How to Blend Colors From Basic Primary Shades of Polymer Clay

  • 01 of 06

    Basic Primary Colors For Blends

    Polymer clay amounts measured using a polymer clay template.
    Photo copyright Lesley Shepherd

    This gallery is set up to show you how to blend basic colors of polymer clay into realistic colors for the many polymer clay miniatures and dolls house miniature projects on this site. Some ranges of polymer clay have limited numbers of realistic colors for creating dolls house and scale miniatures. With a bit of practice in color blending, you can learn to make your own mixes for creating miniature food and household objects, as well as figures, dolls, clothing and a limitless range of other items.

    You can choose to start with the basic blends to build a palette of colors from 4 to five basic colors or pick a specific material or color blend from the list below. As the list of polymer clay projects on the site builds, so will this list of color blends.

    Templates or sets of measured lines are used as a way of measuring polymer clay blocks in order to get consistent sized portions for mixing colors.

    As it is an easily available polymer clay brand, often found in big box stores, we have use Premo! polymer clay for the mixes on these pages. We are not recommending this particular brand, different brands of polymer clay are useful for different purposes. Similar blends will work with all brands of polymer clay, but you need to start with colors which are pure and have no other tones mixed with them. You will quickly find out if your initial clay colors are pure, as you will see grey or brown tinges developing in the secondary colors you blend.

    For these blends, we are using Premo! in White, Black, Cadmium Red, Zinc Yellow, and Cobalt Blue. The amounts of clay to use are discussed in proportions. In the photo above you can see 1/8 sections of a block of Premo! clay. To get this amount a single quarter bar section from the original block was cut in half. If you are trying to mix precise amounts, you will need to make sure you make square cuts on your sections of clay. If you are mixing clay by hand, it is best to keep the total amount of clay you are trying to mix to a maximum of 1/4 of a full block, otherwise, it is difficult to keep working it in your hands. You can mix larger amounts by rolling it and flattening it on a clean work surface. A roller is useful for flattening the clay in between rolling and pressing it.

    Method for Mixing Colors To mix colors, take the proportions of two colors in your hand and roll them together into a roll. Bend the roll in half and flatten it, then roll it again, and bend and flatten. You can also roll it, flatten the roll and fold it together several times before you roll it out. Try not to get too much air in the clay if you fold it together several times. If air pockets become trapped in the clay, you will notice plaques or lichen-like discolorations that show up on the clay surface after it has cured.

    Avoid Transferring Tiny Amounts of Color Many beginners complain that their color mixes turn muddy or grey as they are trying to blend a new shade. To avoid this make sure your hands, tools and work surface are clean before you begin any new color blend. Even a small trace of a third primary color, white or black on your hands can muddy a color blend. Use alcohol-based wipes to clean your hands between color blends. Some brands of clay (including Premo!) leave a considerable amount of color on your hands.

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  • 02 of 06

    Mixing Poly Clay Colors Together to Make Shades of Brown

    Various blends of brown polymer clay for dollhouse food made by blending red, yellow and blue.
    Photo copyright Lesley Shepherd

    Brown is a tertiary color, it is composed of red, blue and yellow. For most miniature uses an equal mix of the three primaries is too dark.

    To Mix a Basic Dark Brown Mix equal amounts of Cadmium Red, Cobalt Blue, and Zinc Yellow together. This will create the dark brown shown in the top section of the photo above. This is a useful color, but is too dark for many miniatures.​

    Bittersweet Chocolate Brown To mix a bittersweet chocolate colored brown, useful for dark chocolate in baking or for tiny chocolates, mix one part of primary cadmium red, with one part of the basic dark brown made from equal amounts of all three primaries. If you want to make bittersweet chocolate brown directly, mix two parts of red, with one part of yellow and one part of blue.

    Chocolate Brown Chocolate brown appears when you mix one part of the bittersweet brown with one part of zinc yellow. This is the brown color we associate with rich chocolate. To mix it from the primaries, and not from the basic dark brown, you would use one part blue, two parts red and two parts yellow.

    Milk Chocolate Brown is made by mixing another part of yellow to the chocolate brown. From the basic primaries, this is equivalent to one part blue, two parts red, and three parts yellow.

    Caramel Toffee If you mix yet another equal part of yellow to the milk chocolate brown, you will get a deep rich caramel color. From basic primaries, this would be one part blue, two parts red, four parts yellow.

    Ochre Brown Ochre Brown is a very useful color for miniatures and models, as it can be used for shading baked goods and making browned crusts, and if properly blended can be used to mimic naturally tanned leather for some applications. Ochre brown is mixed by adding two parts of yellow to the caramel brown color. From the basic primaries, this means you need 1 part blue, two parts red, and six parts of yellow to make an ochre.

    Experiment with your particular clay brand to see which colors you get as you work through a set. As you can see from the colors above, red and blue produce dark intense colors. In the brown ranges, you will need far more yellow than either red or blue.

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  • 03 of 06

    Mixing Green, Orange and Purple From Primary Polymer Clay Colors

    Green, purple and orange blends mixed from primary colors of polymer clay.
    Photo copyright Lesley Shepherd

    When you experiment with color blends, you quickly find that large amounts of yellow are needed to produce lighter colors in the secondary range.

    Secondary colors are mixed from any two of the three primary colors. As in the rest of these color blend samples we are using Premo! polymer clay in Cadmium Red, Cobalt Blue, and Zinc Yellow to mix the colors in the photographs. You can use any three primary colors from a different clay to create similar blends.

    Basic Orange The top line of blends in the photo shows shades of orange. The first blend shows the true secondary orange mixed from equal amounts of cadmium red and zinc yellow. This is a very dark orange, in fact, in some lights, it looks red (until you try to mix it with blue and get brown instead of purple!) A pure secondary orange looks more like a shade of red than orange if you are planning on using it for miniatures.

