Understanding Polymer Clay Color, by Making Mud

Understanding Muddy Colors - Polymer Clay TutorVideo #674: Do you know what color you get, when you mix the 3 primary colors together? Yellow + Blue + Red = Muddy Brown!

Topics Covered In This Video:

  • I am going to teach you a little bit more about understanding polymerclay color mixing… by making mud.
  • Do you remember back in Elementary School, when you got your box of paints out, and you had all the pretty colors of the rainbow to put onto your painting?
  • Well, if you mixed all those colors together, you ended up with basically a really muddy brown color.
  • That is because you were mixing all three primary colors together which ends up making mud.
  • The same thing happens with polymer clay.
  • To show you what I mean, I took a ball of scrap polymer clay (which basically has all the different colors in it) and I cut the ball in half. I mixed the one half together until it was blended and ended up with this brown mud color.
  • Back when we were learning about the primary colors, if you mixed all three of the primary colors together, you would get brown. And that is exactly what I did get.
  • I mixed Cadmium Red with Zinc Yellow and Cobalt Blue… and got dark brown.
  • Well, we also learned that if you mix only two of the primary colors together, you would get the other secondary colors, which are red+yellow=orange, yellow+blue=green, and red+blue=purple.
  • Now take a look at this particular purple… it’s a purple alright, but it is kind of muddy, if you compare it to Premo Purple.
  • The reason for that is that when you are mixing Cadmium Red and Cobalt Blue, you are not actually mixing only two primary colors together… you are actually mixing three. Because if you take a look carefully at this red (Cadmium Red), it has a touch of yellow in it. It is kind of on the orangey side. Which means you’ve actually got the red, the blue and a touch of yellow in the mix… all three primary colors.
  • Now because the red and the blue are the most dominate, you’re basically getting a purple. But, because of that touch of yellow, it is a little on the muddy side.
  • This issue happens with all the colors of clay in the Premo line (and most other brands too).
  • If we take the colors from the red line, Cadmium Red, Pomegranate, and Fuchsia you can see that they are quite different looking.
  • Cadmium Red has quite a bit of yellow in it… it has more of an orangey look. It is what we call a warm color. Think yellow like the sun, and the sun is warm. so yellow in a color makes it warm.
  • Pomegranate is more of a neutral color… it has both warm and cool reds in it.
  • The Fuchsia has a lot of blue in it. When you look at it, it looks more purpley. So that would be what we consider a cool red. Think blue like ice and ice is cool, so blue is a cool color.
  • So, when you’re mixing any one of these three reds, you are going to end up with different results, depending on what you’re mixing it with.
  • When we saw the mix with the Cadmim Red and the Cobalt Blue, we got kind of a muddy purple because of the touch of yellow in the red.
  • If you mix the same Cobalt Blue with Pomegranate instead, you get a little less muddy purple because that red is more neutral but still has all three primaries.
  • When we mix Cobalt Blue with Fuchsia instead, we are back to using only two primaries again… with the Fuchsia being a cool red with a touch of blue mixing with the Cobalt (no yellow) we end up with a more pure or cleaner purple color.
  • The same thing holds true when we mix the different reds with Zinc Yellow.
  • Cadmium Red with Zinc Yellow has only two primaries and therefore, ends up as a clean orange. Pomegranate and Zinc Yellow mixed together, give a slightly muddy orange. And Fuchsia mixed with Zinc Yellow givs a very muddy orange.
  • So the trick here is… if you want your colors more pure, really look at your base colors that you’re mixing. How many primaries are you mixing together? Does that color look a little bit warm like it maybe has a touch of yellow in it? Or does it maybe have a touch of blue in it?
  • If you have three primaries you are going to have a muddy color and if you only have two, you’ll have a cleaner color.
  • Hopefully that was clear as mud for everyone… I mean that in a good way. Understanding muddy colors will definitely help you when you are trying to mix up a particular shade of something.

