How to Mix Cream Colors When Painting

Mixing oil paints on a palette
Mixing oil paints on a palette. Frank Cezus/Getty Images

Question: How Do I Mix Cream Colors?

"How do I mix creams and their shades? What is the starting point? Titanium white and then what? I have tried various additions, and do not get the exact tone I need, a sort of off-white creamy ceramic color." -- Ezr

Answers:

  • I would mix a brown with white, such as raw sienna or burnt sienna, then raw or burnt umber. Add a little brown to some white, rather than white to some brown (for why see Color Mixing Tips). If this doesn't give you a cream you like, try adding a tiny bit of yellow and/or red (or orange) to warm up the mixture.
  • Try mixing yellow ochre, Naples yellow, or raw sienna with titanium white in varying amounts to see if you get the color you want.
  • If you're going to be using a lot of cream, I'd buy a tube of titanium buff (also called unbleached titanium) to use as the starting point instead, then add extra white to this to get various lighter creams.
  • You might try mixing different values of gray and then adding color to it until you get the desired result. Try Ivory Black, which is a slightly warmer black than Mars Black and Lamp Black, mixed with Titanium White to create a gray tone. Then add yellow ochre or yellow oxide, and raw sienna or burnt sienna in varying amounts to it until you get the desired color. The yellow ochre, yellow oxide, and raw sienna are more of a yellow hue while the burnt sienna is more of a red hue. 
  • You could also try using paints that are designated "flesh" colors made by many different art manufacturers. They come in a variety of hues and can be supplemented with titanium white, yellow ochre, burnt sienna and burnt umber to produce varying hues and shades of cream.

    *Note: Remember when mixing two colors that the darker paint will quickly overwhelm the lighter paint, so you always want to add the darker color slowly bit by bit to the lighter color in order not to end up with more paint than you need. 

    Mixing Shades of Cream

    • Do not try to create a shade of ivory by merely adding black to something that is a yellowish hue. Black mixed with yellow will give you an earthy green color.
    • Also, do not add blue, as blue and yellow combine to create green.
    • Burnt umber is an earth tone that is good to use to darken a cream color.
    • You can also add a bit of violet or purple to create varying shades of cream. The red in the purple adds the third primary color to the mixture and keeps it from becoming green.  Read Art Glossary: Primary Colors.

    What is Cream? 

    The cream is an off-white color that tends toward a yellow hue. Its name comes from the color of cream produced from cow's milk.  A shade of cream would be a cream color mixed with black, or its equivalent, to lower the lightness, making it a darker value or tone. 

    Some other names associated with off-white colors such as cream are beige, ecru, and ivory.