Icing Color Theory and a Color Chart

I want to tell you something about mixing colors. And I've got a tiny little angel in my arms right now. And some Builder Guys knocking out walls in the back room of my house. And I have to pick up my son from school in about 20 minutes. So let's just get right to it, shall we? **

Because I love you all, I'm going to start at the beginning. And by "beginning" I mean "the primary colors." And those would be Red, Yellow, and Blue. They are the colors that make up all the other colors.

For example, if you mix red and yellow together... you get orange. If you mix yellow and blue together, you'll find yourself looking at green.

And what happens when you mix red and blue together? That's right... you get purple. Or violet. Or aubergine. You can call it whatever you want to... but if you mix red and blue together, you're going to come up with a color that lies somewhere between them on our color scale. And since we have purple on BOTH ends of our spectrum now...

...it only makes sense to wrap it around into a circle. This is the color wheel. It simply describes the relationship of each color to the colors surrounding it.

And as you continue to mix the colors together, the color wheel can get more detailed as you add colors like yellow-green and red-orange.

In case you are interested... the different squares or segments of the color wheel are called "hues." If you aren't interested... skip to the next photo.

Oh, here we are. All back together again. These colors are both red. They are both the same HUE. But... clearly, they are not the same color. So what's the difference?

I am so glad you asked that question. (What? *I* asked that question? Why, so I did. I'm so glad I asked that question of myself then.) When you mix icing colors, you start with white (or at least white-ish) icing. If you are making red icing, the icing goes from white, to pink, to darker pinks and then finally red. And at some point your icing is as red (or as navy or regal purple) as it's going to be. At that point, your color is saturated. And if you want it to be a deeper or darker color...you're going to have to add something deeper or darker.

The tints and shades and saturated colors aren't just for red.

In fact, every hue imaginable has its own set of tints and shades. And that's fantastic and all... but let's see how this helps us actually MAKE our own icing colors just the way we want them.

Let's make this color. Start with what you know.

I'm just going to go a little crazy here and assume that you know it's green.That means if fits between yellow and blue on the color chart.

But would you say it is more of a yellow-green or more of a blue-green?

Look a little closer. Does it look more at home between 1 and 2 or between 2 and 3? (The answer -- it's a yellow-green.)

Given that it's a yellow-green, we know that it is somewhere between Column E and Column G on our chart. Can you guess where it is exactly? I'll give you a hint.

It's here. F3 is our exact color. Now that we know where we are going, we need to figure out how to get there.

Food colors are not pure colors. They are already a mix of multiple colors. They are different hues, shades, and tints. These are the green food color options we have. It doesn't matter which color you start with...as long as you can find it on the color chart.   

Let's say that you start with Electric Green. Remember, we are trying to make the color in the F3 square. Electric Green is both lighter and more yellow than the color we want. Since our target color is closer to the blues than our initial color, we will have to add blue to the electric green. You can see that it is also lower on the chart, which means it is lighter.  So we will also have to add something to darken the green. We need something blue and something dark. We can add dark blue, or we can add blue and black, or even Forest Green since Forest Green is both bluer and darker than Electric Green and our target color.

What if we start with Forest Green instead? It is actually close to the same darkness as our target color. It is also a little bit to the left (blue-ish side) of our target color. To bring it back to the right, we need to add something yellow. We could add electric green or even just regular old yellow to make our target color.

(An important distinction -- even though Electric Green is lighter than Forest Green, the Electric Green food color is not going to make your icing color lighter. If you add Electric Green ICING, it would make the Forest Green colored icing lighter. Obviously, white icing or white food color would do that as well.)

To sum it all up...all the colors are related to each other. Figure out where you want to go and then figure out where you are. The rest is as easy as moving left and right and up and down.

Icing Color Graph

Click HERE to print your own COLOR CHART.

**Side note -- Every time I say a sentence like this to my 3 year old, she says, " My name is NOT Shalwee."


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