Oil Painting tips

Use Basic Shapes to be a Better Artist

Basic Shapes Clafiy difficult problems

When I was young I had strange misconceptions and ideas of how to draw. I would pick up books and see artist describing things into basic shapes and I would think to myself that’s not how you draw. You just draw. Little did I know how much I was wrong!

After years of training and a twenty year professional career in illustration and fine art  I know it is “the key” to drawing and painting regardless of style. Whenever I am having troubles drawing I always use basic shapes to make my drawing better and more accurate. Whether I am drawing a portrait, wildlife or still life everything can be broken down into basic shapes. Here is a basic representation of the concept but I use this in much more complex drawings.how to draw a pear

Thumbnails The Key to Better Drawing and Painting

Art Tip
Using Thumbnails for Planning Compositions
Thumbnails are small quick sketches. These sketches aren’t to record details, forms or depth they are for planning out the elements of your compositions and designs.
Design and composition are terms that people use a lot and they have a lot in common. Design is used to express the overall ideas of you image. Will your image be symmetrical or Asymmetrical. These basics ideas of balancing you objects. To balance something on an see saw or older day scale you need at least two objects. It’s the same with an image you need more than one shape or group of shapes to achieve some type of balance. This is the basic idea of design
Just like before building a house or writing a book you need a planning stage. For artist this planning stage takes the form of thumbnail sketches.
These need to be done quickly so we can move onto execution of our painting or drawing. We you are outside painting or drawing landscapes this can be especially important, because the light changes so quickly.
Thumbnails are very primitive. They contain only the most fundamental information about our subject. They could even be a basic as squares, ovals, triangles just enough so we know what these shapes represent.
When deciding on a design they are four decisions to make. Should my drawing or painting be
1. Analogous – Where the vertical and horizontal movements or lines are used.
2. Complementary – Where Diagonals are emphasized
3. Symmetrical – Where the main shapes are of similar size on either side of the picture plane.
4. Asymmetrical – Where the main shapes are of very different sizes. Such as Large shapes on one side smaller on the other.
By making these decisions on how to design your art you will have stronger and more interesting artworks. Below I have included the four examples of Design.
Analogous Design

Complementary Design

Symmetrical Design

Asymmetrical Design

These drawings are very simple but more importantly they tell me how I am going to approach the drawing or painting. Next time before you start on your drawing or painting start by using thumbnails to plan things out do 4 or 5 and pick out your favorite. Then do it! You will enjoy your results even more by creating a plan.

To Find Other Drawing Insights click Drawing Tips

Six More Plein Air Painting Tips

More Plein Air Painting Tips
Painting outdoors has many benefits as well as many challenges. Below are six tips that will help you be successful as you plein air paint. Practice these as you paint and you will improve your plein air painting.
1. Simplify the Scene – With plein air painting it’s so overwhelming with all the detail of the outdoors. So look for the basic ideas of the scene basic shapes, size relationships and value relationships. Try to simplify the values to four or fewer for any one object. Don’t try to capture every little detail look for the large general shapes and larger families of smaller shapes not individual blades of grass or leaves that is just too much information. Below are a couple examples of simplified scenes. Notice clear they are even though they are very simple.
Simplified color of Fall River Scene
2. Blurring Your Vision to Simply – Squint your eyes to blur your vision. When you blur your vision it’s easier to see the main shapes and ignore the distracting details. Learning to simplify is vital to painting outdoors. Blurring your eyes to see the main shapes and value is the first step to learning to simplify. Below is pictured some photos that I loaded into a program and changed them to simplify the scenes. Even without a lot of details these are very powerful images. We want learn to do this for ourselves out in the field.
Blurred scene to reduce detail.
3. Positive negative shape drawing – Using a sharpie or marker and a sketch book practice creating drawings using just black and white. This exercise will help you more than any other to learn to simplify shapes which will make your paintings stronger. Below is an example of drawings done in just black and white. Below is a scene then the scene is forced into black and white along with a black and white sketch of Aspen trees.
Example:Black and white marker sketch
4. Daylight is Bright Don’t Let it Overwhelm Your Paintings– Daylight is so strong that many times when you paint you think your painting is very bright and colorful but then you take the painting indoors and the painting turns dark and lifeless. This is because there is so much light outdoors even a cloudy day has 30% more light than a room indoors. Outdoor your paintings will look colorful and full of contrast. Inside the contrast fades as well as the intensity of the colors. To avoid this use an umbrella to shade your painting and color mixing palette. If you don’t have an umbrella set up your easel with your painting surface and color palette against the sun so it is in shadow. You need to bump up the the contrast in your painting and the brightness of the colors.
Example: Umbrella to shade painting
5. Keep Your Painting Small – Keeping your painting small will allow you to establish the values and color in your painting quickly. With the light constantly changing you need to establish the values and colors in about 30 minutes and then work the painting as needed. This is very challenging by itself. Keeping your canvas size small will allow to move quicker. So when you start painting outdoors keep you sizes small like 8” x 10” or 9” x 12”. As you get more comfortable painting you can increase the size of your canvases. Below is one of small 12″ x 9 ” paintings I did at the Grand Canyon.
Small Plein Air Painting of Grand Canyon
6. Constantly Compare You Values and Colors – When painting establish early in the painting process the lightest color in your painting and the darkest color in your painting and then constantly refer to those two colors asking yourself if the values of your other colors are closer to the lightest or darkest value and how close is it to one or the other. By asking yourself about every color as you put it on your painting you will find you will have a larger range of values. Constantly compare your color’s hues if I have a tree that is green as the green becomes lighter and darker how does it shifts bluer, yellower, duller or brighter. Continuing to ask yourself these questions will help to become more sensitive to color shifts and improve your painting


