Skip to Content

Can red and green make brown?

Can red and green make brown?

Mixing colors together can create new and interesting shades. Red and green are primary colors that combine to make secondary colors. The question is, can mixing red and green paint make the tertiary color brown? The quick answer is yes, red and green can make brown when mixed together under the right conditions. Read on to learn more about how combining these two primary colors results in brown.

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors

Primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. These colors can’t be created by mixing other colors, but all other colors can be made by mixing the primary colors together.

Secondary colors are created by mixing two primary colors equally. For example:

– Red + Yellow = Orange
– Yellow + Blue = Green
– Blue + Red = Purple

Tertiary colors are made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color. Brown is a tertiary color made by mixing the primary color red with the secondary color green.

Mixing Red and Green Paint

To mix paint colors, you need to understand color theory. In painting, red, blue and yellow are primary colors. When you mix two primary colors, you get a secondary color:

– Red + Blue = Purple
– Blue + Yellow = Green
– Red + Yellow = Orange

Mixing two secondary colors results in a tertiary color. For example:

– Red + Green = Brown
– Red + Orange = Rust
– Blue + Purple = Slate

So by mixing the primary color red with the secondary color green, you can create the tertiary color brown.

Achieving the Right Brown

However, the specific shades of red and green you mix impact the brown color you create. To achieve a true brown, you’ll need:

– A warm red – Think scarlet or cadmium red. Cooler reds may skew the color violet.
– A cool yellow-green – Emerald or sap green work best. Blue-greens make the brown murky.

You’ll also need to use the right mixing ratio, about:

– 3 parts red
– 1 part green

Too much green shifts the tone olive or lime. Not enough mutes the vibrancy.

Mixing Pigments vs. Light

It’s important to note paint mixing follows the subtractive color model, combining pigments together. Light operates on an additive model, mixing different wavelengths to form other colors.

Red and green light combine to make yellow light. But with paint pigments, the particles absorb and reflect light differently, allowing red and green to mix into brown.

Trying the Red and Green Mix

Want to experiment with mixing red and green to make brown? Here are some tips:

– Use a warm, bright red like cadmium red medium.
– Pick a cool yellow-green like viridian or sap green.
– Start with 3 parts red to 1 part green.
– Adjust the ratio if the tone looks too red or green.
– Mixing yellow ochre adds an earthy quality.
– Add white to lighten the shade.
– Mixing in black will darken the brown.

Examples of Red and Green Mixing

Here are some examples of paints that mix red and green to create different shades of brown:

Red Green Brown Produced
Cadmium red medium Viridian green Milk chocolate brown
Alizarin crimson Sap green Rich walnut brown
Vermillion Verdigris Coffee brown

As you can see, adjusting the specific reds and greens allows you to mix a range of browns from warm chocolate tones to cool grey-browns.

Color Theory in Mixing Brown

Understanding color theory helps explain how mixing red and green makes brown. The different pigments in the paints absorb and reflect light selectively across the visual spectrum. When blended, the combined pigments produce a brown color by reflecting less red-orange and green light. Mixing complements like red and green also neutralizes the saturation, resulting in a more muted shade. Adjusting the ratio impacts how vivid or dull the final mixed color appears.

Brown in Nature

In nature, brown is a common color produced through a mix of other pigments. For example:

– Tree bark contains both red and green pigments, resulting in a brown exterior. The red comes from rubracell pigments while chlorophyll provides the green.

– Brown hair gets its color from two types of melanin – red/yellow pheomelanin and brown/black eumelanin. Their combination makes hair appear brown.

– Caffeic acid gives coffee beans their greenish hue. Roasting brings out the red pigments, making the beans turn brown.

As these examples show, brown arises naturally from a balance of red and green pigments found in plants, minerals, and animals. Red and green combinations are all around us in the colors of nature.

Uses for Mixed Browns

Browns made by mixing reds and greens are useful for painting:

– Earthy landscapes – Capture dirt pathways, cliffs and rocks by mixing sienna, ochre, and umber browns.

– Wood textures – Mix red and green to generate walnut, oak, and mahogany hues for painting furniture.

– Animal fur – Many fur and coat colors contain hints of red and green. Custom mix brown shades specific to each animal.

– Neutral backgrounds – Make rich solid browns by blending red and green as a harmonious base color for other brighter tones.

– Shadows – Add dashes of homemade browns to shade areas of a painting realistically.

So don’t overlook the importance of browns. Blending red and green to produce customized brown tones can enhance many subjects.

Pros and Cons of Mixed Browns

Mixing your own browns from red and green paints has some advantages and disadvantages compared to using premade browns:


– More control over the exact hue and tone
– Can match to a specific shade needed for the painting
– Allows natural subtle variations
– Bright, transparent glazing colors mix into vibrant browns


– Takes more time to mix than using convenient premixed paint
– Difficult to reproduce the same shade every time
– Premade earth tones are optimized for certain uses
– Hard to correct mistakes in mixing

Whether you prefer convenience or customization depends on your painting style and goals. But the ability to mix reds and greens opens up many more shades of brown.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about mixing red and green to create brown:

What two primary colors make brown?

Red and green are the primary colors that can be combined to make the tertiary color brown.

Why does red and green make brown?

The specific pigments in red and green paints absorb and reflect light in a way that when mixed creates what we see as a brown color.

What shade of red and green makes brown?

A warm, bright red like cadmium red medium works well with a cool yellow-green such as sap green or viridian to make an appealing brown.

What ratio of red to green makes brown?

A good starting point is a 3:1 ratio – 3 parts red paint to 1 part green. Adjust as needed based on the desired hue.

How do you darken browns?

Adding more green will dull and darken the brown. For deeper shades, mix in blacks or blues. Burnt umber is already a naturally deep, dark brown.


Brown may seem like a boring, mundane color, but realizing its connection as a mixture of two striking primaries – red and green – gives it more depth. Not only can you make brown by blending these colors, but you can craft a wide spectrum from rich mahogany to muted clay tones. Understanding color theory helps unlock the potential for mixing custom browns. So grab some red and green paint and experiment with blending your own characteristic shades. Who knows what unique tones you may create?