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Does yellow and blue make green paint?

Does yellow and blue make green paint?

Mixing the colors yellow and blue together is a common way to try and make the color green when painting or doing art projects. But does combining yellow and blue paint or other media reliably produce a green color? The answer is more complex than it may seem at first. While yellow and blue are considered primary colors and green is a secondary color formed by mixing blue and yellow light, the pigments used in paint behave differently than pure light colors. The resulting shade when mixing blue and yellow paint depends on the specific pigments used and their relative proportions. With the right combination, green or a greenish hue can be produced by mixing blue and yellow paints.

The Basics of Mixing Paint Colors

When mixing paint colors, the rules are different than mixing light colors. Paints contain pigments that absorb and reflect different wavelengths of light. The color we see is the wavelengths that are reflected. When two paint pigments are blended, the resulting color is determined by the combination of wavelengths absorbed and reflected by the pigment particles.

Unlike mixing light, combining paint pigments does not reliably produce secondary colors. For example, mixing red and blue paint does not automatically make purple. The specific red and blue pigments used and their amounts determine the blended shade.

Why Yellow and Blue Paints May Not Make Green

There are a few reasons that mixing yellow and blue paint together may not automatically produce green:

  • The specific yellow and blue pigments used – Different pigments reflect light differently. Combining a warm, reddish yellow with a cool, greenish blue is more likely to make green than other pigment pairs.
  • Proportions – If there is much more yellow than blue, the mix will look more yellowish. Conversely, adding a lot more blue will shift the blend toward a blue-green teal.
  • Opacity – More opaque, dense pigments dominate over transparent ones. A thick opaque yellow paint will overpower a thin, transparent blue in the blend.
  • Interference – Some modern pigments interfere with light reflection in unusual ways. These can cause unexpected results when mixed.
  • Black present – Many blue and yellow paint pigments contain black. The black absorbs light and dulls the mixed color.

Due to these factors, mixing yellow and blue paint does not guarantee a perfect green. But with the right choice of paints and mixing ratios, green hues can be achieved.

Making Green from Yellow and Blue Paint

Here are some tips for mixing yellow and blue paint to create a green color:

  • Select a warm yellow and cool blue – Look for a yellow with a reddish or orange cast and a blue with a greenish teal cast. Stay away from greenish yellows and purplish blues.
  • Use transparent colors – Transparent, thinner paints allow more light reflection and luminosity. Avoid thick, opaque paints.
  • Mix a greater proportion of yellow – Since yellow is lighter, add more yellow and less blue for a bright, light green. Too much blue will darken the blend.
  • Add white to lighten – Adding some white paint to the yellow and blue mix can lighten the shade towards green. White also helps transparent colors mix better.
  • Play with proportions – Test different yellow and blue ratios on a palette to achieve the exact green hue desired.

The following paint choices tend to mix well for making greens:

Warm Yellow Cool Blue
Cadmium yellow Cobalt or cerulean blue
Yellow ochre Phthalo blue
Hansa yellow Viridian or permanent green blue

Mixing any of the above warm yellows and cool blues in a greater proportion of yellow to blue is likely to yield pleasing green hues for painting.

Example Color Mixing Experiments

To demonstrate mixing yellow and blue paint to make green, here are some example color experiments:

Cadmium Yellow and French Ultramarine

– Mixing a 3:1 ratio of cadmium yellow to French ultramarine produces a bright lime green.

– Shifting the ratio to 4:1 cadmium yellow to ultramarine makes the green more yellowish chartreuse.

– A 2:1 ratio increases the blue content for a cooler yellow-green.

Hansa Yellow and Phthalo Blue

– Combining Hansa yellow and phthalo blue at a 4:1 ratio creates a light green-yellow.

– Reducing the ratio to 3:1 Hansa yellow to phthalo blue results in a brighter light green.

– Adding some titanium white to the 3:1 mixture lightens the tone to a pale, vivid green.

Yellow Ochre and Cerulean Blue

– Mixing yellow ochre and cerulean blue at a 5:1 ratio gives an earthy olive green.

– Switching to a 3:1 yellow ochre to cerulean ratio produces a more balanced muted teal green.

– Adding a touch of burnt umber darkens the 3:1 mix to a deep forest green.

Achieving Precise Greens through Color Mixing

Because the results of mixing paint are less predictable than mixing light, attaining an exact desired green hue takes some trial and error testing. Mixing yellow and blue paint to form green is dependent on choosing pigments and ratios that interact in the right way. It may take testing mixes on a palette and adjusting the proportions before finding the perfect balance for the specific green wanted.

Artists learn to mix colors by experience and practice over time. Even master artists may need to experiment when using new pigments to see how they combine with others. Don’t expect to easily achieve the perfect green by casually mixing yellow and blue. Be prepared to iterate and problem solve by tweaking the pigment types and mixing ratios until finding your desired green color.

Using Yellow and Blue for a Range of Greens

Although yellow and blue don’t blend into an automatic green, the variety of possible greens by mixing paints in different ways can be seen as a benefit. You are not limited to a single green result but can mix an infinite range of light, dark, warm, cool, bright, muted, yellow-based, and blue-based greens.

Think of yellow and blue paints as tools providing the building blocks for any shade of green your painting needs. Specific pigment choices give you control over the temperature and intensity of the green that emerges from the mixing process. Don’t be discouraged if your first yellow and blue blend isn’t perfect. With a bit of experimentation and some color theory know-how, you can learn to mix any imaginable green.


While combining pure light colors reliably produces secondary hues, paint pigments interact in more complex ways. Mixing yellow and blue paint does not automatically yield green. However, with the proper choice of warm yellow and cool blue paints and adjusting the mixing ratios, a wide range of green hues can be achieved. To reliably mix a specific desired green, be prepared to experiment and problem-solve until finding your preferred color. In time and with practice, mixing paints to formulate customized greens can become an enjoyable part of the artistic process.