Six Tips for Plein Air Painting

Plein Air Painting in Kevin McCain's painting workshop

Six Tips for Painting Outdoors in the Landscape
AKA Plein Air Painting

1. Take Only What You Need
When painting outdoors you want to take only the necessary items. The fewer paints, brushes, paint thinner, and so forth will keep your gear lighter and help you to have a better experience painting outdoors. Remember it’s not just about art supplies you also need to take water, bug repellent, sun screen, food, trash bags, hand clamps (to clamp you paint thinner container to your easel), screw driver(to tighten up and adjust your easel), pliers(to loosen the caps on paint tubes), and trash bags.

2. Simplify Your Palette
Limiting your color palette helps to keep your equipment light. I use just eight colors: Cadmium Yellow Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Phalo Blue, Ivory Black and Titanium White. Learning to use this palette you will be able to mix a full range of colors.

3. Leave without a Trace
While Painting you use a lot of paper towels to keep you brushes clean. As landscape painters we enjoy the landscape. So we want to keep the landscape enjoyable for everyone. You always want to take out of the landscape what you take into it. So use your trash bags and make sure you are leaving no trace once you leave the landscape.

4. Bring a Camera to Take Reference
It’s always a good idea to take a camera with you. Painting on location is great for capturing the light and mood of the landscape. Photographs are great for capturing the details of the landscape. Then if you need to finish the painting in studio you have the photo to use as reference.

5. Use Easily Portable Cases to Transport Supplies
A good pochade box is worth it’s weight in gold, these small easels are light and easy for more remote excursions and locations. If you aren’t going far or to remote locations a french easel is a wonderful alternative they are far more stable than pochade boxes and you can pack most all of your supplies inside the easel, though they aren’t as light as pochade boxes.  These compact easels and painting boxes are essential to paint outdoors.

6. Wear Sunglasses When Painting
Your eyes are your most important asset so you should protect them. The bright sunlight over the years can seriously affect your vision. Though some people wear hats to keep the sun out of their eyes, a hat doesn’t always solve the problem so I wear sun glasses. When I paint I don’t look through the sunglasses because the glasses change the colors and values of the landscape. So I usually hang the sun glasses off the end of my nose so I can look over the top of them. This way I keep the direct sunlight out of my eyes and I still am able to see the accurate colors and values of the landscape.

These tips will help you to have a wonderful experience when you go outside to paint.

Improve Your Painting by Avoiding these Mistakes

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5 Ways to Improve Your Paintings,
Mistakes to Avoid

1. Not Covering the Entire Canvas with
before Finishing off Areas
You can’t see the value and color relationships in a painting unless all the general color and values already on the canvas. Just as it is hard to tell if a recipe works without all the ingredients combined together.

