Skip to Content

What two colors mix for brown?

What two colors mix for brown?

Brown is an earthy, neutral color that can add warmth and comfort to decor. While brown may seem like a basic color, its varied shades, from light tan to deep chocolate, make it versatile for any room. But to get that perfect brown tone, it helps to understand how to mix colors to achieve it. The primary colors that mix together to create brown are red, yellow, and blue.

Red and Green

One of the most common color combinations to make brown is red and green. When blended, the warm red tones and cool green tones neutralize each other to create an earthy brown. The amount of red and green used impacts the shade of brown.

Adding more red results in brick or rusty browns. Increasing green creates olive and mossy shades. Equal parts red and green make for a balanced, natural tan brown. Red and green are complements on the color wheel, meaning they are opposite each other. This opposite positioning is why they neutralize so well.

Red and green are also easy to mix because they are primary colors. Primary colors can’t be created by mixing other colors but are used as the building blocks for all other hues. With just red, blue and yellow primary paints or pigments, you can create any color, including various browns.

Yellow and Blue

Another primary color pair that blended makes brown is yellow and blue. Yellow provides warmth while blue lends coolness. Combining the two creates neutral browns.

More yellow results in tans and golden browns. Increasing the blue makes ashy and grey-browns. Equal amounts produce natural, muted brown shades. Like red and green, yellow and blue are complementary colors directly across from each other on the color wheel.

This opposite positioning allows them to cancel out each other’s intensity when mixed. The result is a harmonious, subtle brown ideal for backgrounds and accents.

Red, Yellow and Blue

For exceptional depth and variation in brown, try mixing all three primary colors – red, yellow and blue. Primary colors are called primaries because they can’t be created by mixing other pigments but instead are the colors all others stem from.

Start with a base of yellow and add small amounts of red and blue. Adjust each color until you achieve the exact shade of brown desired. The yellow provides a warm base, red adds earthiness and blue contributes cool undertones.

By adjusting the red and blue levels, you can make the brown warmer with more red or cooler with more blue. The primary color mix allows for brown hues ranging from tan to taupe to mahogany.

Color Wheel Placement

Browns sit between the primary colors on the color wheel. If you look at a 12-part color wheel, browns are located between the primary colors of red, yellow and blue.

On a color wheel, browns span the wedge between orange and green. This demonstrates how browns are created by the undertones of these adjacent colors mixing together.

Browns also fill the wedge between violet and yellow-orange. Again, the undertones of these surrounding colors blend to form earthy browns.

Understanding brown’s positioning on the color wheel helps explain why browns naturally occur when blending primary colors in opposing positions. This helps in intentionally mixing paints, dyes or inks to create all shades of brown.

Tertiary Colors

While the primary colors mix to make brown, another option is blending the tertiary colors adjacent to brown on the wheel. Tertiary colors are created by mixing one primary with one secondary color next to it on the wheel.

For example, red-orange comes from mixing red and orange. Red is primary while orange is secondary. Green-blue is made by blending the primary blue with the secondary green.

The tertiary colors on either side of brown are red-orange and green-blue. Mixing these together produces a muted, earthy brown. Adjusting the ratios results in warmer brown with more red-orange or cooler brown with more green-blue.

Using adjacent tertiary colors is an easy shortcut for mixing browns compared to starting from scratch with primaries. The tertiary colors’ undertones automatically blend into browns.

Hue and Tint

In addition to mixing colors, adjusting a color’s hue and tint impacts how it appears. Hue refers to where a color sits on the color wheel. Tint describes its lightness or darkness.

Shifting a color hue towards brown and reducing its tint by adding black will darken and dull it into earthy browns. For example, muting the brightness of reds, oranges and yellows produces brick, rust and mustard browns.

Desaturating and darkening blues, greens and purples results in cool greys and mocha-browns. Adjusting any color’s hue and tint towards brown will enable you to custom mix the exact shade desired.

