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Does green and yellow make brown?

Does green and yellow make brown?

When it comes to mixing colors, green and yellow are two primary colors that can be combined to create secondary colors. So what happens when you mix green and yellow? The resulting color is typically considered brown. In this article, we’ll explore why combining green and yellow makes brown, look at the color theory behind it, and see some examples of green and yellow making brown.

The Basics of Mixing Green and Yellow

Green and yellow are both primary colors on the artist’s color wheel. Primary colors are colors that cannot be created by mixing other colors together. The primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. When you mix two primary colors together, you get a secondary color as a result.

Green is made by mixing blue and yellow. When you mix an existing primary color (yellow) with a secondary color that already contains that primary color (green), the resulting color is a tertiary color – a mix of the three primary colors. Brown is a tertiary color, made up of all three primary colors – red, yellow, and blue.

So when green and yellow are mixed, the resulting color is brown because:

  • Green contains yellow (one of the primary colors)
  • Plus yellow itself (another primary color)
  • Creates brown, which contains all three primary colors

The Color Theory Behind Mixing Green and Yellow

The color theory behind mixing colors relies on the RGB (red, green, blue) and RYB (red, yellow, blue) color models. In RGB, the primary colors are red, green, and blue. In RYB, used for mixing pigments like paint, the primaries are red, yellow, and blue.

When it comes to light or digital colors, green and yellow make yellow. This is because in RGB color theory, green light mixed with yellow light makes a brighter yellow. However, paints, dyes, and inks rely on the RYB color model. Green paint contains blue, and yellow contains no blue. When mixed, the tiny particles blend together to make the brown color that contains all three primaries.

The overlap between the colors mixes to create brown:

  • Green has yellow and blue
  • Yellow has yellow
  • Combined this makes yellow, red, and blue = brown

So while green and yellow light makes yellow, green and yellow pigments make brown.

Examples of Mixing Green and Yellow

We can see the mix of green and yellow creating brown in action across art, design, and nature:

  • In painting, mixing green and yellow paint will result in a brown color.
  • In digital design, you can see the transition from green to yellow in a gradient pass through a shade of brown.
  • In nature, as leaves change from green to yellow in autumn, they transition through shades of brown.
  • Green and yellow flowers crossed will often create hybrids with brown petals or centers.
  • Green bananas and yellow ripe bananas will display speckles of brown in between.

There are many examples that show the blend of the two colors resulting in brown shades. Here are a few visual examples:

Mixing Green and Yellow Paint Green to Yellow Gradient Leaves Changing Color in Fall
Green and yellow paint mixing to make brown Green to yellow gradient with brown step Green to yellow leaves going brown

As you can see, in each case mixing green and yellow results in a brown color in between as the two primary colors blend together and overlap.

The Science of Mixing Pigments

On a molecular level, mixing pigments like paint, ink, or dyes creates a blending of colors. When the molecules of green and yellow pigment mix, they absorb and reflect different wavelengths of light that together make the color brown.

  • Yellow pigment molecules absorb blue light and reflect red and green light.
  • Green pigment molecules absorb red light and reflect green and blue light.
  • When combined, the reflected colors mix to make shades of brown.

This is why mixing green and yellow paint or similar pigments will always create brown tones – the reflected light mixes together. Other color combinations like red and blue make purple rather than brown shades.

The Psychology of the Color Brown

Interestingly, brown is the least popular color in terms of color psychology. Brown is often associated with:

  • Nature
  • Earthiness
  • Rustic vibes
  • Neutrality
  • Simplicity

While brown is not flashy, bold, or exciting, it is dependable and reliable. Marketers sometimes use brown for packaging or products to convey wholesomeness or craftsmanship. It brings to mind humble natural materials like wood, leather, stone, and earth.

When green and yellow mix to make brown, it can tap into some of these down-to-earth associations. Combining the vitality of green and the cheer of yellow results in the solidity of brown. This can be useful for designers and artists looking to create organic and earthy palettes and aesthetics.

Creating Different Shades of Brown

Not all browns are created equal! By adjusting the proportions of green and yellow, you can mix different shades and tints of brown.

More yellow results in browns with a golden, orange, or olive tone. More green brings out cooler ash or green-tinged browns. Adding white will lighten the brown to make tans or beiges. Darkening the mix with black results in richer earth tones and chocolate hues.

Getting creative with how you combine green, yellow, white, black, and brown allows you to mix up the brown shades. There is a whole spectrum of light, medium, and dark greens and yellows to work with too.

Other Ways to Make Brown

While green and yellow is the classic mix for making brown, it’s not the only way to produce brown tones. Here are a few other ways to make brown:

  • Mixing complementary colors orange and blue.
  • Combining primary and tertiary colors like red and green or purple and orange.
  • Overlapping split complements like red-orange and blue-green.
  • Blending analogous colors like red and orange or yellow and green.

You can also darken other colors with black or brown to create browns. Desaturating a vibrant color towards grey will also mute it down towards a brown.

That said, green and yellow remain the quintessential color duo for reliably mixing up a wide range of browns and earth tones.


Green and yellow seem like an unlikely color combination to make brown. However, the color theory of mixing primary pigments shows how the two distinct hues blend together to create the tertiary color brown. Both in light theory and pigment mixing, green and yellow overlap to form earthy brown tones.

Brown is an underrated neutral that brings stability and reliability. Mixing green and yellow to make brown allows you to access this grounded color, great for natural color palettes. With the right approach, you can mix diverse shades of brown by adjusting the green and yellow proportions.

So does green and yellow make brown? Absolutely. The combination of stability and vitality results in a down-to-earth brown, no matter what medium you use to combine the colors.