Here are the general steps to a painting.
1. Start by drawing in the basic contours of your subject with either charcoal or a neutral paint color.
2. Once the drawing is done using thin paint(about the consistency of heavy cream) cover the main areas and shapes with accurate values and colors.
3. Blur your vision look for the basic light value and color along with the dark value and color of each area and object. Once the entire canvas is covered you can more accurately access which value and colors need to change and which ones may stay the same.
4. Once the painting is roughed in, work on the painting as a whole.
5. Whether you are doing abstract, non-objective, representational or hyper realism this is the best way to start your painting.

2. Using Thick Paint too Quickly

Don’t put the paint down too thickly or too quickly. It is very hard to control even by a very experienced artist. Start with thin paint. Artists that create thick paintings don’t start out painting in thick paint. In fact except with a few exceptions all paintings start with thin layers of paint. Each successive layer of paint is built up thicker and thicker until the surface is as thick as the artist wants. If you paint too thick early on you will end up fighting the paint and it will be almost impossible to get the subtlety you want and can end with a painting that is overworked. If you have the paint too thick and you can’t work with it take off the excess paint. Scrape it down with a palette knife and start again. Many times scraping can be a great way to regain control of your painting so don’t be afraid to scrape away paint when it is necessary and then go back into the area and repaint it.

3. Using too Much White
Using white paint incorrectly can lead to pasty color mixtures. Pasty lifeless color mixtures is one of the most common problems beginning oil painters have when they paint with oils. The problem arises because they overuse white. White paint is necessary in order to mix literally thousands of colors however you only want to use it as needed. Many new artists reach for the white paint first. It should be one of the last things to reach for when creating your lighter color mixtures. Remember when you use white it causes your paint mixture to lose intensity and shift slightly cooler. The best way to avoid lifeless color mixtures is to use this basic approach to your color mixtures.
1. Mix your colors together to get the hue of the color first(using as few paints as possible)
2. Lower the intensity of your color mixture as needed afterwards
3. If the color mixture needs to be lightened then add white.
Tip: Also never use white and black in the same mixture as a beginning painter.

Doing these things will help you to mix bright clean colors.

4. Focusing on Details not Form Shadowing

Almost every person when they start to learn oil painting makes this mistake. It’s hard not to fixate on the little details but, that is exactly what we do. We jump right in and try to define every one of those wonderful details and for some reason it never turns out right. We need to start with the correct form shadows. Remember those little details need to be on top of a layer of correct values and colors. So when you begin painting use the following procedure.
1. Start with the basic light and dark values and colors of your object.
2. Then continue to modify your colors and values to include the light tones, middle values, highlight, core shadow(if it has one), dark tones and reflected light.
3. Once you have all those form shadows defined then you add the small details. Details need to conform to an objects form shadowing.

Doing this will allow you to paint convincingly.

5. Using Too Small of a Brush
When we first begin to paint it’s hard not to be intimidated. This usually leads to grabbing a smaller brush. It seems much less intimidating. This is probably the biggest mistakes beginning painters make. Using small brushes in the beginning instead of larger brushes. It creates a couple of problems first you add considerably more time to finishing your painting. Secondly when you paint using smaller brushes you miss larger relationships. So next time you find yourself reaching for that small brush go large instead. if you start with large brushes, then transition to medium size brushes and end with small brushes you will have a   greater variety of marks which will give your painting more visual impact.


Painting Techniques and Tips: It’s all About the Angle


The Angle of the Brush is Key to Learning to Paint

When painting no matter how long you have done it it’s always best to remember the basics. Sometimes this doesn’t happen either because you are just learning and still figuring out exactly what to do or you have experience painting aren’t giving it much thought. It’s the most basic of concepts and yet it has one of the greatest impacts on the look of your painting, it’s the angle you hold your brush in relation to the canvas. Using a paint brush at an angle close to 90 degrees to the canvas will cause the paint you apply to  mix with whatever paint is on the canvas or if there is already thick paint on the canvas then applying paint this way will carve into the layers of paint on the canvas. However when painting with a brush at an angle that is almost parallel to the canvas it will lay the paint onto the surface differently, spreading it on almost like butter on toast, when using this stroke on an area with thick paint layers this will lay down paint onto of the earlier layers of paint beneath. Varying the angle of your stroke somewhere between these two extremes will give you slightly different effects, somewhere between carving through the paint and spreading it over the paint beneath. Experiment with the possibilities and your control over your painting will increase dramatically.

