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Does blue and yellow make black?

Does blue and yellow make black?

Many people have learned that mixing the primary colors blue and yellow together will make the secondary color green. However, some may be surprised to discover that combining blue and yellow can also result in making the color black. In this article, we will explore the color theory behind mixing blue and yellow, look at factors that determine whether the result is green or black, and provide examples to demonstrate how to achieve a black outcome from blue and yellow pigments.

The Basics of Mixing Blue and Yellow

In color theory, blue and yellow are considered complementary colors. This means they are opposite each other on the color wheel. When complementary colors are mixed together, they have the potential to neutralize each other and create a gray or black shade.

The primary colors in art are red, blue and yellow. When you mix primary colors together, they make secondary colors:

– Red and blue make purple
– Blue and yellow make green
– Red and yellow make orange

When all three primary colors are mixed together, they theoretically make black. This is because the combination of all the colors absorbs all the light wavelengths, leaving no hue visible.

So in theory, mixing the primary colors blue and yellow should result in the secondary color green. However, depending on the exact shades used and the ratio of the mix, blue and yellow can also produce black.

Why Blue and Yellow Can Make Black

Here are some of the key factors that explain why combining blue and yellow paint or pigments can potentially make black:

– Using darker or duller shades of blue and yellow rather than bright hues. Dark blue contains more black pigment than light blue. Mustard yellow is muted compared to bright lemon yellow. Darker versions of blue and yellow are closer to black on the color wheel.

– Mixing complementary colors like blue and yellow in equal proportions. When balanced ratios are used, the colors neutralize each other. Uneven mixing leads to one hue dominating and influencing the final color.

– Adding white to the mix. Adding white makes colors lighter. Removing white can make colors darker. So adding white when mixing blue and yellow gives green, but mixing blue and yellow without white darkens the blend.

– Using opaque rather than transparent pigments. Opaque, dense pigments subtract light. Combining dense mineral blues and earth yellows blocks light penetration and darkens the mixture.

Examples of Blue and Yellow Making Black

Here are some examples of blue and yellow pigments that can be combined to make a black color for painting:

Blue Pigment Yellow Pigment
Indigo Raw umber
Prussian blue Yellow ochre
Ultramarine blue Mars yellow
Phthalo blue Cadmium yellow

Indigo is a dark midnight blue and raw umber is a brownish yellow. Combining opaque pigments like these at full strength in a 1:1 ratio neutralizes the hues and creates a very dark black.

Prussian blue is a slightly muted blue. Yellow ochre is a mustard earth tone. Mixed together they make a deep charcoal black.

Ultramarine is a moderately dark blue, while Mars yellow is a reddish opaque yellow. In equal amounts these form a black close to ivory black.

Phthalo blue is a synthetic greenish blue. Cadmium yellow is a lemony yellow. Combining these at full strength gives a black subtly tinted cool or green.

The key is using darker or muted versions of blue and yellow, in opaque paints, at full saturation, and mixing them evenly in a 1:1 ratio. This approach best allows the complement colors to neutralize each other into a black shade.

Trying the Blue and Yellow Black Mix

The best way to learn how mixing blue and yellow can make black is to try it yourself. Here are some tips:

– Choose paints opaquely and in darker shades. Avoid bright primary colors.

– Use the same amount of blue and yellow paint. Adjust ratios as needed.

– Mix completely to fully blend the two colors.

– Add white to lighten the mix towards green. Remove white to darken towards black.

– Use soft blending and feathering to transition the black into other areas smoothly.

– Allow to dry fully to see the final mixed color accurately.

Experiment with mixing your blue and yellow paints to observe how the complementary colors interact. Keep notes on paint brands, ratios and color outcomes. With practice you will become adept at mixing blue and yellow to produce the perfect black for your artistic needs.


While blue and yellow are theoretically expected to mix into green, through color theory we understand how those same primary colors can also blend into black. Factors like using darker or opaque pigments, removing white, and balancing the ratios allow the complement colors to neutralize and form black tones. By choosing suitable paints and carefully controlling the mixing process, artists can successfully mix blue and yellow to achieve black colors for painting. So don’t be limited to only green from blue and yellow. With the right approach, you can unlock a world of deep, dark blacks.