How to Mix Coral Acrylic Paint and Make a Fun Summer Painting![Updated 2022]

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For fun summer vibes, you need to know how to mix coral acrylic paint! Coral is one of those amazing colors that is like the ambassador for summer, am I right? From flamingos to tropical flowers and even reef coral, it’s a must-have for a warm weather palette.

You may be thinking that to mix coral acrylic paint you just need to smoosh together some red with yellow and add some white. You wouldn’t be wrong but there’s a bit more to it than that.

To achieve different tones of coral acrylic paint, try mixing a variety of reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, and white. Experiment with the paint colors you have and make a note of what you did to come up with the exact mixture. Believe me, taking good notes when mixing acrylic paint are key and will save you so much time.

Don’t worry if you can’t afford to waste any paint trying to mix coral acrylic paint that is perfect for your next painting project. I’m going to show you the results of my experiment using different reds, oranges, and yellow as well as what happens when complementary colors are added.

Make sure to keep reading, though, because after the experiment you’ll get to test out your new coral paint mix with a fun summery painting tutorial. Ready to dive in? Let’s go!

How To Mix Coral Acrylic Paint Q & A

Four rows of coral colored painted spirals that are tinted with more white as you go from left to right.
1st Row: 3 parts Rose Azo (Pebeo Studio Acrylics), 1 part Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue (Liquitex Basics), and 1 part of Titanium White (Liquitex Basics)
2nd Row: 2 parts Quinacridone Magenta (Liquitex Basics), 1 part Cad. Yellow Medium, 1 part Titanium White
3rd Row: 1 part Alizarin Crimson (Liquitex Basics), 1 part Cad. Yellow Medium, 1 part Titanium White
4th Row: 1 part Cadmium Red Medium Hue (Liquitex Basics), 1 part Cad. Yellow Medium, 1 part Titanium White
NOTE: In each row, Titanium White is added in equal amounts to the base color (listed above) to lighten each coral paint mixture

When you’re learning how to mix coral paint, it’s important to note that you can create a wide variety of coral shades depending on how many different reds and yellows you have, as you can see in the image above.

I was kind of surprised by the mixture in the first row because I thought I’d like it more and I expected it to be more on the pink side. This is a perfect example of why you need to play around to really know how to mix coral paint so you end up with a color that you love.

Before getting into the experiment, I want to take a second to answer some questions I’ve seen regarding coral paint. It’s always worth spending a moment learning all about something before jumping into the deep end, right?

Q: Is Coral Pink Or Orange?

Actually, coral is both pink and orange and also red. Depending on how much of which pigment you use, and also how much white is added, you’ll either end up with an orange coral or a pink coral.

To learn all the ins and outs of the color, check out Shutterstock’s article that goes over the color origins and history of coral. They’ve also got some really interesting thoughts on the symbolism of the color.

If you want to try adding hidden meaning to your paintings, using colors that symbolize something or create a specific feeling is a cool way to do that. You can find out more in my using color to create a certain mood article.

Q: Are Salmon And Coral The Same Color?

To me, this is a potato potahto thing. Salmon is said to be pink with a touch of orange added. It’s described as being more pale or muted (dusty) than coral. Coral is said to be vibrant and more on the orange side.

I like to look at coral as an umbrella term for multiple tones using the same colors in varying degrees. Salmon would be classified as a tone under the umbrella of coral.

Q: Is Coral A Warm Or Cool Color?

I think most artists would agree that coral is a warm color. The colors that are used to mix coral acrylic paint are on the warmer side of the color wheel with the addition of white.

However, if you are looking at different tones of coral paint, you may find that some mixes end up being cooler than others and would, therefore, work really well with other cool paint colors.

Q: How Do I Make A Dark Coral Paint Color?

The easiest way to make a dark coral paint color would be to mix in a very small amount of black. Black, especially Mars Black, is very pigmented so you want to add it to your coral color very slowly.

If you want to play around with something a bit more interesting than black, try mixing in a complementary color. Complementary colors can be found on the opposite side of the color wheel from the pigment you’re trying to darken.

The complementary color can also be used to dull down your coral mix if you find it too vibrant for your liking.

Since coral is a mixture of red, pink, and orange, you would have a few options and would choose depending on which paint color your coral leans more toward.

Q: What Color Is Opposite Coral On The Color Wheel?

First, look at your shade of coral and decide which way it leans. Is it pink or red? Is it more of an orange? Knowing this will determine your best course of action.