Learning to Paint Landscapes

Painting the Landscape Outdoors

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There is no better way to learn to paint the landscape than to get outside and paint it live and on location. People did this for hundreds of years.  To learn to paint the landscape an artist went out into nature to learn to understand depth, perspective and most importantly color. This was an important part of the training of any artist so they could paint landscapes that felt natural and believable.

Entering the 20th century photography became more affordable. Many artists began to use photography as reference for their landscape painting this trend continued to become more and more common until by the later part of the 20th century most artists used just photography and didn’t even bother going outside to learn to paint. Many times they hadn’t visited the location they were painting they were painting from other people’s photographs. The problem with using this photography is the art suffered from using photographs.

Some of you may be asking yourselves why is using photography a problem? What does it matter if one uses photography to paint a landscape. The are several problems the biggest is no photograph sees color as well as the human eye. Our eyes can see and detect color in a way that cameras can compete with on their best day. They have yet to make a camera that can compete with the human eye. The next problem in photos are the way they reproduce shadows. In photographs shadows lose their depth so it’s always very evident when someone has painted from photos because the shadows in their paintings are flat and lifeless.  Photos are always taken with a photo lens that has a camera distortion. Different lens lengths will all distort the photos differently. If you don’t correct this distortion by leaving this in your paintings it will be a clear sign that you used a photograph. This is why it is better to learn to create landscapes by being out in the landscape. Artists learned these drawbacks of using photographs so artists began to return to nature.

A movement started back in the 1970’s to get artists back out into nature and learn to draw and paint better landscapes. This movement was called painting or drawing in “Plein Air”,it’s a french term for drawing or painting outdoors. I believe in the importance of Plein Air painting and drawing though I find it  a little ironic that we have come full circle to learning to paint the same ways they did over a hundreds of years ago.

To learn more about drawing or painting landscapes take one of my outdoor art classes where we visit wonderful places around Boise and learn the art of creating wonderful landscapes.

How to Paint Landscapes

How to Paint the Landscape, It’s a Process


There are hundreds of books that describe how to paint landscapes. I usually can’t stand most of these so called instructional books because there isn’t enough information on the process used to create a finished landscape. Before I start I will assume the reader has a basic understanding of color, color mixing and working with oil paint. If not you may not get as much out of this article. The good news is I have plenty of blog posts that talk about the fundamentals of oil painting. Now let’s return to the landscape painting. When I start a landscape I look for something that catches my attention which usually is the light and the color. I have always been fascinated by color and I am drawn to the artists who use it and use it well. I was raised in Arizona where the sun it intense and bright even sometimes overwhelming. This light reveals the wonderful color of the Senora Desert which I enjoy painting because of it’s diversity. As I travel looking for inspiration I am looking for the color and light that I find so fascinating. Once I find something that inspires me the real fun begins. That means it’s time to start painting and my paintings almost always start with the drawing.

Where to Start 1. The Drawing

Drawing is the most important thing in you painting because it defines the structure, perspective and edge relationships. It helps to work out initial ideas of composition and most importantly it helps you understand what needs to be changed to make the drawing and eventually the painting to look better. A solid drawing is the foundation of a good painting. Never underestimate the importance of a good under drawing. Many times I draw out my paintings completely. Especially if they are complex subjects or compositions. Most of my drawings are completely free hand to describe the gesture and composition. This time I used the grid method for proportion and perspective. There are several reasons to use grids other than trying to copy photographs to get accurate placement, the reason this time was to help the perspective or size proportion of the foreground vs. the bluff and mountains in the background. I used an hb charcoal pencil to begin the grid. I divided my 48″ x 36″ canvas into six inch squares which worked out to be 6 rows and 8 columns. I used several sources for reference, about four photos, as well as 2 plein air paint sketches and one studio painting using these I drew out my composition. Changing and positions of cactus and redrawing bushes that didn’t look right or were unclear. With something as complex as this drawing I began to wash in some basic colors as I develop the drawing. This paint is very thin about the consistency of  whole milk or half and half. It’s slightly transparent and doesn’t hardly cover the charcoal lines. This bit or color helped to clarify the sky from the background and so forth. I wasn’t done the with drawing of the foreground, but these areas of color helped me as I continued to draw in the foreground. I quickly saw some problems in the foreground I decided to place the same sort of bushes from the right side on the left side as well, that way the right and left sides of the painting would look unified and I could use the repeating shapes and their relationships to create more depth in the painting.


