– What happens when an artist mixes paint for a painting? Are the pigments actually changing physically/chemically? What is actually happening to make the paints change color?

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– What happens when an artist mixes paint for a painting? Are the pigments actually changing physically/chemically? What is actually happening to make the paints change color?

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There’s two basic ways to mix colour; additive and masking.

Additive (not sure if that’s the correct word) increases colours like the way a colour tv or monitor does. Masking partially masks colours by mixing in other shades and black like the way a colour printer does.

There’s no chemical change, just a difference in the way light bounces off the paint and the way our eyes perceive it

The pigment particles in the paint are ground incredibly fine. When two paints are mixed, the two different pigment particles are mixed together and so closely that our eyes can’t distinguish one from the other but perceive a new color, of them mixed.

Picture if you had a million red pingpong balls, and a million yellow pingpong balls, and you mixed them together in a giant pool and looked at them from miles above. Your eyes couldn’t pick out single balls, it would look orange.

Lets say you mix some red and yellow oil paint together to make an orange paint, and put it under a microscope. You would be able to see individual red and yellow pigment particles, but the smear of paint on the slide would look orange.

The colors you see in paint are due to pigments reflecting certain wavelengths of light. Adding different pigments changes the color, most of the time by adding the reflection of different wavelengths of light. However, black absorbs all wavelengths of light so adding black pigment will cause the paint to appear darker because the black pigment is absorbing light rather than reflecting it. No actual chemical changes happen in most cases.

Edit: clarification

The pigment molecules dont change at all, they are just mixed together.

Take a look at the pixels on your screen; if you look real close, you can see that each pixel is made of a seperate red light, green light and blue light. Those lights are kind of like the pigment molecules, they’re both just really small and really close together.

Just want to say, I read this and initially thought, “What a dumb question, obviously they…they…. huh.” And started scratching my head. And I realized I had no idea and got curious myself. It was fun to read the answers and learn about it!