Learn the Magic of Color Mixing

When you paint or design, you will use a variety of techniques and elements. One of the important things to know is mixing colors. In order to be able to paint a wide range of images and shades, or to design better, color mixing is necessary.

color mixing

Color Mixing Guide: Understanding Color Theory

Knowing the three primary colors is the first step in mixing colors. You probably already know about primary colors and their importance. However, let’s take a moment to review the topic of color theory.

Primary Colors

The color wheel with bold primary colors of blue red and yellow for learning about primary, secondary and tertiary colors in dopley colors

The three primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. Combining these colors can result in a wide variety of additional colors. Additionally you cannot mix these colors yourself. While this is pretty straightforward, there are many different shades of each primary color available. For the perfect color-mixing chart, these shade are recommended:

  • Cadmium red (A warm red with a touch of yellow)
  • Alizarin crimson (A cooler red with a touch of blue)
  • Lemon yellow (A cool yellow with a bit of blue)
  • Cadmium yellow (A warm yellow with a hint of red)
  • Phthalo blue (A cool blue shade with some yellow in it)
  • Ultramarine blue (A warmer blue containing some red)

If you are mixing secondary and tertiary colors, it is easier if you have two different shades of each primary color. Having more color options to play with makes it easier to get the exact tone you want. You can also mix more colors by having different shades of each primary color. You can, for example, create different shades of green by combining yellows and blues.

Secondary Colors

The color wheel of primary and secondary and tertiary colors with bold secondary colors of purple and orange and green for understanding secondary colors in dopley colors blog

When you have all your primary colors ready, you can use them to mix secondary colors. Combining two primary colors will create a secondary color. Secondary colors are orange, green, and purple. If you want to achieve the exact tone you want, you can follow a color-mixing chart, but below are some basic guidelines for achieving secondary colors.

  • Green = Yellow and blue
  • Purple = Blue and red
  • Orange = Yellow and red

You can create a vast range of shades and tones when mixing colors in this category. You can adjust it by adding or subtracting colors or by using different tones of primary colors. To get the exact shade you want, you can follow a color-mixing guide, but the best thing to do is to experiment. Playing around with colors will help you understand which combinations yield which results.

Tertiary Colors

The color wheel of twelve colors with primary and secondary and tertiary colors and bold tertriay colors of red-purple or pink, blue-purple, blue-green, green-yellow or yellowish green, yellow-orange or orangish brown, and orange-red for learning tertiary colors in dopley colors blog post

Tertiary colors are basically variations of secondary colors. Using secondary colors in different ratios and shades, you can produce a wider range of colors that we call tertiary colors. To create more variety, mix a secondary color with a primary color. These colors are excellent for creating detailed color profiles and for transitioning between colors.

You can create six different tertiary colors here by mixing colors. All of these can be modified to create a wider range of shades. The tertiary colors are:

  • Red-orange
  • Blue-green
  • Blue-purple
  • Red-purple
  • Yellow-orange
  • Yellow-green

Color Mixing Guide: The Color Wheel

As you start mixing colors, you will see the color wheel a lot. You can visualize different color relationships by using a color wheel, which is a type of color-mixing chart. You can mix certain colors easily if you have a color wheel.

color wheel

Complementary Colors

There are certain colors that sit opposite one another on a color wheel. They are complementary colors. These colors complement and harmonize when used together, providing a vibrant effect.

According to complementary color theory, yellow and purple go together, blue and orange complement one another, and red and green complement one another. In addition, there are split-complementary colors. This idea is similar, but it uses the colors surrounding one rather than the opposite one. The effect is similar to complementary colors, but the variety is greater.

Analogous Colors

You can find analogous colors by looking at the three colors next to one another on the color wheel. A color wheel will show you that the three colors next to each other are analogous if you point to any part of it. The colors are closely related, so they look beautiful together.

Triadic Colors

Triadic colors are those that are spaced out evenly on the color wheel. You create an exciting and bold arrangement of colors when you use them together. Orange, green, and purple, for example, are triadic colors that work well together.

