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How do you make dark red with primary colors?

How do you make dark red with primary colors?

Dark red is a rich, deep shade of red that has a slightly muted quality compared to brighter reds. Creating dark red using primary colors takes some blending, but with the right mix of red, blue, and yellow, you can achieve a bold, dramatic dark red hue.

What are Primary Colors?

Primary colors are colors that cannot be created by mixing other colors together. The primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. All other colors are derived from some combination of these three pigments.

Primary colors are considered the “building blocks” of an artist’s palette. With just red, blue, and yellow paint, an artist can mix and blend to create any other hue imaginable. This makes primary colors essential for painting and color mixing.

How to Make Red Darker

Pure red is bright, vibrant, and intense. To darken red to create a deeper, richer shade, another color must be blended in. So which primary colors should you use?

There are two primary colors that can darken red:

Blue Adding blue to red creates a darker, duller shade. Blue is the cool counterpart to warm red, so it neutralizes and deepens the red pigment. The more blue added, the darker the red becomes.
Yellow Believe it or not, adding small amounts of yellow to red can also create a darker shade. Yellow deepens red in a subtler way than blue. Too much yellow, however, will turn red into orange. Therefore yellow should be used sparingly.

When darkening red, artists must be careful not to add too much of the deepening color. Just a dab of blue or touch of yellow transforms red into a noticeably darker crimson, rust or maroon shade.

How to Mix a Dark Red

Now that you understand how to darken red, let’s look at some specific recipe ratios for mixing a dark red using primary colors:

Dark Red Recipe #1 Proportions
Red 3 parts
Blue 1 part

This straightforward blend takes red paint or dye and adds a smaller portion of blue. The red remains dominant, but the blue kicks it darker. Too much blue could make the color Violet instead of red.

Dark Red Recipe #2 Proportions
Red 4 parts
Yellow 1 part

Similar idea, but using yellow instead of blue. Keep the red as the main component and add a pinch of yellow for subtle deepening.

Dark Red Recipe #3 Proportions
Red 3 parts
Blue 1 part
Yellow 1 part

This three-color blend layers yellow over the red-blue combo. The yellow balances out the blue for a less muddied, pure dark red. Adjust yellow and blue proportions to taste.

Tips for Mixing Dark Red

Mixing color is part science, part intuition. Here are handy tips for blending primary colors into rich, luxurious dark reds:

– Add small amounts of the deepening color. Too much blue or yellow overwhelms the red. Go slowly, test your color as you blend.

– Layer yellow over red-blue for clearer dark red. Yellow counters any muddiness from too much blue.

– Swap in purple for blue. Purple contains red and blue already perfectly balanced. Quick way to knock red darker.

– Diffuse with white to soften a too-dark red. White lightens the shade for a pinker burgundy red.

– Compare your mixed red to dark red color swatches. Check it against hues like burgundy, maroon, oxblood.

– Capture the red-orange in a photo to compare later. Our eyes can play tricks on color perception.

– Allow time between mixing attempts for fresh eyes. Step away if the color isn’t right, then revisit later.

– Know your starting red hue. Crimson red versus cadmium red will blend differently with blue and yellow.

Darkening Red with Acrylic vs. Oil Paint

The primary color recipes we’ve discussed work with any painting medium, but the specific blending techniques differ between acrylic and oil paint:

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic dries quickly, so color mixing must be rapid. To darken acrylic red:

– Thinly pre-mix blue or yellow with white. The white helps lighten and prevent over-darkening.

– Use a dry brush to stir in small amounts of the pre-mixed blue or yellow.

– Rinse brush between mixes to avoid muddying colors. Keep water nearby while blending.

– Spray palette/paint with water to slow acrylic drying during mixing.

Oil Paint

Oil stays workable for days or weeks. This allows lots of time to finesse the red:

– Pre-mix blue or yellow with painting medium. Mediums aid blending and extend working time.

– Massage small amounts of blue/yellow mix into red paint with a brush.

– Allow mixes to sit so the oil color can integrate before adjusting further.

– Create color swatches to compare dried dark red mixes over days.

– Use an artist’s knife to scoop, mix and apply thick paint for texture.

How Dark Shades Change Red

Deepening red too far can eventually shift it into a different color family altogether. Here’s how the hue evolves:

Red Family Hue Description
Scarlet Bright, warm pure red
Crimson Slightly darkened red with bluish tint
Ruby Bold, vivid red, leaning pinkish
Maroon Dark, brownish red
Burgundy Very dark red with subtle purple
Oxblood Deep dark red, slightly desaturated
Magenta Purplish crimson

Monitor your blended red to stay in the desired hue zone. Adding too much blue or yellow can quickly take you into magenta, purple, or brown shades.

Which Primary Makes a Better Dark Red?

Should you use blue or yellow to darken red? Each has pros and cons:


  • Darkens red efficiently in small amounts
  • Can quickly overpower red into purple/magenta
  • Gives red a cooler, duller quality


  • Subtly deepens red while keeping it vibrant
  • Easy to use too much and shift red to orange
  • Keeps red on the warm, fiery color spectrum

Neither blue nor yellow is inherently better for darkening red—it depends on your desired end hue!

For a richer, warmer dark red, use yellow in moderation. For a moodier, cooler maroon, blend in touches of blue. Observe how the undertones shift as you remix the red.

Dark Red Color Harmony

The harmony of dark red with other colors is impactful. Once you create the perfect deep crimson, ruby, oxblood or burgundy, how do you build a palette around it?


Green is the classic color complement of red. For bold contrast, pair dark red with forest, emerald or lime greens.


The triadic colors are three equidistant hues on the color wheel. The triad of red includes blue and yellow—the primary colors!


Analogous colors sit directly next to each other on the color wheel. Dark red works well with neighboring shades of red-violet and red-orange.


Shades of one single color provide a powerful, sleek look. Mix dark red with pinks, brick reds, and deeper burgundies or wines.

Uses for Dark Red Pigment

Now that you’ve mastered mixing rich, luscious dark reds, what can you create with your blended color?

  • Painting dramatic abstract canvases
  • Adding mood to landscape oil or watercolor scenes
  • Coloring frosting and cake decorations
  • Dyeing fabric, yarn, clothes, leather
  • Tinting cosmetics like lipstick, blush, eyeshadow
  • Coloring wax for candles and sealing wax
  • Staining wood for furniture accents
  • Adding autumn flair to homemade soaps and candles

Dark red is ideal for making bold statements in any coloring, decorating or crafting project. The intensity of the shade immediately captures attention. Use your homemade dark red conservatively or lavishly—either way, it packs a huge visual impact.


With some expert blending of the primary colors red, yellow and blue, you can produce elegant dark red tones for any artistic need. Remember to start with small amounts of the deepening secondary colors, test your mixes thoroughly and observe how the undertones change with every layer. Soon you’ll be effortlessly creating the perfect crimson, oxblood, burgundy or maroon. Mastering the intricacies of darkening red is challenging but highly rewarding for any color enthusiast!