How to Make Paint Lighter Without Using White

Experiment with paint colors to learn more about mixing paint.
Experiment with paint colors to learn more about mixing paint. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Mixing paints to achieve new colors is an art form in itself. Depending on the type of paint, you can make it lighter without using white in various ways. If you are using watercolor paints, white is rarely used. Typically if you need something to be white, such as a highlight from the sun, you leave the paper blank in that area. If you want to lighten the hue or color of a specific watercolor paint, you add more water to it. Acrylic and oil paints are different. You can lighten acrylic paint with water, but you lose its thickness. Water cannot be added to oil paints, but paint thinner can be used. Typically in acrylic and oil painting, mix different paints together to lighten them.

Things You'll Need

  • Acrylic paint set
  • 2 palettes
  • Paintbrush
  • Soap
  • Rag
  • Oil paint set
  • Paint thinner

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Squeeze a pea-sized amount of acrylic paint onto your palette that you want to lighten. White is not always the best solution to lightening the hue of a paint. It changes the color and it can look chalky rather than lighter. For example, mixing red and white gives you pink rather than a lighter red.

Squeeze a pea-sized amount of yellow near the first color you squeezed. Dip your paintbrush into the yellow to just lightly add it to the tip of your brush. Mix it in with the first color you squeezed out. You should have a slightly lighter hue of the original color.

Dip the brush into the yellow again. Add yellow to the brush's tip only. Mix it with the mixed colors. It should lighten it more. Wash your brush with soap and water. Dry it with a rag.

Squeeze out an oil paint color onto another palette. Choose a color you wish to lighten. Squeeze out a pea-sized portion of yellow next to it. Dip your clean brush into the yellow, so only the very tip has paint on it.

Mix the yellow with the original oil paint you squeezed out. It should give you a lighter color. Add more yellow to lighten the hue some more. Clean the brush with paint thinner and wipe with a rag.

Tips & Warnings

  • Paints can sometimes be lightened with red as well as yellow.
  • Experiment with the paints to achieve your desired mixed colors. Study the color wheel to help guide you.
  • Add blue paint to darken paint hues.
  • Paint in a well-ventilated room.

References

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