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Is brown a primary colour?


No, brown is not considered a primary colour. The primary colours are red, blue, and yellow. Brown is formed by mixing two primary colours – red and green. So brown is considered a secondary or tertiary colour.

What are primary colours?

The primary colours are red, blue and yellow. These colours can’t be created by mixing other colours together. All other colours are derived from some combination of the primary colours.

Primary colours are colours that cannot be created by mixing other colours. When red, blue, and yellow light are mixed together in equal amounts, they produce white light. When red, blue, and yellow pigments or paints are mixed together, they produce black.

So in basic colour theory, the primary colours are defined as follows:

Primary Colours of Light Red Blue Green
Primary Colours of Pigment Red Blue Yellow

Primary colours are fundamental colours that can be combined to create all other colours in the visible light spectrum. When red, green, and blue light are mixed in equal proportions, they produce white light. When red, yellow, and blue pigments are mixed, they produce black.

How is brown created?

Brown is created by mixing the two primary colours of pigment – red and yellow. Specifically, brown contains undertones of red and orange. The more red is added, the darker the brown colour becomes. The more yellow is added, the lighter and more golden the brown appears.

Different shades of brown can be created by adjusting the proportions of red and yellow. For example:

Light brown More yellow, less red
Dark brown More red, less yellow
Reddish brown More red
Golden brown More yellow

So in summary, brown contains both red and yellow primary pigments. By increasing the amount of one or the other, different brown shades can be produced. But because it is created by mixing two primaries, brown is not itself a primary colour.

Are there other definitions of primary colours?

While red, blue, and yellow are considered the traditional primary colours, there are some alternative colour models that use a different primary palette:

RYB (Red, Yellow, Blue)

This is the traditional artists’ primary palette using pigments. Red, yellow, and blue pigments create all other colours when mixed together. This palette is still used today for painting and art.

RGB (Red, Green, Blue)

This is the primary colour model for light and digital displays. Mixing red, green, and blue light creates all the colours we see on television and computer screens. This is an additive colour model where colours get lighter by adding more RGB light.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black)

This is the primary model used for print colour. Cyan, magenta, and yellow inks or dyes absorb certain colours of light and reflect others back to our eyes. In this subtractive model, combining colours results in darker shades by absorbing more light. Black ink is added for contrast.

So while red, blue, and yellow remain the standard primary pigment colours, alternative colour models exist that define different primary colours based on the medium. But none of these models recognize brown as a primary colour.


In summary:

  • The primary colours are red, blue, and yellow.
  • Brown is created by mixing the primary colours red and yellow.
  • Because brown is derived from primary colours, it is not defined as a primary colour itself.
  • Some alternative colour models use different primary palettes like RGB or CMYK, but brown still is not included as a primary.

So no matter which colour model you use, brown is a secondary or tertiary colour, not a primary colour. Brown results from combining the primary pigment colours of red and yellow. By adjusting the proportions, various shades of brown can be produced. But brown remains a colour that is mixed from primary colour sources.