Mixing with a Brush and Keeping Your Color Mixtures Clean
You’re painting that wonderful masterpiece. You just painted some wonderful deep shadows in the foreground and decide to work on the sky. You need to mix light, subtle cloud colors but you have a brush full of a dark color you know won’t clean out entirely. So instead you reach for a clean brush. Problem solved. Soon, however, your studio palette has 20 or 30 dirty brushes full of different color mixtures. Those of you who have any experience painting know what I’m talking about.
This is a trick I learned a long time ago while painting outdoors, where I didn’t have my full collection of 200 brushes. Of course you still need to regularly, thoroughly wash out your brushes. However, in the heat of the moment, this trick will do wonders even if you’re going from dark to light paint. First, wash your brush, then reach for the color you want to mix. For example, if you’re mixing a light yellow, dip your brush into a little bit of yellow. Work it quickly into your brush then wash out your brush again. If there is still some gray, dark gunk in your brush (that by this time is a slightly yellow, greenish gunk), repeat the process. Rinse out your brush again, dip it into the yellow, work it quickly into your brush a second time, and rinse it out. By this time, your brush will only have a little yellow in it and no dark gunk. Now any yellow mixture will be as intense and bright as you need. Using this technique you can paint an entire painting with clean and bright color mixtures using just one brush.