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What is the ratio for mixing tertiary colors?

Welcome readers! As your SEO writer assistant, I’m excited to walk you through the ratios for mixing tertiary colors. Understanding color theory is essential for artists, designers, and anyone looking to expand their creative skills. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about tertiary colors, from their definition to mixing ratios and real-world examples.

What are Tertiary Colors?

Before we dive into mixing ratios, let’s start with the basics. Tertiary colors are the colors created by mixing a primary color with a secondary color adjacent to it on the color wheel. For example:

  • Red (primary) mixed with orange (secondary) makes red-orange (tertiary)
  • Yellow (primary) mixed with green (secondary) makes yellow-green (tertiary)
  • Blue (primary) mixed with purple (secondary) makes blue-purple (tertiary)

There are six tertiary colors in total. Visually, these colors lie between the primary and secondary colors on the color wheel. Tertiary colors have lower color saturation than primary and secondary colors. This means they appear less intense or vibrant.

Mixing Ratios for Tertiary Colors

Now let’s get into the mixing ratios! When blending tertiary colors, you generally want an uneven ratio of the two component colors. This helps maintain the nuances and character of the tertiary shade.

As a starting point, try mixing the primary and secondary colors in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio. Here are the recommended ratios for each tertiary color:

Tertiary Color Primary Color Secondary Color Ratio (Primary:Secondary)
Red-orange Red Orange 3:1 or 4:1
Yellow-orange Yellow Orange 3:1 or 4:1
Yellow-green Yellow Green 3:1 or 4:1
Blue-green Blue Green 3:1 or 4:1
Blue-purple Blue Purple 3:1 or 4:1
Red-purple Red Purple 3:1 or 4:1

Feel free to experiment and adjust the ratios until you achieve the exact tertiary shade you’re aiming for. Add more of the primary color for vibrancy, or more of the secondary color for subtlety.

Mixing Tertiary Colors with Paint

When mixing paint colors, start with a palette or mixing surface. Squeeze out your primary color, then dot the secondary color next to it. Use a painting knife or brush to blend the two together, referring to the target ratios above.

Here are some real-world examples of mixing tertiary paint colors and their approximate ratios:

  • Red-orange: Mix 3 parts cadmium red with 1 part cadmium orange.
  • Yellow-green: Mix 4 parts lemon yellow with 1 part viridian green.
  • Blue-purple: Mix 3 parts ultramarine blue with 1 part dioxazine purple.

The resulting mixtures should produce vibrant tertiary shades. Continue adjusting the ratios until you get your perfect customized color.

Mixing Tertiary Colors with Colored Pencils

For drawing or colored pencil work, layering is an effective approach for blending tertiary colors. Here are some tips:

  • Lightly sketch your design in pencil first.
  • Lay down a layer of the primary color you want to use. Color an even, solid area.
  • Overlapping part of the primary color, add a lighter layer of the secondary color.
  • Blend the two layers together using gentle, circular motions. The paper’s texture will help intermix the colors.
  • Build up layers until you achieve your desired tertiary. You can deepen the shade by applying more primary color on top.

Some examples of tertiary blends with colored pencils:

  • Yellow-orange: Layer yellow over orange.
  • Blue-green: Layer blue over green.
  • Red-purple: Layer red over purple.

Digital Tertiary Colors

For digital artists, mixing tertiary colors is fast and flexible using software like Photoshop or Illustrator. Here are some tips:

  • Select your primary color, then your secondary color using the color picker.
  • Lower the opacity of the secondary color to around 25-40%.
  • Use a brush tool to paint the secondary color over your primary color.
  • Adjust the opacity as needed to get your perfect tertiary tint.
  • You can also use the color blender tool to dynamically mix colors on the canvas.

With endless undos and redos, digital art makes experimenting with color mixes easy. Feel free to play around until you land on your ideal tertiary color!

Real World Uses of Tertiary Colors

Now that you know how to mix tertiaries, let’s explore some real-world examples of these colors in art and design:

  • Landscape paintings – Add subtle and complex tones using tertiaries for foliage, water, and sky.
  • Fashion/textile design – Tertiaries like red-violet and yellow-green lend uniqueness to fabrics and prints.
  • Company branding – Many brands opt for tertiary colors to stand out while still feeling grounded.
  • Interior design – Tertiaries work for accent walls or furnishings, especially in boho or eclectic spaces.
  • Botanical drawings – Capture nuanced petal and leaf colors through tertiary blending.

Tertiaries bring visual interest and sophistication wherever used. Integrating them into your projects can level up your creative skills!

Tertiary Color Mixing Tips

Here are some final tips for seamlessly working with tertiary colors:

  • Start with a rough 3:1 or 4:1 ratio, then tweak as needed.
  • Add white to lighten tertiaries or black to darken them.
  • Look at color wheels or charts for inspiration on color combinations.
  • Do test patches when mixing paints to get the right shades.
  • Use tertiaries alongside primaries and secondaries for cohesion.
  • Let adjacent colors on the wheel inspire your tertiary mixes.


Mixing tertiary colors opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities! By blending primary and secondary colors at uneven ratios, you can achieve gorgeous subtleties in your artwork and designs. Mastering tertiaries takes color theory skills to the next level.

Thanks for learning about tertiary color mixing with me today! Please feel free to get in touch if you have any other color-blending questions.

Keep creating, and have fun with all the beautiful tertiary shades out there!