For more information, you can read this article.

What is a Color Mixing Chart?

You can greatly benefit from a color-mixing chart if you are a beginner or are still learning about color theory. There are diagrams that illustrate all the colors and reveal the combinations that can be made by mixing them together.

How to Mix Colors

A piece of guidance that is essential: to truly understand color mixing, you must practice and experiment. When it comes to mixing colors, you will need to experiment with different ratios and mixes before you gain a solid understanding of each shade. It becomes easy to mix colors of any shade once you have a good foundation.

How to Lighten a Color

Beginners often turn to titanium white when they need to lighten a color. But when you add white to a color, you not only lighten that color but also reduce its saturation (make it weaker) and reduce the color temperature. It can sometimes work against your color mixing, especially when you are painting a subject under a warm light source. You want your colors to get warmer as they get lighter, not cooler.

Using yellow is an alternative for lightening your color. This will (usually) increase the lightness and retain saturation, but the hue will change

How to Darken a Color

Most people use black to darken a color. Additionally, you can use:

  • Ultramarine blue and raw umber, which is basically an alternative to using black from a tube;
  • Naturally dark colors like blue, green, or red;
  • Dark earth tones, such as raw umber.

How to Lower the Saturation of a Color

You can make a color duller (lower the saturation) by:

  • Combine the color with its complement (the color on the opposite side of the color wheel). Red, for example, can be diluted by mixing it with its complement, green. Ideally, mixing two complementary colors would lead to a pure gray shade. Complementary colors are often not absolute complements, but rather approximate complements.
  • Mix the color with gray.
  • Mix the color with white. The color would also get lighter and cooler.
  • Mix the color with black. The color would also get darker.
  • Mix the color with another low saturation color, like raw umber. There would also be a change in hue.

How to Mix Vivid Colors

vivid colors in one picture

To mix vivid primary colors (red, blue, and yellow), you need to use pre-mixed colors; you can’t mix your own vibrant primary colors by mixing different colors together. Red cadmium, ultramarine blue, and yellow cadmium are examples of vivid primary colors. Examples of non-vivid primary colors are burnt sienna, Prussian blue, yellow ochre.

In order to make secondary colors (orange, green, and purple), you need to mix just two primary colors. A mix of red and yellow is orange; a mix of blue and yellow is green; a mix of blue and red is purple. In reality, most of our primary colors aren’t pure primary colors; along with traces of some other color they contain. An example is yellow ochre, which is a yellow color that also contains some red. Cadmium yellow light is a yellow light that contains some blue.

Therefore, to make vivid secondary colors, make sure the two primary colors lean in the direction of the secondary color you want. For example, to create a vivid orange, you want yellow and red to have an orange on the color wheel. For a vivid green, you want your yellow and blue to lean towards green. For vibrant purple, you need your blue and red to lean towards purple.

Color Matching

Learning the process of matching colors can be extremely useful when it comes to art. As an exercise, color matching is fun, but not so easy. You can do this by cutting out six or more squares from different colored magazines; this will look good. Put these squares on paper, and draw an empty box next to each of them. After that, try to create an empty box that has the exact same shade as the color in the box next to it. By doing this exercise repeatedly, you will be able to mix colors in a wide variety of ways.

blue and yellow and pink and white in one picture

Saturation and Contrast in Color Mixing

It is essential that you know how to use colors in your work to create depth and perspective. Create a square grid to start this exercise. Add some kind of design by using two complementary colors in various shades. In this design, you will find the central feature through the use of warm and saturated colors. Color contrast and depth can then be added through complementary shades. For a painting to have a good perception, color contrast through cooler tones is essential.

Choosing one complementary color as the dominant force in the design is a good starting point. Use the other colors to add extra bursts of color or emphasize points. By placing two bright complementary colors together, your design will capture the viewer’s attention more quickly. Play with colors and get a feel for using them.

