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What does purple and blue make red?

Mixing colors can be an exciting experiment, especially for budding artists or scientists. When different pigments are combined, they interact in fascinating ways to create new shades. One particularly interesting color combination is mixing purple and blue to try and create red. At first glance, this may seem counterintuitive. But with the right approach, these cool tones can come together to form a warm, vibrant red.

Understanding Color Theory

To understand how to mix purple and blue to make red, we first need to review some basic color theory. The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. Secondary colors are created by mixing two primary colors. For example:

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

Tertiary colors are made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color next to it on the color wheel. Such as:

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

So to make red by mixing purple and blue, we are combining a secondary and primary color rather than two primary colors. This means the red won’t be as vibrant, but it can still work.

Choosing the Right Purple and Blue Shades

Not all purples and blues are created equal when it comes to mixing red. The specific shades you choose will impact the resulting color.

For the purple, you’ll want one with a strong red undertone. Purples made by mixing red and blue, rather than just blue and a non-red color like white, work best. On the color wheel, you want a purple leaning towards reddish-purple rather than bluish-purple.

As for the blue, opt for one with hints of red, pink or rose. Steer clear of greens and turquoises. A true, reddish blue will better complement the purple.

Good Purple and Blue Shades for Mixing Red Bad Purple and Blue Shades for Mixing Red
Magenta purple Periwinkle purple
Raspberry purple Lavender purple
Ruby or cherry red blue Teal blue
Crimson or wine blue Navy blue

Mixing Techniques

Once you’ve selected the right purple and blue shades, it’s time to start mixing. There are a few techniques you can use:

Brush Strokes

Using a brush, stroke alternating lines of purple and blue close together on a canvas. Blend them lightly with circular brush motions. The colors will start to combine into a reddish tone.

Spatula Mixing

Squeeze some purple and blue paint onto a palette. Use a painting spatula or knife to stir the colors together. Fold and smear them into each other repeatedly until blended.


For a fluid, tie-dye effect, slowly pour purple dye from one cup into a cup of blue dye. Gently stir in a swirling motion. As the liquids integrate, red hues will emerge.


Use eyedroppers or pipettes to release drops of purple and blue food coloring, inks or paints onto a wet surface like damp paper or canvas. As the drops spread and fuse, reddish tones will form.

Achieving a Balanced Red

It takes some experimenting to find the right purple-to-blue ratio for mixing a rich red. A good starting point is a 1:1 ratio, combining equal parts purple and blue. Adjust the amounts from there to perfect the shade.

Here are some tips for getting the red hue you want:

  • More purple makes red-violet.
  • More blue makes red-blue.
  • Add a small pinch of yellow to brighten and warm up the red.
  • Add white to lighten up the red for a softer pink-red.
  • Add a tiny bit of black to mute and darken the red.

Keep a record of the purple and blue paint or dye amounts you used so you can reproduce the red shade later on.

Why Can Purple and Blue Make Red?

Now that we’ve covered how to mix purple and blue for red, let’s discuss why this color combination works.

While purple lacks the yellow undertones of red, it contains a high amount of the red pigment. Blue has only traces of red pigment. But when blended together, the extra red elements from the purple get dispersed into the blue, creating a new secondary red hue.

This concept is based on the RYB or red, yellow, blue color model. All three primary colors exist in varying degrees in the secondary and tertiary colors they produce. The red pigment transfers from the purple to blue during mixing.

Light vs. Pigment and Other Color Models

It’s important to note that mixing colors of light, like on a computer or TV screen, differs from mixing color pigments, like paints, dyes and inks.

With light, the primary colors are red, green and blue (RGB). Mixing blue and purple light won’t make red. Only overlapping red and green light rays produce yellow light to our eyes, which blends to form light-based red.

But for physical pigments, the RYB model applies. Red, yellow and blue are the primaries. And purple pigment contains enough red elements to share with blue and create a reddish secondary color.

Natural Examples of Purple and Blue Making Red

In nature, there are some vivid examples of purple and blue coming together to form red hues:

  • Sunsets: The scattering of longer purple and blue wavelengths of sunlight through the atmosphere can mix to create stunning red sunsets.
  • Birds: Some tropical birds like macaws and parrots have blue and purple feathers on their wings that blend to display shimmering reds.
  • Flowers: Hydrangea flowers can bloom vivid purples and blues that fuse into red or pink blossoms.
  • Minerals: Amethyst and azurite crystals contain enough red mineral content that when ground together they form deep crimson powdered pigment.
  • Insects: Certain butterflies and dragonflies exhibit blue and violet iridescence on their wings, which mixes to reflect back reddish tones.

So in both artificial color mixing and nature, combining the right hues of purple and blue can result in a vibrant red.

Mixing Other Colors from Purple and Blue

While red is the most striking result, mixing together purple and blue can also create other secondary and tertiary colors. Just by tweaking the proportions, you can achieve:

  • Violet: Add more purple than blue.
  • Iris: Use equal parts purple and blue.
  • Royal blue: Add more blue than purple.
  • Periwinkle: Mix light purple and light blue.
  • Orchid: Mix light purple with a touch of pink and blue.
  • Mauve: Mix purple with a lot of white and a little blue.

So don’t limit your purple and blue mixing to just red. Get creative with the proportions to produce a rainbow of distinctive shades.

Psychology of the Color Red

Now that you know how to mix up this eye-catching red pigment, let’s look at why the color red itself is so powerful:

  • Attention-grabbing – Red attracts attention and alertness from human eyes faster than any other color.
  • Energy – Red boosts blood pressure and respiration rates, inducing a sense of energy and vigor.
  • Passion – Culturally, red represents love, passion and emotional intensity across art, language and symbolism.
  • Urgency – Red signals urgency, danger or importance, hence stop signs, fire trucks and warning labels.
  • Appetite – Red stimulates hunger and drives people to act on desires, which is why fast food chains use it.
  • Confidence – Wearing or being around the color red has been shown to boost confidence and performance levels.

So breaking out that hand-mixed purple-blue red paint or dye at your next event is sure to get pulses racing!


Mixing the perfect red tone from purple and blue takes patience, but the payoff is worth it. With the right blending techniques, color selection and balance, you can achieve stunning reds with a cool, berry-like undertone. And red is such an exciting, energetic color that it’s a great one to add to your pigment palette. So try out those purple and blue combinations and see the red magic happen before your eyes.