sure the color looks good.
- Test surface of some kind. This can be heavy-duty drawing paper, watercolor paper, a scrap canvas, or any other surface that you can use to test your paint color on.
Step by Step Guide to Mixing Purple Acrylic Paint
Step 1: Prepare Your Work Area
Before you start, prepare your work area by covering any surfaces that you don’t want to accidentally get paint on. Although mixing paint isn’t usually a messy affair, there’s always the chance that you’ll accidentally drop your palette knife, and it’s much easier to clean up a protected surface than a cloth table covering!
At this time, you should also make sure that your palette knife, test surface, paintbrush, mixing surface, paint and perhaps paper towels are all readily available for you to grab at a moment’s notice.
Step 2: Distribute Paint
After you’ve set up your work area, squeeze out your desired colors onto your mixing surface. Leave at least two inches between your paint piles to avoid them mixing inadvertently if they run a little bit.
If you’re using black or white, you can add those to your palette too!
Step 3: Mix, Mix, Mix
You’ve got your paints on your mixing surface and your palette knife ready to rock – let’s get mixing!
To begin, take equal parts of red and blue (or cyan and magenta) from your paint piles using your palette knife, using a paper towel or an old rag to clean the palette knife between colors. Mix the red and blue using a press and scoop motion, pulling any errant red or blue that slips away back into the mixture. This is not, and should not be, a quick process! Take your time and mix your colors until you can no longer differentiate between the red and blue in your mixture.
Step 4: Add More Color
After you’ve properly incorporated your red and blue into a beautiful purple, you can start adding more red or blue, or add some white or black if desired.
Do this a little bit at a time! You can always add more, but you can’t take the paint out once it’s mixed in.
During this step, have your paintbrush and test surface close by. That way, you can test your color frequently to see if you need to add a bit more.
Using and Storing Unused Paint
Now that you’ve created your dream purple, it’s time to use it! You can use your mixed acrylic paint in exactly the same way you’d use your pre-mixed paint; mix it with the medium of your choice, and away you go!
When you finish your piece and if you have some leftover purple that hasn’t been mixed with medium, you can store it just like your premixed paints. Depending on the amount you mixed, sample cups with lids work perfectly for storage (and make your paint color easy to see).
Mixing your own paint is a satisfying thing. Fluid artists already have an appreciation for the way that colors interact with one another, so mixing your own paint should be a lot of fun! Even though it takes more advanced preparation than just unscrewing a cap and mixing your paint with a medium, it’s totally worth it to get those one-of-a-kind pieces.
A final tip for you: make sure that you write down your color ratios after you’ve finished so you can remember how to mix your favorite purple in the future!
Do you mix your own paint? We’d love to see your custom color creations in our Facebook Group!
The Purple Pour Project: Part One (all parts are worth a read!)