Skip to Content

Purple and Brown Make What Color When Mixed?

I’m excited about today’s edition of our color mixing demonstrations, because this one — “Purple and brown make what color when mixed?” — turned out completely differently than I expected. Hint: Get hungry.

Before we start combining paint, here’s a little background. My name is Lillie, and I am a teacher and artist who adores doing hands-on pigment mixing experiments, and sharing the results with you — from the simple, “Blue and yellow make what color?” to the more complex, “Red and green make what color?”

Let’s start this party now by seeing what purple and brown look like when swirled together. As you can see, they’re actually surprisingly similar colors. This will be an important detail later.

Purple and brown make what color?
Purple and brown make what color?

Mixing Purple

Before we address what purple and brown make, let’s back up and review some previous, related purple-mixing experiments. This will help us make an educated guess about what will happen next. First, we know that purple and yellow make the color mauve (a dusty, brown-purple) or brown.

Next, we know that the answer to “What color do purple and orange make?” ranges from brown, to russet (red-brown), to brownish-pink. Finally, we know that red and purple make the color magenta: a vibrant reddish purple. From this, I’m starting to deduce that brown plus purple will produce some sort of brownish, purplish pink. But first, let’s back up even further and do some color math.

What Makes Brown and Purple?

We know already that the secondary color, Purple = Red + Blue. We also know that the answer to what colors make brown (in the RYB color model) is all three primary colors mushed together: Red, Yellow, and Blue. Therefore, the equation becomes: Purple + Brown = Red + Blue + Red + Blue + Yellow = Purple + Purple + Yellow.

Interesting! From this, we suddenly realize that the overwhelming thrust of this mix will actually be purple! Just with a little yellow mixed in to make it slighly more brownish and dark. (We had a similar revelation in our “Brown and green make what color?” experiment.) Let’s now at last turn to my paints to see if this theory holds water. Behold my illustration below…

Making beautiful shades of plum color.
Creating beautiful shades of plum.

How to Make Plum Color

Wow! It turns out that when you mix together purple and brown, you get the deep, slightly brownish shade of purple called plum! I’m so excited and surprised by this — I really expected much more of a brown result. Instead, here is a luscious fruit tone! (Just like our “What color do pink and yellow make?” discussion, this result makes me hungry.)

Note that while plum is similar to maroon color made by what red and black make, it has far more blue in it. It’s probably closest to what purple and black make — a rich, deep shade called midnight purple — but it’s more dusty and neutral because of the addition of the yellow from the brown.

In my drawing below, I’m playing around more with this mix, layering markers and then swirling them together in spots with an airbrush to desaturate them a bit and make the resulting shade easier to see. In this latter illustration, you can see that purple plus brown can also yield a very dark, almost black color, as well as a browner or blacker purple, and a dusty dark mauve. It just depends what your input colors and ratios are.

Mixing brown and purple to make dusty dark purple-brown.
Mixing colors to make dusty dark purple-browns.

Purple and Brown Make What Color?

Color me shocked: It turns out that the correct response to: “Purple and brown make what color? is… plum! I never realized that how to make a plum color involved brown. Yum! See my experiment about what red and brown make for a musical twist on this theme.

Naturally, this mix can also produce more brownish, grayish, blackish purples, depending on ratio inputs, but overall, the color math of Red + Blue + Red + Blue + Yellow yields a far more purple result than anything else. What else would you like me to illustrate and explain? Do share!

Want more? Check out the weird double definition of tertiary colors, and the answer to the question, “Brown and yellow make what color?”