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Is Brown is a secondary color?

Is Brown is a secondary color?

Brown is an interesting color that often gets overlooked. Unlike primary colors like red, blue, and yellow, brown is created by mixing other colors together. This makes brown a secondary color. But what exactly does this mean? In this article, we’ll explore what makes brown a secondary color, how it’s created, and some interesting facts about this earthy hue. Whether you’re an artist looking to mix the perfect brown or just curious about color theory, read on to uncover the origins of this subtle yet complex color.

What are primary, secondary, and tertiary colors?

To understand where brown fits in, it helps to first define primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

Primary colors are colors that cannot be created by mixing other colors. The primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. These three colors are the basis for all other colors in painting, printing, and on the color wheel.

Secondary colors are created by mixing two primary colors. The secondary colors are green (blue + yellow), orange (red + yellow), and purple (red + blue).

Tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary color with a secondary color. These include colors like yellow-orange, red-violet, and blue-green.

So while red, blue, and yellow are primary colors, a color like brown is secondary since it’s created by mixing two other colors.

How is the color brown made?

Specifically, brown is made by mixing complementary colors orange and blue.

On the traditional RYB color wheel used by painters, orange is a secondary color made from the primary colors red and yellow. Blue is a primary color. When you mix blue and orange paint, the resulting color is brown.

The exact shade of brown depends on the ratio of orange and blue. More orange yields browns with golden, reddish, or ochre undertones. More blue results in cooler browns with ash, green, or grey undertones. But all browns contain a mixture of the parent colors orange and blue.

This is why brown is considered a tertiary color in some color schemes. It takes a primary color (blue) and secondary color (orange) to create brown.

Where does brown fall on the color wheel?

So where does brown fit on the color wheel? Since it’s a mix of orange and blue, brown falls in between these two colors on the wheel:

Primary colors Red Yellow Blue
Secondary colors Orange Green Purple

While different shades of brown occupy a range on the wheel, they all blend between the warm orange section and cooler blue section.

Some specific shades of brown and where they fall include:

– Raw umber – Leans towards orange
– Burnt umber – Midway between orange and blue
– Taupe – Closer to blue/purple

So while not a discrete slice like the primaries or secondaries, brown fills an transitional niche between these colors.

Key properties of brown

Now that we know where brown sits on the color wheel, what are some key characteristics of this secondary color?

– Earthy and natural – Being a mix of orange and blue evokes earth tones. Browns remind us of soil, wood, stone, and other organic elements.

– Neutral and versatile – Brown goes well with many colors and fits in most color palettes. Different shades can pick up warm or cool undertones making brown adaptable.

– Subtle and sophisticated – As a tertiary blend, brown has more nuance than primary colors. Rich browns have an elegant, subtle look.

– Melancholy – Brown’s earthy hue can suggest sadness or melancholy in some contexts. But it also depends on the specific shade.

– Outdoorsy and rugged – From hiking boots to timber walls, brown ties into outdoor, rustic themes. But it can also work in formal settings.

So while brown may seem like a basic secondary color, its varied properties lend unique depth and flexibility.

How do computers create brown?

In computing, showing brown on a screen involves blending the primary additive colors red, green, and blue.

The common RGB color model uses red, green and blue light to create the range of computer colors. With 24-bit color (8 bits each for red, green, blue), here’s an approximate RGB mix for medium brown:

– R = 165
– G = 42
– B = 42

By turning up the red while keeping green and blue low, this adds a warm, reddish-brown hue.

Other digital brown shades include:

Color RGB values
Saddle brown R=139 G=69 B=19
Rosy brown R=188 G=143 B=143
Peru R=205 G=133 B=63
Chocolate R=210 G=105 B=30

By tweaking the RGB values, you can recreate a wide spectrum of browns onscreen.

How do paints and pigments make brown?

Unlike with light on monitors, mixing paints relies on subtractive color. Paints and inks contain pigments that absorb certain light wavelengths while reflecting others.

For painting, common pigments used in making brown include:

– Iron oxides – Yellow ochre, sienna, umber
– Carbon compounds – Ivory or mars black
– Iron blue pigments – Hematite, pyrrole brown

By blending these with reds, yellows, and white, artists can mix the required orange and blue combination for different brown tones. Raw umber and burnt umber oil paints are especially popular for an opaque, earthy brown.

