Matthias Maier | About mixing colors

About mixing colors

Realising my paintings is a process consisting of different steps and I like all of them. However, the actual process of painting is the most fascinating part for me. This is where the magic happens. This is when I stop working with my head and start working with my heart. It’s the moment when I deeply feel connected and with that profound calm happiness and peaceful satisfaction inside. I hardly find it in anything else I do in my life.

Colors and color combinations have always fascinated me. I could (and still can) spend hours watching artist shop windows, with boxes of colored pencils displayed. The pencils arranged in a perfect color spectrum. From yellow over orange to red, purple, blue and green shades or whatever. Color is so much more information than the hue itself. And color starts a conversation as soon as it is combined with other colors.

Early lessons

My father explained me the principle of cold colors and warm colors and how to combine them. I was not much older than 5 or 6 and we were making snake spirals. We hang over the radiator where they spun in the rising warm air. To decorate the snakes, I used wax pastels of four colors. Blue, green (cold colors) and yellow and red (warm colors). After my fathers lesson, I always did two kind of snakes: blue-yellow ones and green-red ones. I did them for years, even as a teenager. As soon as the heating was running, I made paper snakes and could spend hours watching them spinning around.

5 for all and all out of 5

I am still attracted by boxes of colored pencils or bottles of acrylics in the whole color range. However, I am mixing the colors I use in my paintings on my own. And I just use 5 basic hues: Yellow, blue, cyan, magenta and red. No black, no white. I can mix every single color of the rainbow with them. Mixing colors was the first lesson I got at art school and I practiced it since then. Over all these years, working with always the same basic colors, I got quite familiar with them and can pretty much predict what happens when I mix them together.

To achieve a desired hue, it is often not so much a matter of color as it is of warmth or coolness that needs to be added to the mix. Often, it’s a matter of drops of color that need to be added. Again, I work primarily with feeling rather than reason, but with knowledge of how the colors react to each other.

Matthias Maier | Bottles with Acrylic colors
All colors are made of magenta, red, cyan, blue and yellow

Painting doesn’t feel like work to me, although I have made it my profession. With time, passion and love I realize my ideas – the creative process. Investing time in carefully mixing the colors that I later use in a painting, is an important step in the preparation of a painting. My time, my feelings, my love is already in it, before I even made the first brush stroke.

Every painting is telling different stories on different levels. The secret of the creation of the colors, is one of them.


It would be so different if I used ready mixed colors. Apart from the fact that it is difficult to find the exact shade, it is a difference like fast food to home cooking. Only I know how much blue, cyan and magenta is in this purple. Only I know about the dab of yellow that gives it the perfect tone I was looking for. This procedure makes the colors I use precious to me. Even before they start telling their story on the paper.