2. The Rough in

After I finished my drawing I began to lay in my basic colors and values. I kept the paint thin about the consistency of half and half. I thinned my paints using turpenoid(basically a refined paint thinner) not turpentine. I tried to get the values and colors as accurate as possible and I worked until I covered the entire surface of the canvas to see how the colors would look in context to one another. I am someone who really needs all the canvas covered in order to decide what to change. I am made the colors more vibrant than they naturally were, I played up the blue and violets in shadow colors in the background that way the yellows, oranges and warm reds would feel brighter. Some of the colors were flat in through the rocks,  saguaros and sky.  It’s not apparent in the photo but the paint was too thin to cover the drawing underneath. The rough in is just that your filling in the basic colors so you can see the basic colors together then with the second layer of paint you cover up the under drawing, strengthen the colors, and put in the half tones and more details and or smooth transitions of color. I put a second layer of thin paint over the sky. The first layer of oil paint had already dried. I worked quickly to get the second layer of paint down quickly so I could work wet into wet. That way I could blend and easily soften any edges in the sky that seemed too harsh and add subtle colors as needed. The paint was kept thin so as not to create texture, texture catches the eye and has a tendency to advance(too much texture in the background makes the background push forward and compete with the foregound) so keep the least amount of texture in the background, slight textures in the middle ground and the most texture in the foreground. This being such a big painting it took a lot of time to cover the canvas. So I continued with the rough in

3. Rough In Continued-Try to Get the Canvas Covered

As I continued to work to cover the canvas I decided I wanted to put a second layer on the mountains to correct some of the drawing. So the basics shapes I modified some things were left in other shapes I took out completely. I looked for the lighter values and smaller shapes to clarify what is happening on the bluff. The previous picture looks flat and without a lot of form. I looked for changes in direction on the bluff I looked for where the wall was flat and where it popeds out a bit or cut back a bit. The changes in direction will change value and color slightly so basically I took the large shapes and added the smaller shapes which represent the changes in direction. These read as details.  I also added detail to the furthest ridges in the background some of the initial drawing was clumsy so I redefined and redrew that area in paint. I got to a point where I was satisfied with the background so I returned to work on the foreground.

I made the contrast on the front bushes in the foreground much brighter. I needed more contrast of value and color in the foreground and less in the background if I didn’t do this the background would try to jump into the foreground and the painting would appear flat. This stage is kind of like cleaning a messy garage where there is a time while you are cleaning that it looks messier than when you started. So as I continued to workout basic shape and ideas some areas looked almost finished while others not only look unfinished but completely wrong. I wasn’t worried because this was still the “rough in” stage. There is a saying with painting or drawing that it has a life cycle to a painting or drawing there are times when you are bringing the art to life and other times when you are killing it, this bringing art to life and killing it can happen several times on long paintings or drawings. The important thing is to quit working on the art when it is coming to life once again.

When things don’t look right in the artwork don’t get too discouraged,  stick to your plan that will help to stay motivated and likely end in a successful piece of art. Here was my game plan because too much of the painting was a mess at this point. The front bushes didn’t look right they were frumpy and clumsy. The little multi-branched cactus behind the bush on the left was too distracting. So I took mental notes about what was working and what was not working in the painting. The important thing at this point was to get the entire canvas covered and then I could make better notes about what I would change. Biggest Changes I decided to make at this point were

1. Soften the mid-ground Trees in the middle of the painting

2. Repaint the bushes in the foreground especially the largest one that seemed to glow.

3. Repaint the rocks and dirt in the front to clarify, give more detail and help the foreground come forward.

4. Background cliffs on the left were confusing and unclear I needed to restudy the values and shapes to clarify that area.