Creating Color Gradations

You can see saturated colors on the color wheel consisting of primary and secondary colors. Brown, earth tones, and khaki are all compound colors, which means they have a combination of the three primary colors. To create color gradations, we move from one complementary color to another, as well as the compound colors that lie between.

Draw a line with seven squares on it. In the far left square, place a red-orange shade and in the far right square, a blue-green shade. From one shade to the next, work your way through the compound colors.

Before you begin to paint through this exercise, make sure that you have mixed enough colors. You can start with the red-orange, then darken it a little at a time until you get the right gradient. The colors should gradually change from warm to cool, while the central square should be neutral. You may need to practice quite a few times before you get it right.

How to Make Different Colors

What Colors Make Black?

A black color can be created by mixing dark red with dark blue. You can also make it by mixing together all three primary colors. 

What Colors Make Yellow?

Yellow is a primary color, so it cannot be mixed by other colors. 

What Colors Make Orange?

Red and yellow can be combined to make orange. Adding more yellow makes the orange lighter. Add more red to make the orange darker.

What Colors Make Purple?

Using a mixture of blue and red, you can make purple. The different ratios of these colors result in different shades of purple.

What Colors Make Blue?

Since blue is a primary color, it cannot be mixed by other colors. However, adding white to blue can produce different shades of blue.

What Colors Make Green?

You can achieve green by combining yellow and blue. Using different shades of yellow and blue, as well as different ratios, you will get different shades of green.

What Colors Make Red?

Red is a primary color, so it cannot be mixed by other colors. Add white to red to lighten it.

Mixing the Difficult Colors

The mixing of some colors can be quite simple, whereas in other cases it can be very challenging. Gray and brown are compound tertiary colors that represent two of the most challenging shades. Compound tertiary colors are created by combining each of the primary colors. You get brown or gray based on the different ratios of each color.

What Colors Make Brown?

A particular shade of brown is determined by the exact proportion of colors you use. However, here are some good methods for mixing colors for different brown shades.

brown color mixing

Warm Brown

If you wish to make this, you will need a warm green, which is obtained by mixing yellow that contains red with blue that has a touch of red. Combining this green with a warm red will produce a beautiful brown shade.

Adding red makes the brown warmer, and adding blue tones it down. Experiment a bit to achieve the right shade of brown.

Cool Brown

It is possible to find cool brown shades as well as warm brown shades. You will use cool primary colors instead of warmer tones. Colors such as red and green can be used, but they must have a cooler shade. After that, you can warm it up with red or cool it down with blue.

Dark Brown and Light Brown

You can use white to lighten any shade of brown. Always start with a very small amount of white, and gradually add more until you reach the right shade. It is easy to add white, but difficult to remove it.

Use either red or blue to make the brown a bit darker. Avoid using black as a darkening color, since it will just cause a muddy look. You should choose blue or red based on the warmth of the brown tone.

What Colors Make Gray?

Gray is often thought of as an easy color to mix, because it’s a combination of black and white. That’s wrong. Before making gray, it is important to know what colors make black. Black is often created by combining every primary color. Therefore, adding white will only create a purple or greenish color. Therefore, you must first understand the colors that make black before making gray.

gray color mixing

Start with a lot of blue and a little bit of orange and white for a perfect shade of gray. To get the right type of gray, you should mix these together and experiment until the perfect shade is achieved. You can achieve a softer, more delicate shade of gray by using more white, some red, and some green. You can combine purple, yellow, and white to create a warmer gray tone. The best way to learn this is to experiment with it and get a feel for it.


For beginners in painting or design, mixing colors can be quite confusing. Not only the color theory, but also the different painting media are important. In this article, I tried to talk about the keys to color mixing and show you the most important tips and tricks to mix your colors.

Also, you can use Dopely Color Mixer tool to make any color combination that you want.

Hope you enjoy it!

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This is Zahra. I'm in love with different languages and colors. So I decided to be the messenger of the world of colors! Here in Dopely, I write about colors and I like to take you to their world with me.

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