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Blue and Brown Make What Color When Mixed?

As we plow merrily on through our color mixing chart experiments, we come to a surprising question: Blue and brown make what color when mixed? I say “surprising” because the results were not what I expected, seasoned paint-swirler that I am.

As background, my name is Lillie. and I’m an artist and teacher who delights in combining colors to see the many hues they yield, thus answering queries such as, “What does green and red make? and, “What does green and purple make?” For further context, we will be talking in this article about the RYB color model of paint and pigment mixing — not the CMYK model of printing or RGB color mode of light.

Now, let’s start this exploration by looking at how pretty brown and blue look when I swirled them together in my illustration, below. I never really thought about juxtaposing those two pigments together until a reader asked about them — but they really do look cool! Sort of natural and earthy.

Brown and blue mixed...
Brown and blue mixed…

Blue and Brown Make What Color?

All right — diving into the actual pigment mixing now, let’s find out through hands-on exploration: brown and blue make what color when combined together? Well, all you’ll see from my paintings here, there is a short answer, and a longer (multiple-part) answer.

The short answer is that the two colors make a muddy brownish blue. The longer answer is that — depending on your “ingredient” shades — the resulting paint or ink color can actually look like a muddy teal green, or even a dusty brown-gray PURPLE! How can that be possible?

Blue and brown make what color?
Blue and brown make what color?

Look At the Ingredient Colors

To understand why this combination can yield muddy purples or teals, we have to break down the parts of each “ingredient” color — sort of like math (except no Pi symbol involved this time). Let’s start with reviewing: What colors make brown? The answer is: Brown is made when all three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) are mixed together. The ratio you pick of each primary ingredient determines the shade of brown.

Therefore, if you pick a brown that has more red in it than yellow or blue, when you mix that red-based brown with the blue, you’ll get dusty purple! Why? Because red and blue make purple. The “dusty” hue of the resulting purple is because of the yellow (inside the brown) getting into the mix, because purple and yellow make mauve.

So how could we yield the dusty teal green shown in the lower left of my illustration, below, and the top row of my painting above? You just need to pick a blue and brown that has more yellow in the mix, because blue and yellow make green!

The teal green is muddy-looking here, because of the red in the mix from the brown. Remember: whenever you have all three primary or all three secondary colors together, there’s a neutral “dusty” look — in contrast to the clear, bright vibrance of intermediate colors, sometimes called tertiary colors.

What color does combining blue and brown make?
What color does combining blue and brown make?

Brown Plus Blue, in Sum

I hope this exploration of what color blue and brown make when mixed has been useful. This is a surprisingly pretty combination, right? It reminds me of the nourishing soil of Mother Earth, hugging the soft waves of a blue ocean. (Just throw a mermaid tail into the mix, and you’ve got a great scene!) What other colors would you like me to experiment with swirling together? Do share!

Want more? Check out “What color do pink and yellow make?” and, “What color does pink and green make?”