Skip to Content

What two colors make brown with crayons?

What two colors make brown with crayons?

When mixing colors with crayons, brown can be made by combining two primary colors – red and green. By overlaying the pigments found in red and green crayons, the resulting color our eyes perceive is brown. Understanding color theory and how the primary colors can be blended to create secondary and tertiary colors like brown allows even young children to begin experimenting with mixing paints and other media.

Primary Colors

The primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. These are called primary colors because they cannot be created by mixing other colors – instead all other colors are derived from some combination of these three.

When looking specifically at crayons, the primary colors red, blue and yellow each contain a single pigment that absorbs some wavelengths of light and reflects others. Our eyes perceive this reflected light as color.

Primary Color Pigment
Red Carmine, Crimson
Blue Ultramarine, Cerulean
Yellow Lemon, Hansa

For example, a red crayon contains carmine or crimson pigments that absorb greens and blues from white light and reflect back waves we see as red.

Secondary Colors

When two primary colors are mixed together in equal amounts, they create the secondary colors – purple, green, and orange.

Again looking specifically at crayon pigments, combining the primary colors produces these secondary colors:

Secondary Color Mix of Primaries
Purple Red + Blue
Green Blue + Yellow
Orange Red + Yellow

So green results when mixing the primary colors blue and yellow. The pigments absorb all wavelengths except those we see as green.

Tertiary Colors

You can take mixing a step further by combining a primary and secondary color to create tertiary colors. These include colors like red-orange, red-violet, yellow-green, and blue-green.

For example, a red crayon and orange crayon blended together will produce a red-orange tertiary color.

When creating tertiary colors, it is important to use more of the primary color than the secondary color it is being blended with. This prevents the tertiary color from becoming indistinguishable from the primary or secondary color.

Mixing Red and Green to Make Brown

Keeping these color mixing principles in mind, you can mix the primary color red with the secondary color green to produce the tertiary color brown.

Red contains carmine/crimson pigments that reflect red wavelengths. Green contains a mixture of blue and yellow that reflects green wavelengths. Combined together, the red and green pigments absorb most visible wavelengths, reflecting back a color we see as brown.

The specific hue of brown will depend on the relative amounts of red and green. Adding more red keeps it reddish-brown while extra green creates an olive or mossy brown. But equal portions will result in a rich chocolate or coffee brown.

For the best results:

  • Start with equal amounts of vivid primary red and secondary green
  • Gradually add more red or green to adjust the hue
  • Mix thoroughly to create an even tertiary brown

You can also substitute different greens like army green, mint, or forest green to produce interesting browns. Just maintain the balance of more primary red than secondary green.

Brown Color Theory

Beyond just red and green, examining brown through the lens of color theory can help explain why it results from these two starting colors.

Brown is considered a tertiary, low intensity, dark color:

  • Tertiary – Made by combining the primary color red and secondary color green
  • Low intensity – Dull, muted shade without much chroma or saturation
  • Dark – Absorbs most visible light waves, reflecting back a small range of wavelengths

Additionally, brown is considered a warm, earthy color on the color wheel. Warm colors contain more red, orange and yellow hues.

As a blend of the warm primary red and the cool secondary green, brown strikes a natural balance, which gives it those cozy earthy tones.

Understanding these technical elements of how the eye perceives color makes it easier to strategically mix crayon pigments to create the perfect brown.

Crayon Options for Mixing Brown

Not all crayon brands will have the exact same set of color options. But any standard box should contain at least a few crayon pigments perfect for blending brown.

Here are some recommended crayon pairs to try mixing together:

Red Crayon Green Crayon
Scarlet Forest Green
Brick Red Emerald
Crimson Chartreuse
Madder Army Green
Raspberry Lime Green
Cranberry Sea Green
Cherry Asparagus

Any combination of a vivid red with a rich green will allow budding artists to explore creating the perfect handmade brown.

Blending Techniques

You can blend crayon colors right on the paper using different techniques:

Shading – Layer colors, gently going back and forth to intermix

Crosshatching – Apply colors in criss-crossing strokes

Circling – Use circular motions to blend

Smudging – Use a finger to smear and combine hues

Experiment to find the blending method that gives you the most control over the end result.

Remember to thoroughly mix the two crayons together to achieve an even consistent brown that matches your artistic vision.

Alternative Brown Color Mixes

While red and green create a traditional brown, other color combinations can produce brownish hues including:

  • Orange + Violet
  • Orange + Blue
  • Purple + Olive Green
  • Red + Blue

Don’t be afraid to get creative and try out mixing unexpected color pairs on your quest for the perfect custom brown.

Just maintain the balance of more primary color to less secondary color when blending.

Using Brown in Art

Once mixed, brown can be an extremely versatile color for creating art. Try using brown crayon to add depth and texture when coloring:

  • Tree trunks and branches
  • Wildlife like bears, deer, squirrels
  • Soil, rocks, cliffs
  • Wood furniture, fences
  • Nuts, seeds, flowers
  • Pottery, antiques, baskets
  • Pathways, campfires, cabins

Brown helps add realistic detail, contrast, and visual interest to drawings and sketches.

The earthy quality provides warmth and nuance without overwhelming a composition.

Avoiding Muddy Browns

When blending colors to make brown, you’ll want to avoid creating a muddy brown instead. This happens if too much secondary color is added or mixing isn’t thorough.

Muddy browns appear dull, dark, and lack vividness. Often the starting colors are still somewhat recognizable.

Follow these tips for mixing rich, vibrant browns:

  • Add more primary red than secondary green
  • Choose pure crayon colors without tinting or shading
  • Blend completely to eliminate streaks
  • Press firmly when layering colors
  • Add a brown crayon to enhance the shade
  • Use warm red undertones for bright browns

With some practice, you’ll be expertly crafting luscious browns to use in all your artistic pursuits.

Crayon Brown versus Paint Brown

The color theory principles for mixing brown work across different mediums, but there are some differences when working with crayons versus paints:


  • More opaque pigment
  • Layering colors mixes them
  • Goes on waxy, can be blendedsmoothly
  • Hard to make very dark browns


  • More translucent pigment
  • Colors combine when wet
  • Smooth, liquid application
  • Can create deep dark browns

So while the concept of blending red and green is the same, crayons and paint each have their own characteristics to keep in mind.


Brown may seem like a boring color, but by understanding how to mix it by combining red and green crayon pigments, a world of rich, nuanced hues opens up.

Red and green overlay to absorb most visible light waves, reflecting back the complex earthy color we call brown.

Adding more red keeps the tone warm and bright. Extra green creates deeper, cooler browns.

By mastering color theory, children can learn to deliberately craft the exact brown they envision for a given art project.

Whether realistic or imaginative, brown adds subtle depth and contrast when coloring landscapes, animals, objects and more.

So arm your budding artist with a crimson crayon and emerald green crayon and let them experiment with blending brown in all its glory.