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Paint by Numbers Mixing Colors: The Complete Guide


Do you need to be mixing colors while working on a paint by numbers canvas? Here’s a list of all pros, cons, and best practices for that.

8 Best Practices for Paint by Numbers Mixing Colors

Mixing your own colors for your paint by number projects gives you the freedom to experiment and create your own unique hues.

As follows are some of the best paint by numbers mixing colors practices that’ll help you perfect your final canvas!

Color Theory is Your Best Friend


An artist can’t paint well without understanding the basic concept of color theory and mixed colour painting. Luckily, color theory is relatively simple and straightforward.

Before you get started, make sure you have the four primary colors handy; red, yellow, blue, and white. These colors are what we call the ‘base’ of all hues, and can’t be made by mixing two other colors. From these colors alone, you can create whatever shade you desire.

You can get a color mixing chart for paint or an acrylic paint mixing chart to guide you while you’re trying to learn the perfect mix of paint colors.

Once you have these four colors ready, familiarize yourself with the basic color mixing concepts. Mixing red and blue creates a nice shade of purple, while blue and yellow create a dark, grassy green. Yellow and red, on the other hand, create sunset orange. Mixing all three primary colors together makes black.

The resulting colors—purple, green, and orange—are called secondary colors. Mixing a combination of the primary and secondary colors will then create tertiary colors or fractional colors.

Tertiary colors are extremely important for paint-by-number paintings with natural or realistic-looking subjects. Examples of tertiary colors include:

  • Blue-Purple
  • Purple-Red
  • Orange-Yellow
  • Green-Blue
  • Yellow-Green
  • Red-Orange

Paint by Numbers Mixing Colors – Always Add Dark to Light

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Use the lighter color as a base whenever you’re mixing colors. Remember: it only takes a little bit of the dark color to change the light color.

So, for instance, if you want to create a nice, sky blue, add blue to white rather than the other way around. Doing so prevents you from mixing more colors than you want. Moreover, it gives you more control to change and mix the color to your preference.

The same is said when you’re mixing opaque and transparent colors. Add a little opaque atop the transparent one as opaque colors have greater pigments compared to transparent colors.

Don’t Overmix

The beauty of paint by number paintings is that they allow artists to create their own unique color palette and style into the printed image.

If you’re painting something entirely one-note with bold, flat colors, there’s nothing wrong with creating one solid color. However, if you’re painting natural landscapes, self-portraits, animals, and anything that directly correlates to the environment, it’s best to keep the colors as ‘natural’ as possible.

Therefore, rather than mixing two colors together thoroughly on your palette, stop before combining them entirely. This creates an interesting shade on paper or canvas instead of it being flat and consistent; similar to the paintings of Van Gogh!

Know Your Proportions

The exact proportion of two or more colors determines the resulting color shade you’ll get. For instance, mixing a 50/50 shade of red and yellow creates a deep orange. A 60/40 shade gives you a reddish-orange, while a 40/60 shade gives you a yellowish-orange.

When in doubt, add a little color at a time so you can add more if the intensity of the hue isn’t enough. Have fun and play around with the color combination and proportions until you find the exact shade you’re looking for.

Record your color experiments in a little booklet or notepad so you can revisit them later if your painting calls for them!

For Extra Bright Colors, Use Single Pigments

Keep in mind that there are different shades of red, blue, and yellow. For instance, you can find blue in shades of Cobalt, Caribbean, Celesan, and Prussian. The primary color you choose will affect both the secondary and tertiary colors.

If you’re looking for intense, luminous colors, it’s best to use a minimum number of pigments. You can find the number of pigments a color has by checking the tube’s label. Ideally, mix two colors made of one pigment only.

Use One Brand of Acrylic Colors

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Most paint by number kits use acrylic colors due to their versatile and non-toxic composition. To add, acrylic colors allow you to add subsequent layers of paint without disturbing or ruining the underlying layers because they dry rapidly. You won’t have to wait in between painting sessions to start on the next number.

On top of that, modern acrylic paint can easily be activated with a bit of water!

That being said, acrylic paints come with different compositions. As such, mixing acrylic paints from two different acrylic brands can create undesirable chemical reactions. Therefore, we highly recommend mixing acrylic paints from the same product line to ensure the color mixes properly.

Test the Colors Before Painting

Before using the color you’ve mixed, test it out on a separate piece of paper, first. Preferably on the same paper or canvas, you’re using for your painting. Colors on paper have a different effect than on the mixing palette.

Testing the color on a different surface before using it allows you to make any necessary adjustments if the color doesn’t match your reference photo.

Toothpicks for Mixing and Painting

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Paint by number paintings often rely on small nooks and crannies to add detail to the final work. Paintbrushes can only get you so far, especially when you’re dealing with super small numbers.

Toothpicks are the ideal tool for adding line details (such as fur, hair, or whiskers) and filling tiny areas that a paintbrush, no matter how small, can’t cover. Plus, they’re much easier to use and control. Toothpicks are also useful for blending and mixing your colors!

Pros and Cons of Paint by Numbers Mixing Colors

There’s a lot of debate when it comes to mixing your own colors for a paint-by-number project. Not all paint by number kits provide high-quality paints, making them quite frustrating to work with.

On top of that, it’s common to run out of paints halfway through finishing your work, forcing you to order another set of paint from the original manufacturers.

To avoid these issues, users would often mix their own colors, instead. But is this truly the best approach? Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each:

Pros of Mixing Your Own Paints

  • Prevents you from having to order a new set of paints and keep your painting on hold for several days
  • Gives you the freedom to experiment and use a wide range of unique colors
  • Saves you money in the long run, especially if you paint a lot
  • Allows you to add opaque and light translucent colors to your painting
  • Helps you understand color theory and color relationships

Cons of Mixing Your Own Paints

  • The initial investment of buying your own paints can be pricey
  • You might not be able to replicate the exact shade shown on the kit
  • Can be a little tedious

Paint by Numbers Mixing Colors – Bottom Line

Every artist needs to know how to properly mix their colors. Mixing your own colors opens a world of creative possibilities and won’t limit you to the palette that comes with the kit.

Give yourself the freedom to experiment, grab an arylic paint colour mixing guide, have fun with the colors, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We’re human, after all! Good luck.

To shop our complete selection of high quality paint by numbers kits, CLICK HERE!

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