Do you have any suggestions for videos on tips, techniques or products you would like to learn more about? Let me know in the comments section below!

My goal is to help you to learn quicker and easier ways to bring up the professionalism in your polymer clay art.

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Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


  1. Shirley J, 08 June, 2015

    You simplified a confusing concept brilliantly Cindy. Please keep enlightening us more. This all shows again how wonderfully versatile this clay really is. I truly hope we never take experts like you and Doug for granted, because you’re both willing and able to convey things we might not otherwise be able to gather elsewhere. Thanks so much.

  2. Cindy Lietz, 11 June, 2015

    Thank you so much Shirley for saying that! I am amazed by polymer’s versatility almost every day. You could never run out of things to learn and do with the stuff!

  3. Jane M, 08 June, 2015

    The muddy colors lesson was a Light Bulb video for me, thank you!

  4. Dixie Ann, 10 June, 2015

    Cindy that was a really interesting conversation in color mixing. Thanks to you I have become so much more aware of my color blending sheets. I never paid much attention to color until I got involved with polymer clay and mixed all of the color receipes you made available to us. I learned so much from this and I urge everyone to take some time and mix up some of these receipes Cindy has given us. You will end up with a lot less mud!

  5. Cindy Lietz, 11 June, 2015

    Thanks Dixie Ann! (You don’t know this but we are currently working on a new format for the color recipes that I think you are going to love.) You are so right about mixing up the recipes being a learning experience in of itself. Remember how different that color looked when you subbed out the Cad Yellow for the Zinc Yellow? That was one of these warm/cool situations that caused the mud you ended up with. I remember the light bulb going off for you when that happened. Color is such a glorious thing, and learning more about it makes your life as an artist so much easier and rewarding. Thanks for reminding everyone of the importance of mixing up those recipes. You can’t learn nothing from those recipes if they just sit in a file somewhere! :)

  6. christine hanley, 12 June, 2015

    Simple question: What is the website you have on your laptop behind you? This video helped a LOT!!! Thanks once again.

  7. Cindy Lietz, 14 June, 2015

    I had just Googled “color wheel” in Google Images and that was what was on the screen.

  8. RMA Creations, 13 June, 2015

    Even after being a member of the video club for several years now…. I learned more from this tutorial than all of the others teaching color. I dunno why… just all of a sudden a light bulb went off!

  9. Karen S, 29 June, 2015

    Hi Cindy

    Yeah, thanks for this video, makes it all clearer :). Now I know what to do when attempting to mix a color. Try to find the purest colors possible so I’m not mixing three colors inadvertently. Thanks again!

  10. Lucia T, 16 March, 2018

    Hi Cindy,
    I was watching some of your older posts regarding color mixing, as well as some related to baking, and I have few questions.
    You might have already answered them, but I didn’t come across these videos yet :)
    I wanted to experiment more color mixing, using mixes of different brands (ie Sculpey III, Premo, Soufflé, Fimo Professional, Kato and Pardo).
    My purpose is to obtain new colors, as well as to improve some of the weaker clay’s characteristics.
    I was wondering if you tried some of these mixes and what are your thoughts on this, and as a general rule, what would be the baking temperature and times to use when using a mix of 2 or 3 clays that have the baking temperatures at the opposite extremes (Fimo-Kato) (Pardo-Kato) (Fimo-Sculpey-Kato), etc.

    Thanks and have a wonderful weekend!

  11. Cindy Lietz, 16 March, 2018

    That is something that you are going to have to experiment with Lucia. Yes you can mix the brands but as far as the perfect baking temp, you will need to test that. In general, it is usually best to bake at as hot a temp as your clay can handle before burning. If the bulk of the clay is one brand, then it would be a good bet that the temp of that brand is probably where you will need to bake it. Just make up little test samples, use an oven thermometer and do as many test bakes that you need to get the result you want. Good luck!

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