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How to Mix and Match

"Palette" - the top left:

PaintTutor displays the paints of your palette in the top left area. In the middle of the palette is an area that shows the currently selected paints, what they look like when mixed and also the target colour you are trying to match ("Current target and current mix"). If no paints have been selected for mixing, only the current target colour is shown.

"Controls" on the right:

To ADD PAINT to the mix, select "+", then click on the paint you want to add.

To REMOVE PAINT from the mix, select "-", then click on the paint you want to reduce.

To SET THE AMOUNT of paint to be added or removed with each click, use the sliders: the first ranges from 0% to 10% in 1% steps, the second from 0.00% to 1.00% in 0.01% steps, so you can select any amount between 0% and 11.00%.

To PICK A TARGET COLOUR, click on the "Picker" button, then select the number of colours you'd like to match (1,3,5 or 7). Do the actual selection from a photo, colour space or by directly entering RGB or Lab values. Once the targets have been exported to the main screen, you can try your hand at mixing the best match from you palette, alternatively you can get the computer to match the target for you.

"Controls" in the middle:

To MATCH A TARGET COLOUR, click on "Solve Target" in the middle controls area.

To REMOVE YOUR MIXED PAINT entirely from the mixing area and start your mixing and matching from scratch, click on "Clear Mix".


A THICK RED BORDER around a target colour shows that is the one currently selected for matching.

A THIN RED BORDER around a palette colour is a warning that the colour is "out of gamut", i.e. cannot be displayed by the computer monitor. What is displayed instead is the closest colour within the monitor's gamut.

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Q: Why is the app not loading properly?
A: It could be that your device does not have Java installed, or that its version of Java is very old. You will have to find the most up-to-date version online. Alternatively, your security settings might be preventing the software from running.

Q: How do I know that I can trust the application not to damage my computer in some way?
A: Unfortunately, you can never be 100% sure. If you are really concerned about it, you can still see how PaintTutor works by watching the short YouTube demos

Q: How accurate is the colour shown for any given paint or paint mix?
A: The best answer is "it depends". Opaque mixes, especially those that contain a lot of Titanium White, are likely to be very accurate. Those that contain paints that are (semi-) transparent and dark are more likely to differ from a true mix on your palette. To complicate matters, colour perception itself is very complex: depending on your monitor settings, ambient light, light on the physical paint and the way your brain processes colours, you can get very different outcomes.

Q: If it is so complicated, why bother? Why not just mix the real paints on a real palette?
A: Of course that is the best, and PaintTutor should never stop that from happening! In fact the idea is precisely to get you working confidently with a real palette of paints as soon as possible: PaintTutor is a tool that helps beginner painters to experiment with the way paint colours interact, and more experienced painters to experiment with colours that they do not know very well yet. While the computer display might not be 100% accurate, the general way in which the paints interact is captured well. You will get a good feel for it very quickly, without the wasted time, mess and cost of many failed experiments on the palette.

Q: How does PaintTutor work out what the colour of a paint mix is?
A: For each paint 40 measurements of its reflectance and absorption properties at different wavelengths are used. The reflectance and absorption properties of a mix are determined from those of its constituents using the 2 variable Kubelka-Munk model.

Q: Sometimes when I click on a target at the bottom of the PaintTutor screen, nothing happens. Why?
A: This is a software problem that will be fixed in the next version. While a "+" or "-" is selected, the target colour cannot be changed. You have to deselect the "+" or "-" (whichever is active), then you can go ahead and select a new target colour.

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Resources by David Briggs by Bruce Lindbloom

"Introduction to Color Imaging Science" by Hsien-Che Lee, Cambridge University Press 2005

Thanks to:

David Briggs, Mark Fairchild, Philipp Urban, Zsolt M. Kovàcs Vajna, Sarah Sands, Yoshio Okumura, Brent Wallace and Matthew Roberts.

Jean Pretorius


jeanpret [at]

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