How to DIY a Color Mixing Chart


Why diy a color mixing chart? And why do you need one? When you are new to painting (especially) and even when you do have more experience, you NEED a tool like this for guidance so when you start to combine colors you will be able to predict the outcome. You will be able to use your chart and refer to it over and over again and it will prove to be an invaluable tool for years to come.

I would have thought of this topic sooner, as last month I already began a new post talking about color theory principles. Then I got a little distracted as I’d I had to go out of town for a funeral. On top of it I got a mild bout of food poisoning – ugh. But I realize that is neither here nor there.

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diy color chart


What is important is the fact that I was going through my stuff when packing and I came across one of my first assignments in college for my first semester painting class which was to put together a color tone, shade and value chart.

You can see it here. You may notice that I have abbreviated some of the color names. You can see red, orange, yellow, blue, green and purple and black and white tonal values . This is not the only way to create a color chart, but it is a great way.

DIY color mixing chart
Studying this thing really brought back memories, so that’s why I decided to do a post on it.


So what do you need to get started? Well the tools I used include an actual canvas . Mine is 24″ x 30″ . I also used a Sharpie marker, yardstick and pencil, and of course all my paints.

I kind of wish I had use a fine point Sharpie pen, so if you can grab one of those, even better. It is harder to write legibly with chisel point markers. You may notice I had to abbreviate some of the color names – “A.C” stands for Alizarin Crimson, a deep red shade, and Y.O is “yellow ochre”. “Cad” stands for “cadmium” as in red or yellow.

closeup of color chart

My color chart close-up

You don’t have to get a big canvas like I did, some Bristol board will work too. I do not like canvas panels as they tend to warp in large sizes. Remember this project is going to be for the long haul, you’ll be referring to it over and over again so make sure to use something sturdy, I wouldn’t use just paper.

Also, because I was taking classes in oil paints, I used oils. Full disclosure. But acrylics will still apply.

How to Create Your Chart

Start by determining the grid dimensions. and choose the major colors. Remember the more colors you hone in on the more squares you’ll have to fill in. I focused on the main ones. Red, blue, green, etc. About 6-7 squares in each grid row would work fine, as long as you’ll have an adequate amount to show color variations. On my own chart I have 12 squares in each row, but you don’t need that many.

Use your yardstick and pencil to create the grid. Label each one with the major “pure” color name (Red, blue, etc.)

Here’s a “blueprint” I put together to give you a general idea of what your grid should look like:

how to make a color chart

Now that you have drawn up your grid you’ll be blocking out each color with a different paint mixture. Start with a dab of the “pure” color hue and then with each block, add equal parts of black, gray, white too create tints, shades and tonal values of each one.

I would use a small or angled flat brush to mix and apply the paint dabs. This post will give you the rundown on different brush types and how each of them perform different strokes on your substrate.

To make sure your chart is consistently easy to interpret, begin with the darkest shade of each color and transition into the next lighter one. In each square dab a small square swatch of paint with each combination. Be sure to label each block with “tone, tints,” etc)

Refer to this post if you need a little refresher on tones, tints, and shades. Here is a general idea of how your color scale should play out:

different color values

Repeat the process of darkest -> lightest with the next color hue. In other words, once you have created a, let’s say, green value scale like the example above, start on the next row of the grid with blue, red, etc.

Check out the video below I made:

Allow it to dry. Treat this little “assignment” as your first real art project…be sure you stand it up somewhere in your studio, designated room, etc., Now you are officially ready to begin the big task of “real” painting. Feels great now, fellow artiste? Are you excited to get started?

Updated: 08/17/2023 — 2:21 PM

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