If your coral paint is more red or pink, use green as your complementary color since green sits directly across from red on the color wheel. This works for pink as well because pink is just red lightened with white.

Now, if your shade of coral runs more toward orange, try adding a blue since that’s orange’s complimentary color.

You may want to play around with what greens and blues will work best and you might even want to try mixing your green and blue together to create a teal or turquoise.

Experimenting With How To Mix Coral Acrylic Paint

Experiment Disclaimer: I am not a scientist so I don’t have access to equipment to measure precisely. However, I have tried to do the best I can so you have a decent idea of what shade you’ll end up with if you use my recipes. Also, your colors may vary from mine if you use a different brand of paint than I did. Keep in mind, colors may also vary due to your device’s screen.

Now that we’ve gotten to know more about the color coral let’s see what types of coral tones I can come up with and what happens when we use complementary colors to darken them.

Colors Used To Make Coral

The Experiment Plan

I’m going to do two experiments, one using Cadmium Red Medium Hue for the base color and the other using Quinacridone Magenta.

If you look at the row headings you’ll notice that all of the paint colors listed are either yellow or orange.

The column headings will start with a straight mix of cad red medium, or quinacridone magenta, and whichever orange or yellow is in the corresponding row. For each one of these mixes, I used 3 parts yellow or orange to 5 parts red or magenta.

The next column will show the result of adding 1 part of Titanium White to the mixture. The rest of the columns will show the results when blue, green, turquoise and black are added to the mixture from the second column (the base color from the first column with 1 part Titanium White added).

The turquoise will be made by mixing 1 part Phthalo Green to 3 parts Phthalo Blue. Then, I’ll add an equal amount of Titanium White to the mixture.

The blue, green, turquoise and black colors will be added in very small amounts. To try to make these amounts the same, I will pick up a very small bead of paint with the corner of my brush.

What is a part? A part is any amount used. So, let’s say you decided to start with a pea-sized amount of paint. When you start making up your recipes be sure that each part is the same amount, or as close as you can get it.

Earlier I mentioned adding 3 parts of the yellow or orange paint to 5 parts of the red or magenta paint and then adding 1 part of white to the base recipe. That would mean 3 pea-sized amounts of yellow or orange to 5 pea-sized amounts of red or magenta and then 1 pea-sized amount of white added. I hope that makes sense.

Each recipe is listed so feel free to take notes of your favorites to re-create them later!

How To Mix Coral Acrylic Paint Using Cadmium Red Medium Hue

A paint swatch chart used to learn how to mix coral acrylic paint with Cadmium Red Medium as part of the base recipe.
1st Row: 3 parts Lemon Yellow + 5 parts Cadmium Red Medium Hue (base recipe), base recipe lightened with Titanium White (added 1 part to 1 part), lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Blue added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Green added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of turquoise added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Mars Black added
2nd Row: 3 parts Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue + 5 parts Cadmium Red Medium Hue (base recipe), base recipe lightened with Titanium White (added 1 part to 1 part), lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Blue added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Green added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of turquoise added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Mars Black added
3rd Row: 3 parts Yellow Oxide + 5 parts Cadmium Red Medium Hue (base recipe), base recipe lightened with Titanium White (added 1 part to 1 part), lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Blue added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Green added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of turquoise added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Mars Black added
4th Row: 3 parts Mars Orange + 5 parts Cadmium Red Medium Hue (base recipe), base recipe lightened with Titanium White (added 1 part to 1 part), lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Blue added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Green added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of turquoise added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Mars Black added
5th Row: 3 parts Orange Yellow + 5 parts Cadmium Red Medium Hue (base recipe), base recipe lightened with Titanium White (added 1 part to 1 part), lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Blue added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Green added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of turquoise added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Mars Black added

Worth A Mention:

  • Using Cad Red Medium will make an orange coral
  • Yellow Oxide and Mars Orange are both more earthy colors which make a deeper coral paint mixture
  • You can create smokey purples, dusty blues, and  warm brown colors when adding complementary colors