4.  Second Paint Layer – Refining and Developing This was a very important stage of the painting. I went back and made the corrections I noted earlier and the painting was really starting to come together after the changes. I used thicker paint in the foreground to not only cover any left over under drawing but many develop and clarify the half tones. The paint I used in the second layer was thicker about the consistency of soft sour cream or softened butter. I took my time to develop the details in the foremost bush in the foreground. I also did a little redrawing of the other front bushes changing their shapes and redefining their colors. There are still areas that haven’t been touched since the” rough in” like the saguaros. The reason for this was I knew that if I didn’t get the foreground to work correctly with the bushes and rock and dirt it wouldn’t matter how well done the saguaros were painted. So I was still looking  at the broad relationships such as are the shapes interesting enough, is there enough contrast in the foreground and less contrast in the background, is there a definite middle ground and are there any colors too bright or in the wrong place . I began to introduce more texture into the bushes and the rocks and earth. This was helping but it still looked like I needed to increase the contrast in the foreground overall with brighter lights and richer darks. The rocks and dirt weren’t finished nor did they look convincing so I noted that I needed to change that as well. I used a very direct type of painting technique there was no glazing, or even dry brushing it was painted with opaque colors over other opaque colors. There were places that I still hadn’t addressed, because there were still too many big issues to resolve between the background and foreground. So I continued to tackle the big issues.


 5. Second Layer Continued and Final Touches

So I darkened the trees in the middle ground these were silhouetted against the brighter light of the background and helped to separate the background from foreground. I finished the bushes and the rocks and dirt which I gave more details higher contrast and help the foreground to come forward visually. I finally finished the saguaros and then decided to darken them slightly again to increase contrast. I softened the multi-branched cactus. I made sure to keep the reds in the rocks and dirt in the foreground slightly bluer red so it didn’t read as warm light. I needed the oranges and yellow on the distant mountains to be the only colors to look warm. If the red of the rocks and dirt had been too warm or orange red they would have felt like they were in light not shadow. With all these changes finally I was happy with the painting and it did everything I wanted. So it was time to stop and call it finished.

Here is the final painting below


Mixing Colors: Paint and Tinting Strength

Mixing Colors:

Tinting Strength of Colors

All colors have a different tinting strength. For instance on our palette yellow have the least tinting strength you will need  more yellow(about 2/3 more than red to get an orange mixture .  Now I don’t want to start getting into recipes just note you will generally need more yellow. Blue is higher in tinting strength than red in general. A word of caution our green blue has the highest tinting strength of any color the palette  you will normally use ten times less Thalo blue to a mixture or less so for a green it would be 10 to one: 10 parts yellow to one part Thalo blue(green blue) a little of this blue goes a very very long way.

Just in general to get a feel for what I am saying about tinting strength or portions of color, lets talk about creating grays with black and white, to get a #6 on the value scale you can usually mix equal parts white and black, to mix a step# 7 you need to add 4 parts white to 1 part black, to mix a step #8 you may need to add 16 parts white to 1 part black,  to mix a step #9 you may need to mix 40 parts white to 1 part black to get to step 10# you may need to add 100 parts white or more to 1 part black. You should see that as you go higher up the value the amount of white needed doesn’t just double or even triple it rises quickly the higher you make the value.  This tinting strength principle applies in general to any paint color.  if I have a red that is a #6 on the value scale and I want to make it a #10 I could need as much a 100 parts white to one part red.

This is something to be aware I have seen students going through all the right steps to get a certain color only to forget this principle. They end up fighting to get a light gray a number #9 or something on the value scale. Normally they have this huge puddle of gray and they have used up their white puddle and their mixing puddle is a step #7 needing to lighten but 2 steps in value. I sit down squeeze out more white take a pea sized bit from their color puddle and add 6 to 7 times as much white and there is the color they needed . What went wrong is there wasn’t enough white in their mixture. To try and  make the entire puddle light enough I  would have had to add a 150ml of white to their puddle to make it light enough but instead I took just a bit from the original mixing pile so I could add the needed amount of white to get the right mixture .

The best way to avoid burning through more paint than you are prepared to use try this method of keeping in mind the tinting strength of your paint and you will be able to control the accuracy of your color mixtures but you will also control how much paint you use. Further this is a tip to help your control your color mixtures even better.

Start with the color you need for the color mixture to be or the value you need it to be so if I am painting a sky and I need a light blue I will start be pulling out a small pile of white paint. Then I add small bits of blue to that white until I have the value of light blue I want  if I need to make the blue greener or more violet add small bits of green or purple to shift the hue it shouldn’t take much the value shouldn’t shift much unless you are adding a very dark blue even then a small amount of white will lighten the value of the mixture to where you will need it. If you are creating a dark mixture start with your dark color and then lighten it as needed with lighter colors to control the value shifting the hue and chroma as needed this will help you control your color mixture much easier. So always remember the tinting strength of the paints you use.