Home Decor Uses

Browns work beautifully in home decor. They provide a neutral, versatile backdrop that allows bolder accent colors to really pop. Different shades of brown can create a color scheme that is warm and inviting.

Lighter tans work well in airy, sunlit rooms like kitchens and sunrooms. Darker chocolate browns pair perfectly with deep reds and oranges, ideal for cozy living spaces. Cool greys complement moody blues for a sophisticated vibe.

Painting walls, cabinets and furniture in various brown hues creates harmony and flow. Accent with pops of other colors that blend well with browns, like blue, green, yellow and white.

Paint Mixing

For painting walls, artist paints, crafts and other media, you can mix brown oil or acrylic paints from primary color paints. Start with a yellow base and add small amounts of blue and red until you achieve the brown tone needed.

Another option is to blend complementary paint colors like red and green or orange and blue. Adjust the ratios until you create the perfect neutral brown for your project.

Pre-mixed brown paints are also available at most art supply stores. Having a few on hand in light, midtone and dark varieties helps easily achieve brown color schemes.

Dyeing and Tinting

To dye fabrics, tint plastics, wood stains or any materials, using primary color dyes is an option to mix browns. Combining red, yellow and blue dyes or tints creates an endless spectrum of browns, from tan to mahogany.

You can also blend complementary dye colors like red and green or orange and blue. Adjusting the ratios results in the exact warm or cool brown tone needed.

For convenience, pre-mixed brown fabric dyes and wood stains are available as well. Keeping a selection of light, medium and dark browns makes it easy to achieve the shade you need for your project.

Printing and Design

For digital projects, knowing how to mix brown color combinations is key. In design programs, start with a yellow or orange base and add red and blue to create variations of browned.

You can also overlay opposite colors like red and green or purple and yellow. Lowering the transparency results in neutral brown tones.

Many software programs have pre-programmed swatches of different brown shades. Use these as a starting point or reference for custom mixing browns for prints, websites, painting digitally or other designs.

Mixing Tips

Follow these helpful tips when blending colors to create brown:

  • Start with warm yellow, orange or red bases for rich earth tones.
  • Add small amounts of blues or greens to neutralize and dull the base color.
  • Increase blue for cooler ash browns or red for warmer rust browns.
  • Mixing opposite or complement colors on the wheel results in muting.
  • Add white to lighten brown or black to darken it.
  • Adjust hue, tint and saturation to shift any color towards a brown.

The Brown Color Spectrum

Brown has an extremely varied color spectrum. By changing the ratios of primary colors or the hue and tint, endless shades can be mixed.

Here are some of the most popular shades of brown:

  • Camel: Yellow-based light to mid tan.
  • Khaki: Dusty green-yellow tan.
  • Taupe: Cool grey-brown with purple undertones.
  • Beige: Creamy off-white brown.
  • Umber: Yellow-orange reddish dark brown.
  • Russet: Reddish muted brown with orange undertones.
  • Sepia: Rich mid-range brown with red undertones.
  • Mocha: Milk chocolate brown with warm reddish undertones.
  • Chestnut: Reddish dark brown.
  • Chocolate: Dark cool reddish brown.
  • Espresso: Inky black-brown.

Brown Color Combinations

Brown pairs beautifully with many colors to create appealing color schemes. Some combinations that work well are:

  • Browns with blues – cool and calming
  • Browns with greens – balanced and earthy
  • Browns with reds and oranges – warm and cozy
  • Browns with pinks or yellows – cheerful and friendly
  • Browns with purples or violets – sophisticated ambiance
  • Browns with neutrals like white, black, gray – classic and elegant

Try mixing varying shades of browns with colors in analogous or complementary positions on the color wheel for visually pleasing results.


Brown may seem simple, but its many nuanced shades provide limitless decorating possibilities. By understanding how to mix browns using primary, complementary or tertiary colors, you can achieve the exact hue needed.

Warm up rooms with earthy reds, spice it up with bold oranges or create a relaxing oasis with cooling blues and greens. However you choose to utilize it, brown’s neutral versatility makes it a color you’ll come back to again and again.