Using Quinacridone Magenta To Mix Coral Acrylic Paint

A paint swatch chart showing how to make coral paint colors using Quinacridone Magenta as part of the base mixture.
1st Row: 3 parts Lemon Yellow + 5 parts Quinacridone Magenta (base recipe), base recipe lightened with Titanium White (added 1 part to 1 part), lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Blue added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Green added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of turquoise added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Mars Black added
2nd Row: 3 parts Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue + 5 parts Quinacridone Magenta (base recipe), base recipe lightened with Titanium White (added 1 part to 1 part), lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Blue added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Green added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of turquoise added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Mars Black added
3rd Row: 3 parts Yellow Oxide + 5 parts Quinacridone Magenta (base recipe), base recipe lightened with Titanium White (added 1 part to 1 part), lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Blue added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Green added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of turquoise added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Mars Black added
4th Row: 3 parts Mars Orange + 5 parts Quinacridone Magenta (base recipe), base recipe lightened with Titanium White (added 1 part to 1 part), lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Blue added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Green added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of turquoise added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Mars Black added
5th Row: 3 parts Orange Yellow + 5 parts Quinacridone Magenta (base recipe), base recipe lightened with Titanium White (added 1 part to 1 part), lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Blue added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Phthalo Green added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of turquoise added, lightened base recipe with a small bead of Mars Black added

Worth A Mention:

  • Magenta gives you various pink coral colors
  • You can achieve quite a few different purple paint colors with these color mixtures
  • Mars Orange and Yellow Oxide mixed with Quinacridone Magenta kind of reminds me of Alizarin Crimson

Other Colors To Add To Your Coral Paint Palette

If you’re not sure what colors go well with coral, you’ve got options, my friend. This is a very condensed list of paint colors that work with coral but there are many more out there.

  • Green
  • Blue
  • Turquoise
  • Teal
  • Grey
  • Red
  • Orange
  • Brown

Make sure to check out this curated list of coral color palettes for even more color combo inspiration.

Easy Acrylic Painting Tutorial: Tropical Reef Coral

Finished painting tutorial of a piece of reef coral on a turquoise background using your favorite coral color made during the "how to mix coral acrylic paint" experiment.

Let’s have fun with a simple painting, with a fun summer feel, to practice how to mix coral paint. Reef coral is really easy to draw because there aren’t any straight lines and they don’t require any special technique. It’s a very basic shape that needs to be imperfect to look natural. So, if your paintbrush slips, or something, don’t worry about it. That will just make your coral look even more realistic.

Reference Photo

A reference photo of a piece of white imitation reef coral against a black canvas background.

To give you a reference for the reef coral, you can use the above image of a piece of imitation white coral that I have as a decoration in my bathroom. If you look closely, you can see that it has lots of bumps and twisty bits. We’ll be using highlights and shadows to really make those perfect imperfections stand out.

Gather Your Materials

Two white palettes, one with a bright turquoise and the other with different shades of coral paint mixes.
  • Red, pink, or magenta paint (I used Quinacridone Magenta)
  • Yellow paint (I used Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue)
  • Green paint (I used phthalo green)
  • Blue paint (I used phthalo blue)
  • White paint (I used Titanium White)
  • Something to mix your paint on (palette, paper plate, etc.)
  • Something to mix your paint with (palette knife or an old credit card)
  • Jar of clean water
  • A couple of sheets of paper towel
  • A rag to wipe your paintbrush off
  • Something to paint on (canvas, cardstock, cardboard, etc.)
  • A piece of chalk, watercolor pencil, or regular pencil
  • A few different sizes of round paintbrushes
  • Reference photo (shown above)

Step One: Mix Up The Background Color

A white palette with two different shades of turquoise paint on it and some white paint off to the side.
I used a mixture of 3 parts Phthalo Blue, 1 part Phthalo Green, and 1/4 part Cadmium Yellow Medium, and then added Titanium White to lighten it
  • Start with a mix of equal parts blue and green paint and add a small amount of yellow to it (the yellow gives it almost an inner glow)
  • You can then add more blue if you want a blue turquoise or more green if you want a green turquoise
  • Start adding in white until you find a turquoise color that you like (remember, paint tends to dry darker than what it looks like on the palette)

Step Two: Paint The Background

Turquoise paint on a white palette and a piece of paper towel with the same color on it.
  • Remember that paper towel I listed above? Okay, grab that and loosely crumple it up
  • Get a bit of your turquoise paint and some white onto the paper towel
  • On a clean part of your palette, quickly and loosely swirl the turquoise and white slightly together on your paper towel so it looks marbled
  • Making swirls or figure eights, cover your entire canvas with the paint covered paper towel
  • Feel free to add more turquoise or more white to different spots on your canvas (I put more white in the upper left-hand corner and more turquoise in the bottom left-hand corner, in case you were wondering)
  • When you’re happy, let dry completely

