Winsor & Newton Colour Mixing Guide: Watercolour || John Barber

This isn’t the first colour mixing guide and intuition says it probably won’t be the last. They come in all shapes and sizes from fat tomes with pages and pages of colour swatches to the Michael Wilcox ones you paint in yourself.

The first thing you’re going to notice about this one is that it’s the proverbial slim volume. So it’s not much use, right? Wrong: it’s compact and it doesn’t bother with variations of mix, tint and hue that are unlikely to disturb you unless you want to start painting the sort of exotic flower that became extinct about 5 million years ago. I’ve seen all these guides and, believe me, I’m not joking.

What you get is a series of colour wheels based on 25 colours from the Winsor and Newton range. Not generics, specifics. If you don’t use W&N, the book will be of more limited use, though you may still be able to make sense of it. If you do, there’s no “nearest, dammit” matching, what you see is what you get. (Or, more correctly, what you’ve got is what you see.)

The base colour is placed in the middle of the wheel and then eight arms radiate out from it, showing how the colour appears in 8 tints of mixes with other colours, themselves based on specific groups: yellows, reds, purples, blues, greens and neutrals. If you’re looking for a specific colour match, it’s a quick, reliable and fairly easy way of finding it. If, on the other hand, you just want to know how specific colours behave in mixes, then a browse through will teach you quite a lot. It’s not an instructional book as such (Tony Paul’s How to Mix and Use Colour is probably the best of these), but there’s a lot you can pick up by just leafing through.

A whisker under £10 seems like a lot of money for 64 quite small pages, but it’s a hardback, so it’ll stand up to a lot of the carrying-round it’s going to get and it’s also spiral bound so that it lays flat without having to be sat on, which is a highly desirable quality in a book you’ll be wanting to use with both hands free to paint. And anyway, when the discount merchants have got at it, it’s barely more than the cost of 2 cups of designer skinny decaf latte, so what are you complaining about?

First published 2006

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