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What happens when you mix green and red?

What happens when you mix green and red?

Mixing colors together can create new and interesting colors. In particular, mixing the primary colors red and green results in a secondary color with its own unique properties. Understanding what happens when these colors are combined helps explain some basic principles of color theory and physics.

The Basics of Mixing Red and Green

Red and green are two of the three primary colors. The primary colors are red, blue and yellow. When different primary colors are mixed together, they make secondary colors. For example:

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

So when the primary colors red and green are mixed, they make the secondary color yellow. Specifically, mixing pure red and pure green pigments together will create yellow.

This is because red and green are complementary colors on the color wheel. They are directly opposite each other. Complementary colors cancel each other out and produce a neutral or gray color. However, red and green pigments are usually not perfectly pure and contain some yellow pigment. So mixing imperfect red and green makes the yellow component visible.

The Science Behind Mixing Pigments

On a scientific level, mixing red and green pigments produces yellow because of how color pigments absorb and reflect light.

Pigments appear colored because they absorb some wavelengths of visible light, while reflecting others. The wavelengths that are reflected back determine what color our eyes perceive.

For example:

  • Red pigment absorbs blue and green light. It reflects back red.
  • Green pigment absorbs red and blue light. It reflects back green.

When red and green pigments are combined, both pigments absorb more of the blue light. This leaves more red and green light to be reflected back to our eyes. The combination of reflected red and green light appears yellow to our vision.

So mixing red and green pigments makes the yellow component of those colors more dominant, creating yellow.

Mixing Red and Green Light

The same principles apply when mixing red and green light instead of pigments. But the results are slightly different.

Mixing pure red and pure green light together makes yellow light. This is because red light and green light combine to stimulate both the red and green color receptors in your eyes at the same time.

Your eye’s red and green receptors work together to perceive the color yellow. So adding red and green light makes yellow light energy.

However, real red and green light sources are rarely pure. So mixing imperfect red and green light can produce various yellow-oranges or yellow-greens, depending on the purity of the red and green sources.

Mixing Red and Green Paints and Dyes

When working with paints, inks, dyes, and other color media, mixing red and green makes a muddier, duller brown-yellow color.

This is because real-life paints and dyes contain impurities that shift the color. There are additional ingredients in paint and ink that affect the final mixed color.

For example, mixing red and green paint makes a dark yellow-brown color. Mixing red and green dye makes a murky olive color. The exact shade depends on the chemical composition of the paints or dyes.

Professional artists mix custom colors by controlling the ratio and purity of the red and green pigments. Mixing pure pigments in different ratios creates different hues of yellow, orange, and brown.

The Importance of Color Mixing

Understanding how to mix red and green is important for both scientists and artists.

For scientists, it demonstrates how light absorption and reflection determine color. The absorption spectra of materials follow physical laws that determine their color.

For artists, skillfully mixing colors allows more variety and control over the colors they use. Mastering color combinations helps artists create the exact hues and tones they want.

The general principles of mixing red and green apply to mixing other colors as well. The fundamentals of color theory help explain mixing colors in science, art, and everyday life.

Examples and Uses of Mixed Red and Green

Here are some examples of situations where red and green combine to make different hues:

  • Holiday colors – Christmas uses red and green for a festive effect.
  • Flora – Leaves turning in autumn shifting from green to red to yellow.
  • Food coloring – Mixing red and green makes brown food coloring.
  • Lighting – Combining red and green stage lights makes yellow illumination.
  • Painting – Artists mix red and green paint to make earthy hues.
  • Printing – Overlaying red and green inks produces a range of browns.
  • Digital screens – Mixing red and green pixels on a monitor makes yellow.

These examples show how the color principles that apply when formally mixing red and green also work in practical everyday uses.


Mixing the primary colors red and green results in the secondary color yellow. This occurs because red and green are complementary colors that contain some yellow components.

On a technical level, combining red and green pigments produces yellow through light absorption and reflection. Mixing red and green light makes yellow through color perception in the human eye.

The exact hue of yellow depends on the purity of the red and green sources. More pure reds and greens make a brighter yellow. Impure reds and greens make dull brown-yellows.

Understanding how red and green combine helps explain the basics of color theory and has many practical uses in science, art, and everyday life. So next time you see red and green mixed together, you’ll know why yellow appears!