Step Three: Roughly Sketch The Coral

A chalk outline of the white imitation reef coral onto the turquoise painted canvas.
Looks like a big squiggly mess of…..something, haha!
  • Grab your pencil, chalk, etc. and just generally sketch the outline of the reef coral from the reference photo
  • Feel free to change the shape to your personal liking
  • Don’t spend too much time on this part. It should loosely resemble the reference photo but don’t try to make it an exact match

Step Four: Mix Up Your Coral Color And Paint The Base Layer

The chalk outline of the reef coral completely painted in a custom coral paint mixture.
Kinda looks like I spilled a bottle of Pepto…..
  • If you haven’t already mixed up your coral paint, go ahead and make your color chart
  • Make sure to keep notes of how much of the different paint colors you mixed together so you know how to mix a coral paint that you like for future projects
  • Make enough paint to cover the entire piece of reef coral (I had to do two coats of the base coral paint color)
  • Paint your piece of coral using your largest round brush
  • Don’t get too picky about painting inside the lines. My paint brush had a mind of its own so it was all over the place. Those “outside the lines “mistakes” are now new pieces of coral
  • Once this is completely dry, take a damp brush and “erase” the chalk marks or watercolor pencil marks. If you used a regular pencil, use a clean eraser to gently erase the pencil lines or you could carefully paint over the pencil lines with your background color

Step Five: Mix Up Paint For The Highlights And Shadows

A white palette with four pink coral custom paint colors and a round paintbrush laying on top.
I used the base Quinacridone Magenta and Cadmium Yellow Medium mixture from the color chart above, and I added white to lighten. In my lightest highlight color, I added a bit more yellow just to keep it looking warmer, as if the sun would be hitting wherever I placed it on the reef coral.
  • Mix some white with a bit of your base color to make a highlight color
  • Feel free to grab one of the coral paint recipes using a complementary color from the Quinacridone Magenta color chart experiment that we did earlier
  • With the shadow color, you can have a bit of fun and go with a darker color like green, purple, or blue straight from the tube
  • If you want to stay in the safe zone with your shadow color, put some of your base coral paint mixture aside before you add too much white paint to it

Step Six: Add The Highlights And Shadows

A close-up of the reef coral painting tutorial to see the technique used to add shadows and highlights.
This is a great example of how, closeup, paintings can look like just a bunch of squiggles and lines but, when it’s further back, it actually looks like what it should!
  • Using your smallest round brush, start creating shadows along the outside edges of your reef coral with your darkest shade of coral paint. Keep in mind where your light source is in the background, which will depend on where you put your lightest color of turquoise paint because that will naturally look like where your light is coming from
  • Once you’ve finished with your outline shadows, continue the same process using your highlight coral paint mixture instead. This time, you want to concentrate your highlights wherever your light source would touch the reef coral
  • After you’ve finished your outline highlights, use the same coral paint color to make squiggle shapes on the inside of your reef coral. This is going to look sooooo strange but, don’t worry, it’ll all come together! (you can either copy the squiggle shapes I made or make your own, using the reference photo as your guide)
  • Next, wash out your smallest brush and dip back into your shadow color. Paint shadows directly underneath your highlight squiggles to make the shapes look sharp and craggy (if you separate your shadow placement further away from your highlight, it will make the bumps look more gradual and less defined
  • If you’re happy, you can stop here but I added little bits of bright white extreme highlights to mine to really make it pop. It’s not necessary but it’s my thing!
  • You can keep the highlights and shadows very loose and painterly or you can make them look more realistic by using your brush dry and removing most of the coral paint color before painting them in. This is called “dry brushing”
  • If you decide to dry brush, you don’t need much paint at all and don’t press your paintbrush down too hard. You’re basically going to “feather dust” your highlight color on
  • Keep in mind, dry brushing can be hard on your brush so if you don’t want to risk damaging the bristles, use an older brush for this part
  • Lastly, use a bit of your darkest turquoise paint, and the drybrush method, turn your round brush so that it is completely vertical and gently “feather dust” a shadow underneath the reef coral, in a horizontal motion
  • Let dry and sign your funky little summer painting!

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a better understanding of how to mix coral acrylic paint, you can use it in so many different ways! Flowers, of course, fruit still life paintings, even sunsets.

If you’re thinking that you need a summer painting that features the sun setting over the ocean, make sure to check out my article, “How to Paint a Sunset“, and my other article “How to Paint the Ocean“.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your paint. It gives you the perfect opportunity to see what your paint can do and before you know it, you’ll have so many awesome custom-made paint recipes, you’ll never wonder how to come up with a color again!

Feel like this article is helpful? Make sure to share it with your paint pals!

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