Hello, and welcome to a joyful world of swirling colors together! My name is Lillie, and I’m an artist who will be your teacher today. We will start with the basic primary color combinations, then get more complicated with adding secondary colors and intermediate or tertiary colors together in a beautiful color mixing chart to answer such complex questions as: “What does red and green make?” Get prepared for some surprises.
Primary Color Misconceptions
Now, despite being an artist and teacher for decades, it’s only recently that I realized how much I still had to learn about color mixing. Most of us were taught the basics back in elementary school finger paint activities: The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue, and they form all the other colors, and cannot be made by mixing any other colors, right?
Yes, for old-fashioned paint mixing, the primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. However, if we really get into the science of printing and painting (the CYMK Model), the primary colors are cyan (a bright blue), magenta (pinkish-red), and yellow, which form the subtractive model of color mixing in which the pigments absorb light, and all three together make black. Part of why the green in my illustration above looks so muddy is because the blue I used wasn’t cyan enough — it’s too dark.
Subtractive vs. Additive Color Combinations
Ready for things to get even crazier? In the world of light and screens, the primary colors are red, blue, and GREEN (the RGB Model), and all three colors together make WHITE! What?! Yes, that’s right — the realm of light uses the additive model of color combination, which reflects instead of absorbs light, as it produces the opposite effect from the subtractive model: thus yielding white instead of black. Oh my.
Not To Worry…
Now that we have that scientific background out of the way, let me lead you back to the comfort of old-fashioned color mixing in the RYB model, because this color mixing chart is all about basic paint combinations. As you see in my lovely illustration above, red and orange make reddish-orange, and red and purple make magenta.
The specific resulting hues depend upon the ratios and shades you pick as your ingredients. But what about the more complex color combinations, like “What does orange and blue make?” Let’s find out with in-depth investigations.
Color Mixing Chart
Ever wonder what color results from mixing a certain pigment with another? This color mixing chart has illustrations by an artist of results of the more complicated and surprising combinations.
What happens when you mix the secondary color, orange, with the primary color, blue? You can already see in my illustration, below, that GREEN is one of the resulting colors! Click to see the other answers.
When purple and red are mixed, they produce one of my all-time favorite colors: magenta! This wine-ish reddish purple is integral in the jewel tone palette, and is rich and satisfying. You'll see it all over my artwork on this site!
Green and orange together yielded several results, including olive green, dusty purple, or brown. Here's a chart of why that happened -- it comes down to the primary colors hidden inside each of the ingredients.
Ready for a shocking neon color that's only used when you really want your design or art to POP? Mix green and yellow to make chartreuse! This color combination can also form lime, and other yellow-green variations. See more here.
Blue and purple are analogous colors (next to each other on the color wheel), so combining them makes the pleasing tertiary color, blue-purple: also known as violet or blue-violet. Depending on ratios and shades of colors coming into the combination, this mix can also result in indigo, periwinkle, lavender, lilac, and more!
In the RYB model of color mixing, the primary colors yellow and blue make green. Just watch out, because the type of blue you pick for the mix can dictate different shades of graen: from making olive (a muddy brownish-green), to a cheerful light lime green.
Pink is just a lighter red, so it makes sense that if red and green make brown or black, pink plus green makes a lighter tan brown, and gray -- but you can make some other interesting colors, too, depending on the "ingredient" colors.
I was intrigued to see that the tan, beige or khaki produced by mixing brown and yellow together has a greenish tinge -- quite different from the terracotta color made by orange plus brown. Click here to see why that happens.
Adding black to a color makes darker shades of it, so red and black make dark red -- also known as maroon! Don't they look striking together in this fashionable dress I drew to feature the combination?
Though brown isn't technically on the color wheel, it's an essential neutral color for making art with natural-looking skin tones, hair and fur, and earthy hues. So how is it made? The good news is that there are a huge number of options for mixing brown, since many combinations that have all three primaries will yield a form of it. See the choices here.
This Color Mixing Chart, in Sum
What are your thoughts after learning about the science behind color combinations, and seeing the results of the experiments in this color mixing chart? What are your favorite pigments to use together or blend? Mine has become midnight purple lately, along with the complex answer to what colors make purple. Do share!
The author and artist, Lillie Marshall, is a National Board Certified Teacher of English who has been a public school educator since 2003, and an experienced Reiki practitioner since 2018. All art on this site is original and hand-drawn by Lillie. She launched DrawingsOf.com Educational Cartoons in 2020, building upon the success of her other sites, AroundTheWorldL.com (established 2009), TeachingTraveling.com (founded 2010), and ReikiColors.com. Subscribe to Lillie’s monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media to stay connected!