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How do you mix two colors to make brown?

How do you mix two colors to make brown?

When mixing colors, brown is made by combining complementary colors from opposite sides of the color wheel. The primary colors that make brown are red, yellow, and blue. By mixing together these colors in different combinations and ratios, you can create different shades and tones of brown.

Using Primary Colors

The three primary colors are red, yellow and blue. These are called primary colors because they cannot be created by mixing other colors together. All other colors are derived from some combination of these three primary colors.

To make basic brown, you mix together red and green. When mixed together, these two colors neutralize each other and create a dark muddy brown. The more red you add, the warmer and more reddish the brown becomes. The more green you add, the cooler and more greenish-yellow the brown becomes.

You can also mix together yellow and purple to make brown. Yellow and purple are complementary colors directly across from each other on the color wheel. When mixed, they create a neutral brown tone. Adding more yellow makes the brown more golden, while adding more purple creates a cooler, grayer brown.

Another combination is blue and orange. These are also complementary colors opposite each other on the color wheel. Mixing them makes a rich, earthy brown. The more blue added, the cooler the brown. The more orange added, the warmer the tone.

Using Secondary Colors

You can also mix brown using the three secondary colors – green, purple and orange. Secondary colors are created by mixing two primary colors together.

Green is made by mixing blue and yellow. Purple is made by mixing red and blue. Orange is made by mixing red and yellow.

To make brown, mix together green and purple. This neutralizes the two secondary colors into a brown. Adding more green gives an earthy, olive tone to the brown. Adding more purple results in a deeper, cooler brown.

Mixing orange and green also makes a rich brown tone. The orange brings warmth, while the green cools it down into a neutral brown. Adjusting the ratios changes the shade.

Finally, mixing purple and orange together creates a brown with a good balance of warm and cool tones.

Using Tertiary Colors

Tertiary colors are made by combining a primary color with a secondary color. These include red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-purple and red-purple.

Browns made by mixing tertiary colors have more complex undertones. Some combinations to try are:

  • Red-orange + Blue-purple
  • Yellow-orange + Blue-green
  • Red-purple + Yellow-green

Adjust the amounts of each tertiary color to shift the brown from warm to cool and back again.

Mixing Analogous Colors

Analogous colors are located right next to each other on the color wheel. They always include one primary or secondary color plus the colors on both sides of its hue.

Some examples of analogous colors that make good browns are:

  • Red + Red-orange + Red-purple
  • Yellow + Yellow-green + Yellow-orange
  • Blue + Blue-purple + Blue-green

Mixing together analogous colors results in harmonious, subtle browns. The ratios can be adjusted to emphasize one analogous color over the others.

Using Complements

Complementary colors are located directly across from each other on the color wheel. Common complements that blend into brown include:

  • Orange + Blue
  • Red-orange + Blue-green
  • Yellow-orange + Blue-purple
  • Red-purple + Yellow-green

Complementary colors neutralize each other into a rich, muted brown. The proportions can be varied for lighter or darker shades.

Mixing Triadic Colors

Triadic color schemes use three colors equally spaced around the color wheel. Triadic combinations for brown include:

  • Red + Yellow + Blue
  • Red-orange + Yellow-green + Blue-purple
  • Red-purple + Yellow-orange + Blue-green

With triadic combinations, it’s best to choose one color to dominate, while the other two are used in smaller amounts. This keeps the brown from becoming too gray or muddy.

Using Tetradic Colors

Tetradic palettes use four colors spaced evenly around the color wheel. Some examples of tetradic colors that blend well into browns are:

  • Red + Yellow + Green + Blue
  • Red + Yellow-green + Blue-purple + Orange
  • Yellow-orange + Blue + Purple + Red-orange

Tetradic colors provide maximum contrast and visual interest. However, using all four colors equally can make the brown seem dull or neutral. Vary the ratios so no more than two colors dominate.

Mixing Shades of Brown

Different shades of brown can also be combined together to create new variations. Mixing a dark brown with a lighter tan or beige shifts the tone up or down. You can create custom browns this way without using primary colors at all.

Some examples of shades that work well together include:

  • Dark brown + Medium brown = Rich warm brown
  • Light brown + Tan = Soft golden brown
  • Mocha brown + Beige = Earthy latte brown

The depth of the shade depends on the proportions used. Equal parts creates a shade between the two. More of the darker brown deepens the tone. More of the lighter brown lightens it.

Mixing Tints and Tones

Different tints and tones of brown can also be combined to make new colors. A tint is a color lightened with white. A tone is a color shaded with gray or black.

Some combinations to try are:

  • Dark brown tone + medium brown tint = sophisticated brown
  • Beige tint + camel tone = trendy nude brown
  • Mocha tint + chocolate tone = bittersweet brown

Tints add softness, while tones deepen and mute the color. Adjust the proportions to find the perfect balance.

Using Brown and Neutrals

Brown can be mixed with neutral colors like white, black or gray to soften the intensity and lighten or darken the shade:

  • Brown + White = Softer beige-brown
  • Brown + Black = Deeper, richer brown
  • Brown + Gray = Complex sophisticated brown

Add just a touch of black, white or gray to slightly modify the brown. Use more neutral color, closer to 50/50, to make major changes in value.


Browns can be created by mixing together two complementary colors from opposite sides of the color wheel. Primary, secondary, tertiary colors and color schemes like analogous, triadic and tetradic can all blend into beautiful browns with unique undertones and shades.

Pre-mixed shades of brown can also be combined to deepen, lighten or neutralize the tone. Adding tints, tones or neutral colors like white, black and gray modifies the intensity and value.

With so many combinations possible, you can mix up the perfect custom brown for any project or purpose.

Color 1 Color 2 Resulting Brown
Red Green Muddy brown
Yellow Purple Neutral brown
Blue Orange Earthy brown
Green Purple Cool brown
Red-orange Blue-purple Complex brown
Dark brown Tan Golden brown
Brown tone Brown tint Sophisticated brown