Orange is not a paint colour you would think you would use often, especially bright, vivid orange. However, you would be surprised how often you actually use variations of orange acrylic paint in your work.
If you are a landscape artist, you already know the importance of various hues of orange paint in fall foliage or spring flowers.
Of course, there is also a large amount of orange used in Halloween painting. A blue or green pumpkin is artistic and beautiful, but little kids still want to see the spooky orange pumpkin with the black eyes.
That’s it right? Just leaves, flowers and pumpkins? …. Not quite.
What about all of the variations of orange we see every day and don’t realize they started off as a bright, vibrant orange.
Take a look around the room you are in or outside your window. Can you identify anything that might have some orange in it?
How about the gold jewelry you are wearing, or that beautiful sunset, the dying embers of a campfire, or your red-haired friend sitting next to you?
All of these contain various strengths of orange. They are either warmed up or cooled down or diluted to a certain degree to achieve the desired color.
Want to learn how to mix these various “orangy” paint colours? Keep reading and hopefully I can get you started with a whole new range of colours for your palette.
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Importance of Colour Bias
Everyone knows yellow and red make orange. But there is so much more to making orange acrylic paint than just mixing these two colours.
There are warm and cool yellows and warm and cool reds. Mixing warm colours will give you a bright, vibrant orange. Mixing cool colours will give you a dull orange.
What’s warm and what’s cool? See my post on Warm and Cool Colours for more info.
Basically, if your yellow or red has a blue bias or blue undertone it is a cool colour. Lemon Yellow and Alizarin Crimson are cool.
If your yellow has a red bias it is warm. If your red has a yellow bias it is warm. Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Red are warm.
Gamblin has a great color temperature and value chart on their site. It doesn’t list all colors but it’s a great place to start. https://gamblincolors.com/color-temperature-list/
Color bias is a little confusing I know, but it is important to understand the colour biases if you want to mix the right colour.
How to Make Vivid Orange Paint
To make a bright, vivid orange paint you need to have two primary colors, red and yellow, that don’t contain any blue.
So, a warm yellow and a warm red will give you the most vivid orange. Cadmium Yellow + Cadmium Red = Vivid Orange.
You can add more red or more yellow to change the hue to suit you painting.
You can also buy a premixed tube of Cadmium Orange which is a vivid orange, but if you don’t use vivid orange often it is nice to know how to mix your own from colors you already have.
How to Mix a Dull Orange Paint
To mix a dull orange you will need to have at least one color with a little blue bias.
So, a warm yellow and a cool red (blue bias) will give you a dull orange. Since you now have three primary colors, the yellow, red and blue, the color will be very dull.
Yellow Ochre + Alizarin Crimson = Dull Orange
Because red is such an intense color it is easy to make mud if you add too much. It is best to add the red to the yellow in very tiny amounts until you get the color you want.
Other Orange Paint Colors
Here are a few paint recipes for some of the more common oranges. Some of them you may not have even thought of as containing orange.
Cadmium Yellow Light + Burnt Sienna + White. Play around with the amount of Burnt Sienna. The more you add, the darker the gold will be.
Start with a very small amount of the Burnt Sienna color and gradually build to the color you want.
Cadmium Red + Cadmium Yellow + Burnt Sienna. This mixture gives you a rich, burnished copper. More yellow will give you a warm copper and more burnt umber will give you a darker tone.
Cadmium Red + Burnt Sienna + White or Cadmium Red + Burnt Umber + White.
Use a very tiny amount of white or you will end up with pink hair. I found the best way to mix this is to add the tiny bit of white last and only if you think you need it.
You can also use a tiny bit of yellow instead of white to give the hair a more golden color.
Red hair has so many different shades you may have to play around a bit with the color mixes to get exactly the right shade. Don’t forget to write down the ratios of your mix in case you have to mix more or want to save the formula for a future painting.
Cadmium Red + Cadmium Yellow in a 2-1 ratio will give you a bright orange fire. Add a little Burnt Umber to the mix to produce a color suitable for the dying embers or the deeper centre of a campfire.
Lemon Yellow + Cadmium Red or Cadmium Yellow + Cadmium Red. This mix will give you a bright orange but start with a very tiny amount of Cadmium Red because it is a very intense color and can easily overwhelm the yellow.
Play around with the color mixes, adding more yellow or more red until you get the color you want.
Here are a few additional hints to get just the right orange for your painting.
If you need to darken your orange mix, add a tiny amount of purple or blue. This will give you a richer color than you would get if you added black. Be careful of the amount you add. Start small and increase gradually.
A lot of painting is illusion. To make an orange appear more vivid, surround it with a dull blue. So, for example bright orange leaves from a tree against a dull blue/grey sky.
Play around with the colors you have to see what kind of mixes you can make. Keep notes on the colors and ratios you use. Make a color chart that you can keep for future reference.
I have a blank color mixing chart in my Resource Library that you can print off and either laminate or put behind glass and use to make your own chart for oranges (or any other color).
I hope this information was helpful and you have learned to mix a whole new range of colors for your palette. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below. Happy painting!
Thanks for reading,