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What is a mix of yellow and red dye?

What is a mix of yellow and red dye?

Mixing dyes to create new colors is a fun experiment that also demonstrates some interesting science. When two pigments are combined, the resulting color can give clues about the components. Mixing a yellow dye with a red dye will produce an orange hue. The specific shade of orange will depend on the pigments used and their relative proportions. Understanding dye mixing helps explain how secondary colors are formed and provides insights into light absorption by materials. With some simple supplies, you can try mixing dyes at home to observe the results.

Primary Colors

Red, yellow and blue are considered the primary colors in art because they cannot be created by mixing other colors. Secondary colors – green, orange and purple – are formed by combining primary colors. Tertiary colors are made by mixing a primary and secondary shade. The primary colors used in dyeing and pigmentation are slightly different than in light. Red, yellow and blue are the primary colors of light. But pigments follow a CMY model where cyan, magenta and yellow are the primary colors. This is because pigments absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect others back to our eyes. Red pigment absorbs cyan light, yellow absorbs blue light, and blue pigment absorbs yellow light. When multiple pigments are combined, the absorbed colors compound to give a new reflected color.

Properties of Red and Yellow Pigments

So what happens when red and yellow pigments are mixed together? Red dye or paint absorbs cyan wavelengths of light. The reflected light appears red to our eyes. Yellow pigments absorb blue light and reflect back red and green. When these two pigments are blended, both cyan and blue light get absorbed. The remaining wavelengths that get reflected and seen as color are in the orange range. The specific orange shade will vary based on the choice of red and yellow pigments. Primary red pigments include cadmium red and vermillion. Common yellow pigments are cadmium yellow, hanza yellow and yellow ochre. Mixing colors using paints or dyes allows you to experiment with different combinations.

Trying Dye Mixing at Home

You can easily try mixing colors using food coloring, liquid watercolors or powdered pigments. Here are some examples of mixes between red and yellow dyes:

Red Dye Yellow Dye Mixed Color
Red food coloring Yellow food coloring Orange
Vermillion powdered paint Yellow ochre powdered paint Orange
Crimson liquid watercolor Lemon yellow liquid watercolor Red-orange

The mixed colors range from a pure orange to a more reddish orange tone. You can experiment with mixing different proportions of the red and yellow dyes. Adding more red pigment will shift the balance towards red-orange. Increasing the yellow will give a more golden yellow-orange result. Keeping the quantities equal typically produces the most even true orange.

Light Absorption

The specific wavelengths of light absorbed by pigments are based on their molecular composition. Vermillion contains mercury sulfide which absorbs cyan light. The cadmium pigments absorb blue light due to their metallic cadmium composition. Other plant-based yellow dyes like turmeric absorb blue because of light-absorbing polyphenol compounds. When these red and yellow pigments are mixed, their light absorption combines to block out cyan and blue wavelengths. With both ends of the spectrum absorbed, the remaining wavelength in the middle corresponds to orange.

Color Mixing Subtractively and Additively

Mixing pigments is referred to as subtractive color mixing. The pigments subtract certain wavelengths of light through absorption, leaving the remaining shades visible. This is different than additive color mixing where light sources like LEDs or computer screens mix to form colors. Red, green and blue light combine additively to produce a range of hues through varying intensity of the components. Subtractive pigment mixing follows different primary color rules than additive light mixing. But the general principle is the same – combining colors produces a new shade based on the components.

Trying More Color Mixes

Once you mix red and yellow to form orange, you can try out other combinations. Mixing yellow and blue makes green, while blue and red form purple. These secondary mixes demonstrate how the primary pigments each absorb two of the three primary colors of light. You can also experiment with mixing complementary colors, split complements, triadic colors and more. Pay attention to whether mixing dark vs. light shades changes the tone of the output color. Mixing pigments is an engaging way for artists and non-artists alike to learn about light absorption while also producing new colors.


When red and yellow pigments are mixed together, they produce an orange color. This is because red dyes absorb cyan light while yellow dyes absorb blue light. Combining these two leaves shades in the orange wavelength visible. The specific hue can range from reddish orange to yellow orange depending on the choice of pigments and their relative proportions. Mixing dyes at home with items like food coloring allows you to experiment with subtractive color combinations. This activity teaches light absorption principles and lets you experience firsthand how secondary colors are formed by blending primary pigments.