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Terracotta Color: Orange and Brown Make What, Mixed?

Hello, color mixing chart fans! Today we will be exploring how to make terracotta color: the answer to the query, “Orange and brown make what color when mixed together?” by using hands-on experiments and illustrations. We’ll dive into the origins of the color’s name, its spelling, as well as a fascinating historical connection.

As background, my name is Lillie and I’m an artist and teacher who adores investigating color combinations, including answers to questions like: “What do blue and purple make?” and, “Red and green make what color when mixed?” Let’s gaze now at how autumnal and earthy orange and brown look when swirled together by my brush…

Orange and brown, mixed.
Orange and brown, mixed.

What Color Do Orange and Brown Make?

First, we must back up a moment and do some “color math” to understand what happens when we mix these two colors. If you recall our answer for “What colors make brown?” the answer is: all three primary colors (in the RYB model) mixed together, which means Red + Yellow + Blue. Meanwhile, the answer to “Red and yellow make what color?” is… our friend orange!

Put together, the equation becomes Brown + Orange = Red + Red + Yellow + Yellow + Blue = Orange + Orange + Blue. Since we know that the answer to “What does orange and blue make?” is brown with a slight tinge of green, and the answer to, “What does orange and green make?” is olive color, we can postulate that the result of mixing orange and brown will be a brownish orange with the slightest hint of green. Let’s see from my drawings if this is the case…

Orange and brown make what color?
Orange and brown make what color?

Terracotta Color

Hooray! Yes indeed, orange plus brown equals terracotta color: one of the most warmly earthy, natural, rich colors out there! It goes particularly well with viridian color (a relaxing green).

As you can see from my illustrations above and below, there is in fact a very slight green undertone to terracotta as we’d predicted, though the predominant “flavors” of the color are orange-brown — almost caramel. Note that this is a more orange-y shade than the browns created by what orange and black make.

Terra-Cotta Pottery

The color terracotta is also sometimes spelled or written as terra-cotta or tera cotta, and is named for the Italian term of the same name, meaning “baked earth.” As you can see from photos of terra-cotta pottery, this specific type of clay in the real world is the exact orangish-brown shade as the color terracotta!

One may also recognize this color’s name from the famed Terra Cotta soldiers of ancient China: those rows and rows of clay figurines that were found near Xi’an, and date back to 221 B.C.E. I will note, as a color geek, that the soldiers are no longer exactly terracotta color, due to the aging process turning them more like the color brown and yellow make — but they’re still very cool.

Making terracotta color.
Making terracotta color.

Terracotta Color in Sum

So there you have it: the answer to, “Orange and brown make what color when mixed?” is… terracotta color! (Or terra cotta color, if you prefer to spell it that way.) I find this rich color goes well with jewel tones like teal, gold, emerald, and magenta (what red and purple make). What other color should I mix next? Do share!

Want more? Check out my ode to azure color: blue like a perfect clear-sky day.