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How much red do you mix with yellow to get orange?

How much red do you mix with yellow to get orange?

Mixing colors is an essential skill for artists, designers, and anyone who wants to experiment with different color combinations. When mixing colors, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of color theory. This includes knowing the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) and how to mix them to create secondary colors like orange, green, and purple. So how much red and yellow should you mix together to get orange? The exact ratio depends on the shade of orange you want to achieve.

The Basics of Mixing Red and Yellow

Red and yellow are both primary colors. When mixed together, they produce the secondary color orange. The more red pigment used, the redder and darker the orange will be. The more yellow, the brighter and more golden the orange will become. Pure orange is right in the middle – an even mix of vivid red and bright lemon yellow.

The basic mixing ratio is:

  • 1 part red pigment
  • 1 part yellow pigment

This 1:1 ratio gives you a pure, balanced orange halfway between red and yellow. Adjusting the proportions allows you to make reddish oranges or yellowish oranges.

Mixing Paint Colors

When mixing orange paint, start with equal amounts of red and yellow paint on your palette. Mix them thoroughly with a painting knife until well blended. The resulting color should be a strong orange. If it looks too yellow, add more red paint. If it appears too red, mix in more yellow.

Here are some common paint mixing ratios for different shades of orange:

Mix Ratio (Red : Yellow) Orange Shade
1:1 Pure orange
2:1 Red orange
1:2 Yellow orange

The exact amount isn’t as important as the ratio. Mix enough paint to work with – several squeezes of each color. Then adjust the ratio as needed to get your desired orange.

Mixing Colored Pencils

Colored pencils allow more control over the mixing ratios. Start by making thick, overlapping strokes with a red pencil and yellow pencil. Blend the colors together with gentle circular motions to mix them into orange. A 1:1 ratio produces a bright orange, while 2 parts red to 1 part yellow makes a deep reddish orange. Minimum pressure gives a sheer wash of color, while heavy pressure results in an intense, saturated shade.

Some color combinations to try with colored pencils:

  • Cadmium red + cadmium yellow = vivid orange
  • Alizarin crimson + lemon yellow = muted orange
  • Vermilion + goldenrod = warm orange

Test shades on a scrap piece of paper before applying colors to your actual drawing. This allows you to perfect the mixing ratios for the exact orange tone you want.

Mixing Marker Colors

With markers, you can mix colors by layering the strokes. Make back and forth hatch marks with the tip of a red marker, then overlay yellow marker strokes at an angle. The colors will blend optically into orange. Use more pressure with the red for a deeper shade or more yellow for a lighter tint. Avoid over-blending the colors, as this can create muddy brown tones.

Some marker color combinations for orange include:

  • Scarlet + sunflower yellow
  • Crimson + golden yellow
  • Vermilion + bright yellow

Always test mix marker colors on scrap paper first. The final color may depend on the paper surface as well as the mixing ratio. Adjust the proportion of red to yellow strokes until you achieve your ideal orange.

Mixing Tones with Color Wheels

You can use a color wheel to help visualize mixing ratios. The color wheel shows 12 main hues including the primary (red, yellow, blue) and secondary colors (orange, green, purple). Tertiary colors like red-orange and yellow-orange fall between the main hues.

To mix an orange, move clockwise from yellow towards the red section until you reach your desired hue. A color between yellow and pure orange will be a yellowish orange. Between orange and red makes a reddish orange. The closer to the halfway point between the two primaries, the more pure and intense the resulting orange color.

Mixing Shades of Orange

So far we’ve looked at mixing different hues of orange. You can also mix tints, tones, and shades of the same orange hue. Here are some examples:

  • Tint – Mix orange with white to lighten it
  • Tone – Mix orange with gray to mute it
  • Shade – Mix orange with black to darken it

Add just a small amount of white, gray, or black to achieve subtle differences in the brightness, saturation, or lightness of the original orange color.

Using Color Mixing Ratios

Consistently mixing that perfect shade of orange comes down to controlling the ratios of red and yellow pigments. Follow these tips for color mixing success:

  • Start with a 1:1 ratio of vivid red and lemon yellow
  • Adjust the ratio to add more red for red-orange or more yellow for yellow-orange
  • Mix enough paint, pencil, or marker pigment to work with
  • Test colors on scrap paper before applying to your artwork
  • Mix tints, tones, and shades by adding white, gray, or black
  • Use a color wheel to visualize orange mixing ratios

Mastering color mixing takes practice, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Keep testing different ratios of red and yellow until you become comfortable “eyeballing” the perfect orange.


Mixing red and yellow to achieve different oranges is fundamental for any artist. Start with equal parts vivid red and bright yellow. Then adjust the ratio to add more red for richer, darker oranges or more yellow for lighter tints. Test your colors first before applying them. With practice, you’ll be expertly mixing that ideal shade of orange for any art or design project.