Mixing colors to duplicate what you see around you is difficult to say the least. Yes, there are a ton of tomes dedicated to the subject, especially for mixing paints, but where are the books on dyes?
OK, yes, dye mixing books do exist but their number is not near that of painting. So, how can you use a book dedicated to mixing paints to inspire or guide your mixing adventures for dyes? Here is what I have to share from my many mistakes in the past, take it as you will.
1. When the paint book states add white interpret this as add water.
When you want a softer, lighter, more pastel dye shade add more water, water is your white paint.
2. When taking a color darker try add grey instead of black.
You can see this demonstrated in the Oscuro skein above. Black strikes your fiber first and harshly no matter how well mixed it is in your dye batch, add grey and deepen the tone softly, less noticeably.
3. Follow the proportions outlined for paint mixing.
Both dyes and paints are pigment based only the binder (the stuff that holds the pigment together) is different. With oil paints your binder could be linseed oil, with acrylics it's a plastic polymer and with watercolors, well it's water. So, when a paint guide tells you to create camo green by using one part black to three parts yellow then these instructions apply to your dye mixing equally. All that remains to be worked out for your fiber project is your desired saturation level; how washed out or deep and rich you want your final camo green fiber to be.
4. Use the chart mixing opposites on the color wheel.
Newton's color wheel may be ancient stuff but mixing opposites in 50/50 proportions can yield some of the most incredible neutrals, it's a well-know painter's secret. Please, note, it only works with increments of for example, half of blue and half of orange any more of orange, say 3/4's and less of blue, 1/4th of blue and you will get something a bit closer to orange mud.
5. Keep painting guides as sources of inspiration to combine colors you wouldn't normally put next to each other in one dye project.
Push yourself outside your boundaries, lavender can go next to a dirty yellow and it will indeed by fantastic, really it will!
6. Learn how to tint, tone and shade your existing color palette.
As you can see in the chart above:
Any color plus white (aka water) is a tint.
Any color plus grey is a tone.
Any color plus black is a shade
We often get overly stressed trying to mix or combine colors to get the hue we feel it just right. Yet, if we had taken a deep breath and taken a moment we would have realized the color we wanted was there all along as a simple tint, tone or shade. Painting guides often have sections which will take a color and lay it out along a spectrum to show just how many hues can be created from only adding black. You might loathe dainty rose pink but worship a super deep aubergine.
If you try nothing else at the very least you will have another book for your bookshelf and how can this possibly be a bad thing?