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We’re back this week with our Color Mixing and Color Theory Workshop for Artists: Part 4. Today is all about the Split Primary Palette. FREE WORKBOOK DOWNLOAD:

Free Color Wheel Worksheet Download

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Episode Transcript

Before we begin – As a part of this episode, I actually created a free downloadable template to help you create color wheels. The worksheet has instructions for the three exercises I recommend in last week’s episode and this week’s episode. These useful exercises can help you make three different varieties of your own color wheels. Ultimately, learning more about color and our paints.

To download the worksheet, please visit: On my website, scroll down and simply enter your email and you’ll receive the download in an email to your inbox.

Welcome back to the Self Taught Artist Podcast. I’m Lauren Kristine, your host. We’re back this week with our Color Mixing and Color Theory Workshop for Artists: Part 4. If you haven’t listened to the other episodes in this series, I encourage you to go back and listen to them.

I highly recommend listening to Episode 42 before listening to this episode.

It’s time for our Review of the Week. Could all of you take one second to leave me a 5 star rating on Spotify or Apple Podcasts? It really helps us to reach more self taught artists out there. The title of the review is “Yasssss” by MsVivaLasV. She writes in saying: “First dive into this and she’s living my life. I listened to the Dollar Store Buys episode and I’m 100% right there with ya, Lauren! Thanks for the tips and tricks, I’ll be tuning in for more please!!!” Thanks for that sweet review. The dollar store art supplies episode was super popular. It’s episode number 39 if you haven’t listened yet. I’m hoping to do another fun episode on art supplies you can buy at the hardware store soon. Stay tuned for that in the future. Now, on with the show!

For a long time I struggled to mix really vibrant colors. I was buying lots of different colors of paint from the art store as I didn’t know how to mix the colors I wanted. I believed that the more colors of paint I owned, the more vivid my paintings would be. Despite owning a ton of different paint colors, I still found myself mixing mud sometimes and not understanding why certain colors didn’t “play nice” together.

I had a major lightbulb moment when I discovered the Split Primary Palette. Once I understood the split primary palette, I knew how to avoid mixing mud. It was the missing puzzle piece in my understanding of mixing color. I’m excited to tell you all about it today.

If you did the color wheel exercise from last week’s episode #42, you now know there are limitations of using just the three traditional primary colors: Red, Blue and Yellow. We’re taught from a young age that those are the primary colors, but they really leave a lot to be desired when you start mixing them for yourself.

When I mixed my color wheel, I used Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, and Ultramarine. This is a very traditional color palette of primaries.

Here are some of the most important observations from this traditional color wheel:

• The orange is rich and intense because cadmium red and cadmium yellow are both vivid colors that lean towards orange. • The purple is dull. This is because cadmium red leans towards yellow. By mixing ultramarine blue with cadmium red, I am actually mixing all three primary colors together. This results in a muddy, toned-down mixture of purple. • The green is also very dull. This is because ultramarine blue and cadmium yellow both contain traces of blue. So again, when mixing these two colors together, I am actually mixing all three primary colors together which creates muddy, dull colors.

If you’ve ever looked at your painting and wondered why the colors were duller than you want them to be, color bias in your mixing is probably holding you back. You’re probably inadvertently mixing all three primaries together in small quantities and not even knowing you’re doing it!

This traditional primary color palette would be great if I were painting a portrait, warm still-lifes or warm interior scenes with no purple or green in it. For painting anything like a landscape or floral bouquet, however, I’d find this palette to really restrict my painting.

What’s the answer? If you want to mix all the vivid colors you want, and expand the range of colors that you can mix with your paints, let me introduce you to what’s called a Split Primary Palette.

WHAT is a split primary palette?

Well, primary colors are the three colors that all other colors are mixed from. Red, Yellow, and Blue. A split primary is if each primary color was divided into two parts or two shades of each color. Meaning, two reds, two blues and two yellows making up the core of your palette. By having a warm and cool shade of each of your primary colors, this allows you to mix the widest possible range of colors. As an added bonus, a split primary palette helps you to create the most vivid color mixes possible.


A warm color has a yellow base. A cool color has a blue base. Warm and cool is an important concept to understand. So let’s start with reds, the easiest of the colors to explain.

A WARM red has yellow in it. So, all orangey reds and all oranges are warm. A COOL red has blue in it. All purples or blue-based reds are cool.

The warm red I use is Cadmium Red Light. The cool red I use is Quinacridone Magenta. Any magenta works.

Next, let’s talk about cool and warm yellows.

COOL yellows have a slight blue tint to them. A cool yellow is Primary Yellow or Cadmium Yellow Light. A WARM yellow is Cadmium Yellow Deep or any yellow that leans toward the orange side of the color wheel. A Warm yellow will have no hint of blue in it at all.

Next, let’s talk about warm and cool blues.

Ultramarine is a purplish blue which has a bias to violet. Ultramarine is a warm blue. Phthalo Blue Green Shade is a COOL blue; Phthalo Blue Green Shade is an icy blue with a bias to blue-green.

In short, a split primary palette has 2 versions of each primary color available to you on your palette. You want one version of each that leans warm and one version of each that leans cool. Color bias is the key to mixing the vivid colors of your dreams.

There are lots of different combinations of colors you can use for this. I included a very helpful chart in the worksheet for this episode with a key explain which colors are warm and cool. This will help you to build your own split primary palette using the paints that you have in your collection.

The third page of the worksheet companion to this episode has a split primary palette for you to complete. Notice how much brighter the colors are that you can mix with a split primary palette!

With my split primary palette:

• The orange is vivid and intense • The purple is much cooler and richer due to the cooler red available (Magenta). What an improvement from the traditional primaries! • The green is also much more beautiful and vivid due to the cool yellow being mixed with the cool blue.

The split primary palette can’t be beat when it comes to landscape painting and capturing many of the colors found in nature. Also, for anyone who loves bright and vivid colors like I do, the split primary palette helps to increase the range of colors that you can mix.

Not to mention, if you’re looking for a way to be able to mix a wider array of colors, and achieve brighter more vivid color mixing without breaking the bank and buying a ton of new paints, the split primary palette is highly recommended. With just six tubes of paint plus white and black, it’s amazing what you can mix when you use the split primary palette.

Again, the colors I use in my split primary palette are:

• The warm red I use is Cadmium Red Light. • The cool red I use is Quinacridone Magenta. • For a warm yellow, I use Cadmium Yellow Dark. • For a cool yellow I use primary yellow. • For a warm blue I use Ultramarine blue. • For a cool blue, I use Phthalo Blue Green Shade

I encourage you to try it for yourself. Use pages 3, 4, and 5 of the free worksheet available on my website:

Page 3 has a split primary palette template so that you can mix one for yourself. Page 4 has a helpful guide to understanding which paints are cool and warm. Page 5 is helpful for watercolor artists who want to use the split primary palette as well. I love page 5 because it shows you visually what the split primary palette can do.

Let me know what you think! I hope this helps you in your quest to mix really vivid colors and better understand color theory.

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