Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Art in Colour Mixing...

One thing I have been wanting to do for awhile now is to mix up some clay colours for reference when doing clay work.

After completing this project myself and seeing how useful it is for learning about colour, I'd like to encourage non-clayers to try this simple system of mixing colours in clay and creating some "clay" bracelets to give you a reference aid when mixing  colours in other mediums.  It is an easy project... although time consuming!  The cost of a couple of packages of clay will be worth it for you in the end!

Even though many fellow clayers swear by the "mixing process" of Maggie Maggio in her book "Polymer Clay Colour Inspirations", I just couldn't seem to get the hang of it!  Even though it is probably pretty simple, I was frustrated in my efforts to make heads nor tails of it.  After a couple of tries at it over the last couple of months, I would just give up.  The problem with doing that is that I STILL did not have any reference beads I could use that gave me an easy "starting" formula!  URGHHH!!!!

As I was cruising the web one day, I came across Elaine Robitaille's blog  where she mixed hundreds of colours to figure out the colour formulas for Premo clay.  Well I wasn't about to recreate the wheel, so I thought it might be worth a shot to try doing a simplified version of what Elaine had come up with.

Here is a photo of a two colour layout about to be mixed down into 9 beads.  Using a small cutter, all you need to do is cut out 8 circles each of the two colours you want to mix for a total of 16.  Leaving some room between them, lay them out on your tile from top to bottom, one row of eight on the right, one row of eight on the left.  Working from left to right,  all you need to do now is fill in the space you left between the two rows with more circles of cut out clay. (72 clay cutouts in total.. 36 in each colour)

Here are the three "sets" of mixes I created using Premo clay

Set 1
Cobalt Blue to Cadmium Red.
Cadmium Red to Cadmium Yellow
Cadmium Yellow to Cobalt Blue
Set 2
Ultramarine Blue to Alizarin Crimson
Alizarin Crimson to Cadmium Yellow
Cadmium Yellow to Ultramarine Blue
Set 3
Turquoise  to Fuschia
Fuschia to Zinc Yellow
Zinc Yellow to Turquoise

Once I had all the mixes for each set rolled into balls and laid out on my tile, I went back and rolled out each ball on a medium setting, cut out one square of the blend and mixed it with two, same sized squares of white to get a hue.  I added this "hue" ball to the top of the bead (and made it a two tone ball :).

When I finally got going on this "project" I decided I would finish it in one shot.... otherwise it would likely get put aside and well you know what good intentions lead to LOL. 

It took me most of the day to complete this exercise in colour and in spite of a very sore middle finger and thumb from mixing all the little "hue" samples, it was definitely worth it.  In the end I created three "bracelets", each with 24 beads of the mixed colour plus the hue for a total of 48 colours per bracelet and 144 colours to play with in the future. And those little bracelets are so pretty!  Had I made the "beads" smaller, I could have simply made a funky, colourful necklace out of them.  I may just take the bracelets apart and do that even though they are rather large!!

A couple of caveats...  Cobalt Blue and Zinc Yellow are currently only available from the sources listed below.

Polymerclay Express
Creative Wholesale

To find out more about why these colours are not longer being stocked by places like Dick Blick, Hobby Lobby and Michaels, read what Carol Simmons  has to say about this "sad state" of affairs for clayers!

Was this exercise worth it?  YES.  I learnt a lot along the way and some colours surprised me when they were mixed down into a hue!  I am going to continue doing this with more colours just to see what I get and create some more colour chip "bracelets" to refer to using the colours in the fabric samples I have.

Have a great week,