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What color cancels out red to make brown?

What color cancels out red to make brown?

Mixing colors together can result in new and interesting shades. One common color mixing question is: what colors cancel out or neutralize red to make the color brown? The answer lies in understanding color theory and how red interacts with complementary colors. By mixing red with specific shades of green and blue, the red gets neutralized and forms a rich brown tone.

How Complementary Colors Neutralize Each Other

In color theory, complementary colors are color pairs that cancel each other out. On the color wheel, they are opposites. When complementary colors are mixed together, they neutralize the intensity of each color and create a more muted, neutralized shade.

Some examples of complementary color pairs are:

Red Green
Orange Blue
Yellow Purple

When you mix a color with its complement, the hue becomes less vivid and more neutralized. This is because complementary colors contain the wavelengths of light that the other lacks. When combined, those wavelengths blend together to create a more balanced shade.

Why Green and Blue Neutralize Red

On the standard RYB color wheel, the complementary color of red is green. When red and green light mix, they neutralize each other to produce a neutral brown color.

The reason green cancels out red is due to how these colors interact on a light wavelength level. Red has long wavelengths, while green has shorter wavelengths of light. When combined, the red and green wavelengths blend together to create a balanced neutral brown.

In printing and design, the secondary complements of red are blue and green. Red’s complementary color is cyan, which is a mixture of green and blue light. Combining red pigment with both cyan and a touch of blue will create a rich neutral brown.

Mixing Red, Green, and Blue for Brown

There are a few common color mixing recipes that involve red, green, and blue to make different shades of brown:

Red + Green = Brown
Red + Green + Blue = Dark brown
Red + Blue = Maroon brown

The most basic mix is combining red and green paint, light, or pigment. This will create a pure medium brown.

Adding a small amount of blue to the red and green mix will produce a cooler, darker brown shade. The blue cancels out more of the warmth from the red.

Mixing just red and blue will make a maroon-brown tone. With no green to balance it out, the red still dominates but is darkened by the blue.

Adjusting the proportions of each color will result in an endless variety of distinct browns. More red makes it ruddier, while more blue creates a cooler, grey-ish brown.

Complementary Color Ratios for Brown

When mixing colors to form brown, the specific ratios of each complementary color can create different shades and color temperatures. Here are some examples:

1 part red + 1 part green = Brown
2 parts red + 1 part green = Reddish brown
1 part red + 2 parts green = Olive brown
1 part red + 1 part green + 0.5 part blue = Dark brown

Using equal parts red and green produces a balanced, medium neutral brown. Increasing the red makes it more reddish-brown, while more green creates an olive brown.

Adding a smaller portion of blue, like half as much blue as red or green, will darken the brown to a rich chocolate shade. Adjust these color ratios until you achieve your desired brown color result.

Tones that Complement Brown

Once brown is created by neutralizing red with its complementary colors, those brown tones will now have their own color complements. These analogous and complementary colors can be used to accent brown attractively:

Orange Blue
Yellow Violet
Cream Charcoal Grey
Beige Forest Green

Warm tones like orange, yellow, cream, and beige complement the red undertones in brown. Cooler colors like blue, violet, charcoal grey, and forest green contrast nicely with the neutral brown base.

Using these color combinations near brown can make it stand out while also harmonizing it with the overall color scheme. This provides a balanced, aesthetically appealing set of colors.

Examples of Red, Green, and Blue Mixing to Brown

Here are some specific examples of mixing red, green, and blue colors to create different shades of brown:

Cadmium red + Viridian green = Milk chocolate brown
Alizarin crimson + Sap green = Mahogany brown
Scarlet red + Forest green + Prussian blue = Espresso brown

Combining cadmium red and viridian green makes for a soft milk chocolate brown tone. Alizarin crimson is a cool transparent red that mixes with sap green to form a rich reddish mahogany brown. Adding some prussian blue to scarlet red and forest green creates a dark espresso brown.

Experiment with different pigments and paint brands to see what rich browns can be formed by neutralizing reds with complementary greens and blues. Always start with small color mixes to test ratios before moving onto larger mixes. Recording the combinations that produce your preferred shades of brown allows colors to be easily replicated.

Digital Mixing of Red, Green, and Blue for Brown

In digital design and publishing software, red, green and blue can be combined to create precise shades of brown.

In RGB color mode, mixing different levels of the red, green, and blue channels generates millions of possible colors. Dark browns can be created by combining high levels of all three colors.

Some examples of RGB brown colors created from red, green and blue:

R=153 G=102 B=51 – Medium brown
R=101 G=67 B=33 – Dark reddish brown
R=92 G=64 B=51 – Dark brown

These RGB values can be inputted into design software to produce solid digital brown colors. Adjusting the color sliders mixes the red, green, and blue components to create the desired brown shade.

Lighting Effects on Brown

The way brown colors are perceived can change depending on lighting conditions. Understanding these effects allows brown to be used effectively:

– Incandescent lighting emphasizes warmth, making browns seem more reddish and rich

– Cool fluorescent lighting can make browns look dull or flat

– Natural daylight provides a balanced, accurate view of brown tones

– Shadows deepen and darken the appearance of brown

– Sunlight lightens warm undertones in browns

By anticipating lighting conditions where brown will be seen, its perception can be controlled. Warm, dim lighting brings out brown’s cozy feel, while cool bright light mutess it. Mixing red, green and blue properly ensures brown looks its best under different lighting.


Brown is formed when the complementary colors red and green are combined, neutralizing each other. Adding some blue as well deepens and darkens the resulting brown color. Adjusting the proportions of red, green, and blue allows for mixing an endless variety of rich brown tones for paints, pigments, light, and digital design. Understanding color relationships and wavelengths helps reinforce why green and blue cancel out red specifically to make brown hues. With practice and experimentation, red can be reliably neutralized into versatile shades of brown.