Color Consciousness: Mixing Muted Color Blends

For the past couple of days I’ve been mixing color blends for my next project. Usually I start a project with a color inspiration picture, i.e., a picture with a color palette that “sings” to me. I prefer pictures of paintings or fiber art because they usually include a lot of variations to the basic hues that will create richer palettes. The usual order of my process is that first I find a picture that moves me; then I use the colors in the picture to create my clay palette.

This time, I had a good idea of the palette I wanted but I didn’t have a picture to match it. I planned to mix colors inspired by my memories of tide pools I explored as a child. I visualized varied blues, greens and turquoises, along with smaller amounts of the oranges, red-violets, deep purples, soft grays and browns seen in starfish, sea urchins, seaweeds, rocks, sand and seashells. I didn’t find exactly what I wanted but I had an immediate emotional response to a tapestry titled “Highlands” by Gina Ferrari. It had the colors I wanted, but some of them only in very small patches. Nevertheless, the colors and textures were so inspiring I decided to work with the image. I’ve identified some of the the smaller bits of colors in the adapted image below. Note: This is a reduced resolution picture of a portion of the actual tapestry. Click here to see the complete original in all its beauty at higher resolution and in its proper orientation.

From Highlands by Gina Ferrari

Because I couldn’t easily see all of the colors I wanted to use at a glance, I went “shopping” for yarn on Pinterest to use for an additional color reference. I combined a number of pictures to produce this collage (using Photoshop)

yarn photo collage

Yarn photo collage.  Carol Simmons

I haven’t made any canes yet but I have mixed my color blends. I used only the Premo primaries, black and white. All of the package colors were too bright and had to be muted. (I wanted to evoke a Pacific tide pool, not a coral reef!).

First I mixed my base colors, muting them by adding either the color’s complement or mud (a mixture of all the primaries plus a little black). I used white mixed with a very small quantity of mud to create value blends. (If I had used pure white, the colors would have appeared brighter with the addition of increasing amounts of white. I wanted them to appear lighter in value without appearing brighter so I “toned down” my white with mud.) I also made a small set of very muted colors to use as neutrals and mixed some black clay with a little orange to warm it up.

Here is my palette for my project as it currently stands, minus the “black” and muddy white. I can’t wait to start working with it when I return to my studio tomorrow!

Tide pool color palette. Carol Simmons

Tide pool color palette. Carol Simmons


This entry was posted in color mixing, colot theory, Metallic Clay, Pardo Clay, Premo Clay, Sources of Inspiration, Technique, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Color Consciousness: Mixing Muted Color Blends

  1. Diane Bruce says:

    I can’t wait to see what you come up with! Love the colour palette.

  2. Judy Johnson says:

    I like your palette also and I am sure you either all ready know what you are going to do or you are still creating in your mind. I am sure that what ever it is, it will be gourgous, can’t wait to see.

  3. Carrie says:

    I love the yarn collage – the colours are just wonderful. Looking forward to seeing your blends “in action”!

  4. Carol Simmons says:

    Thanks, Diane. I love it too. (I’m a non-knitter but I can’t tell you how much yarn I’ve bought over the years because it comes in colors like this!

  5. Nancy says:

    I did not know about the white + mud to help achieve a lighter value. Thanks!

  6. Paula B says:

    So beautiful, Carol. I keep looking at this blend over and over. I too look forward to seeing what you do with it but it feels like a work of art just as it is too. The same way I feel about the baskets of wool I have around my room – gorgeous in their own right and also full of promise. Thanks for sharing your process in mixing the colours.

    • Carol Simmons says:

      Thank you Paula and thanks for commenting. I have a basket of yarn just to look at as well. I have to say I thought of you several times when I was working on these blends.

  7. Nancy says:

    You wouldn’t want to share your exact recipe would you? I love your colors.

    • Carol Simmons says:

      There are no recipes… not even close. The blends come from understanding how colors interact. I make them intuitively..

  8. Susan Havko says:

    I love all your colors. I was wondering how much of each color you mix for a new project. Thank you.

    • Carol Simmons says:

      Hello Susan,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I don’t mix any particular amount of clay. Most of the time I start with with clay left from other projects rather than the packaged primaries. I use the clay from packages to modify the scrap clay for the next project. If I’m doing a blend I usually use fresh package clay to mix the darkest part of the blend but the middle part of it is usually a mixture of leftovers. In my workshops the students do mix their blends from packaged clay. Each blend has about 1 1/2 to 2 packages of clay in it.

  9. Terri says:

    You and many others are so very talented. Im trying to learn how to make some beads. You are so far beyond that. Just beautiful things. I hope you started try to make a simple bead. Gives me hope. Terri

  10. Laura Torrelli says:

    The colors are beautiful, thanks for sharing them!

  11. Fran says:

    the colors in your palette are lovely! I wonder, could you achieve the same idea by using ecru instead of the muted white? or is the muting of the white so subtle it is barely visible to the eye?

    I am new to your blog, and am confused as to why I cannot see the comments on any of your posts. I often find comments as illustrative as the posts themselves.

    Thank you.
    Bradford, NH

    • Carol Simmons says:

      Thank you, Fran. I’m confused about why the comments aren’t showing up also. It seems that every time a new version of WordPress comes out something gets messed up. I’ll check on that. Ecru is a warm neutral (to my eye, it has a yellowish tinge) using it would shift all the colors a bit to the warm side of the spectrum and I didn’t want that.

  12. Debbie Keller says:

    I was surfing for ideas to get started in polymer again and found your Tide Pool Bowl. It’s wonderful! I grew up spending much of my time with family members who live at the Jersey shore and still go there during all seasons. The Atlantic is more green than blue and I love seeing it in your work. Your muted colors really speak to me. How do you deal with the new colors in Premo clay, though? I don’t like their “decorator colors.”

    • Carol Simmons says:

      Thank you for your comment Debbie. Since I only use cobalt, ultramarine, fuchsia, cad red, cad yellow, zinc yellow, white, black and brown, their changes don’t affect me.

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