Hello, and welcome to a joyful world of swirling colors together! We will start with the basic primary color combinations, then get more complicated with adding secondary and 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?
Here are the primary color combination rules we learned along with this: Red and yellow make orange. Red and blue make purple. Blue and yellow make green. All three primary colors (or colours) together make either black or brown, depending on the ratios. Easy peasy, eh? Not so fast.
Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow?!
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, 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. Blue and green make teal, and blue and purple make deep bluish-purple, or indigo.
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.
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? 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 two sites, AroundTheWorldL.com (established 2009) and TeachingTraveling.com (founded 2010). Subscribe to Lillie’s monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media to stay connected!