    Obvious Orange A far more obviously orange shade occurs when you mix two equal amounts of yellow with one amount of red. This produces a color which we easily recognize as orange. To make an orange peel color, in many clays you need to add a further equal amount of orange (1 part red to three parts yellow).

    Dark Green Dark green is the secondary color that comes from equal amounts of cobalt blue and zinc yellow. The dark green shown in the center of the photo comes from mixing the equal amounts of blue and yellow shown to one side of it. This is a very dark forest green. To be useful for making plant leaves or vegetables it will need more yellow added to it.

    Dark Leaf Green Mixing a second amount of yellow to the dark green will produce a dark leaf green. From your original primary colors, this mix is one part cobalt blue to two parts of zinc yellow.

    Purple, Violet and Magenta Purple are made by mixing one part Cobalt Blue to an equal part of Cadmium Red. This produces a very dark, almost brown, shade of purple. This is a useful color if you add white or translucent to turn it into a purple tint, something where the purple color becomes more visible than in its very dark secondary form. In the photo above, adding equal amounts of red and blue results in the dark purple directly beside the blue sample.

    Violet Violet is one part blue added to basic purple. From the basic colors mix two parts blue to one part red. It is the color beside the basic purple.

    Magenta is a purple with extra red added to it. If you add an extra amount of red to your basic purple you will get the first grade of magenta, which is shown in the photo on the far right of the three purples. This color is made of two parts red to one part blue.

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  • 04 of 06

    Basic Polymer Clay Mixes That Resemble Dough or Pastry

    White, translucent, ochre, and tiny amounts of red polymer clay used to make miniature bread dough
    Photo copyright Lesley Shepherd

    Basic Dough Color To make polymer clay mixes that resemble baked doughs for miniature cookies, breads, pies etc. you need to mix three parts white with one part of translucent clay to give you a foundation color that has a bit of a sheen, then gradually tint this mix to the color you wish. Adding extra translucent clay will make your basic mixture more transparent, although it can also make it more flexible. In most clays, a basic mix comes from mixing ochre colored clay (see the instructions for brown clays in order to make ochre) with white and translucent clays. The exact mix will depend a bit on the consistency of your white clay, and the type of translucent clay you use. The Premo! clay used for these mixes has a very translucent clay, but a very crumbly white.

    With some clays, including Premo! mixing an ochre color with white will make it seem very pale yellow instead of a cream pastry color. If this happens to your mix, counter it by adding a bit of brown, or a very tiny amount of red to your clay blend. The amount of red shown in the photo above would probably produce an orange clay if you mixed all of it in! You can also use a basic brown color instead of ochre if you find your mix goes too yellow when mixed with white and translucent.

    For Bread Doughs mix a tiny amount of brown with the foundation translucent and white combination to produce a slightly off white mix. If you wrap your ​breads with a very thin layer of ochre or caramel colors (see the basic brown mix page) then cut through the outer color with a knife, you can make your breads look like they have traditional artisan bread markings and slashes.

    Adding Texture If you want to make your basic dough mix look a bit more like wholemeal, or have texture added to it, add tiny amounts of sand into the mix. White decorative sand used for sand paintings or layered sand pictures adds very fine texture with a few flecks of color.

    Do Not Add Food or Spices All foods and spices will attract weevils and other pests in many climates, so do not add them to polymer clay to create textures. Use finely grated or chopped bits of cured (baked) polymer clay or other inert materials like sand.

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  • 05 of 06

    Mixing Translucent Colors for Contrasting Bands

    Colors of polymer clay used to make dolls house scale purple onions.
    Photo copyright Lesley Shepherd

    The polymer clay colors shown above are used to mix purple onion canes for onion slices or entire onions. The mix ratio is 1 part basic purple to three parts translucent, with a tiny amount of red. This makes the main color for the purple onion. A white onion would substitute white for the purple amount, and a tiny amount of brown or sap green for the red.

    The second layer of the onion cane is made with a more translucent mix. In the case of the purple onion, it is a tiny amount of the previous purple, mixed with the equivalent of the previous amount of translucent, mixed with a small amount of white. This mixture is not fully blended, so as to leave stripes of white and darker purple in the mix. For White onions, the mix would be minus the addition of purple. [/p][p]Skins for purple onions can be made from a banded mix of dark and mid purple, leaving strong verticals stripes which are wrapped in a thin layer around the onion cane. For white onions, the skin is made from two shades of brown, making pronounced thin stripes in the mix and wrapping this striped layer around a section of the cane.​

    Instructions for making an onion cane from these mixes are given here.

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  • 06 of 06

    Three Blends Needed to Make Citrus Canes

    Polymer clay colors used to make lemon pith, sections and skin for dollhouse scale lemon canes.
    Photo copyright Lesley Shepherd

    The colors used here will make lemon canes. If you leave the red out of the peel color, or add more red to the peel color and make a paler yellow for the center sections, or add a bit of red to the pale yellow, you can make grapefruit.

    The lemon colors shown above were made from Premo! polymer clay in translucent, white, zinc yellow, and cadmium red.

    The lemon pith color shown on the far left is a blend of 1/8 inch of a quarter block section of white, mixed with half that amount of translucent and a tiny amount (1/8 by 1/8 inch block in this case) of zinc yellow.

    The lemon segments are made from a mix of 2 parts zinc yellow to one part translucent (in this case we used a 1/4 inch section cut from a quarter block of clay for the yellow and a 1/8 inch section for the translucent.

    The lemon peel color shown on the right is a blend of 1 part of zinc yellow with 1/8 part of white and a tiny amount of cadmium red.

    Instructions for making lemons and lemon canes in several scales from polymer clay.