Watercolorists also use transparent pigments like sepia or van dyke brown. These create luminous washes perfect for landscapes.

No matter the medium, blending complementary orange and blue pigments remains the key to mixing secondary browns.

What are some types of brown?

With so many potential variations, there are tons of named brown shades. Here are a few of the most popular:

– Chocolate – Rich reddish brown like the food
– Cocoa – Darker brown with black undertones
– Hazel – Mix of brown, green and gold. Also a eye color.
– Chestnut – Reddish tone named after the nut
– Cinnamon – Warm toned spice brown
– Coffee – Mid brown reminiscent of the drink
– Umber – Natural iron oxide earth pigment common in paints
– Sepia – Grayish brown from the ink of cuttlefish
– Taupe – Brownish grey or greige tone
– Beige – Light brown that includes some white
– Tan – Golden light brown, gets name from tanned hide
– Bronze – Metallic reddish brown, like the metal alloy

Whether you prefer a light sandy beige or deep chocolatey brown, artists mix a huge range of brown hues.

How does brown complement other colors?

So brown can stand on its own as a neutral background color. But it also combines beautifully with many other shades. Here are some colors that work well with different browns:

Brown tone Complementary colors
Light tans Blues, greens, black
Rich walnut browns Blue, purple, greys, cream
Golden browns Blues, greens, oranges
Dark chocolate browns Oranges, reds, pinks, white

While not technically a “color clash”, brown also pairs naturally with other earthy neutrals like white, black, beige, cream, and grey.

In general, look at the undertones of the brown to choose a matching hue. Warm red browns suit other warm colors like red, orange, and yellow. Ashy cool browns better complement blues and greens.

How is brown represented symbolically?

Like any color, brown carries symbolic associations in art and design. Some of brown’s symbolic meanings include:

– Nature and earth – Browns represent the soil, wood, stone, and our planet as a whole. The earthy color ties into nature.

– Rustic and simple – As an unrefined, organic shade, brown embodies the rustic, simple life. It contrasts with flashy colors.

– Poverty and humility – Historically, browns were viewed as the color of peasants. Brown robes also symbolize religious piety and poverty.

– Decay and death – From fallen leaves to rotting food, brown signifies decay. But this fading also represents the natural life cycle.

– Comfort and warmth – From cozy cabins to baking bread, brown can represent comfort, warmth and nourishment. The color provides a sense of security.

– Masculinity – Compared to bright pinks, brown is viewed as a masculine color in some cultures. But this association is evolving.

– Durability and reliability – Brown projects solid, durable qualities like timber, leather, or fieldstone. The color is seen as strong, reliable, timeless.

So while brown stems from the earth, it carries many symbolic layers and meanings.

What are some fun facts about brown?

To wrap up, here are a few interesting tidbits about this secondary color:

– Brown is the least popular favorite color, coming in last in many surveys. But it still has loyal fans.

– There is no exact wavelength of light corresponding to brown. Other colors like orange have a defined wavelength.

– In terms of interior design, brown is considered a neutral and versatile background color for accents.

– During the 1970s, everything from homes to clothing featured lots of earthy browns and oranges. This decade saw a surge in brown design.

– Brown eyes are the most common worldwide, with over 55% of people having various shades of brown irises.

– Brown recluse spiders get their name from the violin-shaped pattern on their brownish bodies. Most have a uniform brown color.

– Brown bears can range from dark chocolatey browns to pale golden or reddish-brown shades. Their color varies across different species.

So while often an overlooked hue, brown has unique properties that give the color artistic depth and versatility. Explore all the possibilities with secondary browns!


To summarize, brown is considered a secondary color since it’s created by mixing the primary colors orange and blue. On the color wheel, different shades of brown fill the spectrum between the warm orange and cool blue regions. While sometimes labelled as boring, brown is actually a subtle, sophisticated color with many symbolic connotations. Its earthy essence provides a natural, grounded feel. So don’t underestimate the power and potential of mixing browns. Let this guide inspire you to incorporate brown more creatively and take a fresh look at this fundamental secondary color.