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What colors do you mix to make different colors?

What colors do you mix to make different colors?

Mixing colors is an important skill for artists, designers, and anyone who wants to experiment with different hues. By combining primary colors in different proportions, you can make a wide range of secondary and tertiary colors. Understanding color theory and color mixing allows you to recreate specific shades and discover new color combinations.

The Primary Colors

The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. These colors cannot be created by mixing other colors, but are the building blocks for all other colors. When you mix the primary colors together, you get the secondary colors:

  • Red + Yellow = Orange
  • Red + Blue = Purple
  • Yellow + Blue = Green

By varying the proportions of the primaries, you can make different shades of these secondary colors. Mixing equal parts red and yellow makes a bright orange, while mixing mostly red with a little yellow makes a deep orange-red. When mixed in equal proportions, the primary colors make a neutral mid-gray.

Tertiary Colors

The tertiary colors are made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color next to it on the color wheel. For example:

  • Red + Purple = Red-Purple
  • Yellow + Orange = Yellow-Orange
  • Blue + Green = Blue-Green

These colors have more complex names like vermilion, chartreuse, teal, amber, magenta and so on. By mixing complementary colors from opposite sides of the color wheel, like red and green, you get brown tones. Adjusting the proportions gives you precise hues.

Shades and Tints

In addition to mixing colors to make different hues, you can also lighten or darken a color. Here’s how:

  • Shades – Add black to make a darker shade of any color.
  • Tints – Add white to make a lighter tint of any color.

Adding white makes pink a lighter tint of red. Adding black makes burgundy a darker shade of red. You can make infinite shades and tints of every color by slowly adjusting the amounts of white or black.

Color Mixing Guide

Here is a quick reference guide for mixing common colors:

Colors to Mix Resulting Color
Red + Yellow Orange
Red + Blue Purple
Yellow + Blue Green
Red + Purple Red-Purple
Yellow + Orange Yellow-Orange
Blue + Green Blue-Green
Red + Green Brown
Color + White Tint
Color + Black Shade

Tips for Mixing

Here are some tips for successfully mixing colors:

  • Use pure, highly pigmented colors like professional artist paints or gouache.
  • Start with small amounts and add more as needed.
  • Mix in a palette or on a non-porous surface so colors don’t get muddy.
  • Clean your brush between mixes so colors stay pure.
  • Keep a notebook to record color mixtures for future reference.
  • Experiment and play to discover new hues!

Color Wheel

A color wheel is a useful visualization of color relationships. The primary colors form an equilateral triangle in the center. The secondary and tertiary colors fill in the wheel.

Colors opposite each other on the wheel are complementary colors. These create bold contrast and vibrancy when used together. Analogous colors next to each other create harmony and gradient-like combinations.

Look at a color wheel to choose palette variations and learn how colors interact. It’s an invaluable tool for any mixing activity.

Using Digital Tools

You can use digital tools like photo editing software to experiment with mixing colors. Overlaying color layers and adjusting opacity gives you endless options. Here are some tips:

  • Use the color picker to select pure primary colors.
  • Lower the opacity to lighten hues.
  • Sample from images to grab color codes.
  • Use blend modes like “multiply” to mix layers.
  • Add a “levels” adjustment layer to darken and lighten.

Digital painting programs like Procreate have color wheels and libraries to sample from. This speeds up the mixing process.

Why Color Mixing is Useful

Here are some reasons why understanding color mixing is a useful skill:

  • Matches colors accurately – You can recreate an exact shade by mixing colors.
  • Saves money – Mixing uses less paint compared to buying pre-mixed colors.
  • Makes custom colors – Mix unique hues not found in standard palettes.
  • Understands color relationships – See how colors interact and influence each other.
  • Develops your artist palette – Create a personalized palette of must-have mixed shades.
  • Problem solving – Mix colors to fix issues like getting skin tones right.


Learning basic color theory gives you the foundation to mix an endless variety of colors. Start with the primary colors, then experiment with mixing secondary and tertiary colors. Adjust tints and shades by adding white and black. Use a color wheel and take notes to track your discoveries. With practice, you’ll gain intuition for mixing the exact colors you need.