No, mixing the colors brown and green does not produce the color blue. When you combine paint pigments or light wavelengths for brown and green, the resulting color is actually a brownish-green shade. This is because brown is a darker, warmer color while green is brighter and cooler. Blue is a primary color and cannot be created by mixing brown and green.
The Basics of Color Mixing
To understand why combining brown and green yields a brownish-green color rather than blue, it helps to review some color theory basics.
Paint & Pigments
With paints and pigments, the colors you see result from substances that absorb some light wavelengths while reflecting others. For example:
- Brown absorbs blues and greens, reflecting mainly reds and oranges
- Green absorbs reds, reflecting mainly blues and greens
When you mix brown and green paint, the resulting color retains mainly yellows from the brown and greens from the green. This yields an earthy, olive-type shade rather than a true blue.
Light & Additive Mixing
When mixing colored lights, the principle of additive color mixing applies. This means:
- Red, green and blue are the primary colors
- Mixing two primary colors makes the secondary colors
- Red + Green = Yellow
- Green + Blue = Cyan
- Blue + Red = Magenta
Neither brown nor green are primary colors in the additive model. Therefore, mixing light wavelengths for brown and green together can never make blue. At best, combining their wavelengths yields a brownish-green.
Breaking Down Brown and Green Pigments
To understand specifically why mixing brown and green pigments doesn’t make blue, let’s examine common pigments used to make brown and green paints:
Typical Brown Pigments
- Raw umber – made from iron oxide and manganese
- Burnt umber – made from earth pigments such as iron and manganese oxides
- Raw sienna – made from iron oxide
- Burnt sienna – made from earth pigments such as iron oxide
The main theme is iron oxides, which impart a strong reddish-orange hue.
Typical Green Pigments
- Sap green – made from mixing yellow and blue pigments
- Phthalo green – synthetic pigment with strong yellow undertones
- Viridian – mixture of chrome oxide and cobalt
- Emerald green – made from copper acetoarsenite
These green pigments get their color mainly from a combination of yellows and blues. When mixed with the warm, reddish browns the result takes on yellow-olive overtones rather than looking blue.
Trying the Mixture
The best way to observe the effects of mixing brown and green is to try it yourself. Here’s a simple experiment you can do with paint or markers:
- Start with a brown pigment like burnt umber or raw sienna
- Add a small amount of a green pigment such as sap green or viridian
- Mix the colors together thoroughly
Once combined, observe the color closely. It should appear as an earthy, muddy sort of green with yellow/olive undertones. The color may be able to be described as greenish-brown or brownish-green, but it will not look distinctly blue.
To achieve a true blue, you would need to add a pigment containing blue, such as phthalo blue or ultramarine. Brown and green together simply do not contain enough blue pigmentation to yield a true blue color.
Why the Perception of Blue?
If brown and green mixed together actually makes a muddy, olive-green color, why do some people perceive the combination as a sort of blue? There are a few possible explanations for this:
When you view fine brown and green stripes or dots next to each other, they may seem to mix optically into a more bluish color. However, optical mixing is different than actually combining pigments.
Cyan as Blue
Some people may equate cyan (a greenish-blue) with true blue. So a greenish-brown may remind them of cyan and seem bluish.
The brain has a tendency to perceive color as constant even under different lighting. So the brownish-green may retain a subtle bluish tint that ties it to green, even as the lighting and context change.
The surrounding colors in a scene can impact color perception. So a brownish-green may take on subtle blue undertones if surrounded by true blues.
Color perception is ultimately subjective. Some people’s eyes and brains may simply interpret the brown-green in a way that accentuates subtle blue undertones.
Does Mixing Brown and Green Paint Make Blue?
In summary, the direct answer is no – combining pure brown and green pigments does not result in a true blue color. The mixture ends up as more of an earthy, olive/muddy sort of green depending on the exact pigments used. This brownish-green may take on subtle blueish appearances under certain conditions, but never achieves a pure, saturated blue.
There are a few exotic pigments that can mix shades of brown and green to make a true blue. However, these do not apply to normal modern paints:
- Maya blue – Made from indigo dyes and palygorskite clay. Used in ancient Mesoamerica.
- Egyptian blue – Made from limestone, sand and copper. Used in ancient Egypt.
But again, these types of pigments are not found in everyday paints. So for practical purposes, the rule is that brown and green do not mix into blue.
While brown and green can yield pleasant earthy tones when mixed, combining these two particular pigments does not result in a true blue color. This is because neither brown nor green contains enough blue pigmentation. Blue is a primary color that cannot be created from mixing these secondary colors in painting. However, there are some rare mineral pigments used in ancient times that could mix shades of brown and green into a rich blue. But for regular paint mixing, brown + green will equal a brownish-green rather than blue.