As I added more and more combinations to my color mixing chart, I began to realize something surprising: the answer to the question, “What colors make purple?” is NOT as obvious as I had previously thought. There are actually a number of different possible responses to this query, and a fabulous range of shades of purple to create. Let’s explore them!
First, some background. My name is Lillie and I’m an artist and teacher who relishes doing hands-on experiments to ascertain what different color combinations yield. As we saw in my article about what colors make brown, figuring out creative ways to produce familiar colors has been a particular interest of mine lately.
What Two Colors Make Purple?
Let’s start with the most obvious answer to the question, “What colors make purple?” which is: the two primary colors red and blue make purple. (We are speaking in this article of the RYB system of paint or pigment mixing, not the RGB system of mixing light, or the CYMK of printing.)
In this RYB color model, purple is one of the three secondary colors on the color wheel that is produced by mixing two of the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) together. The other two secondary colors are green (what blue and yellow make), and orange (what red and yellow make). True primary and secondary colors are bright and jolly, in comparison to the muddier neutrals created by combinations of all three primary colors at the same time.
Beyond Just Red and Blue…
Despite the famous answer being that purple is simply created by red plus blue, in fact there are a whole lot of other ways to make the color, as long as we take a relatively loose definition of “purple,” and also include such versions of it as the dusty brown-gray purple called mauve (what orange and blue make). Let’s dive right into our options in my round-up, below!
Mixing Purple for Different Shades
Now that we’ve explored various ways to make purple beyond blue and red, I want to give a shout-out to the pretty other shades of purple that can be created by mixing purple, itself, with all the colors of the rainbow — as I’ve demonstrated by my illustration, below. I’d also point you towards my in-depth study of the deep, dark shade called midnight purple that’s made by adding in black.
Referring to my drawing below, I find the color lilac particularly pretty for shading in the sides of a cute cloud drawing to give it depth. I would also like to state for the record that it is extremely difficult to spell fuchsia.
Note that magenta and indigo are both intermediate colors (the mix of a secondary color — in this case, purple — with the primary color right next to it on the color wheel: in this case, red and blue, respectively). Intermediate colors (sometimes also called tertiary colors) are so bright and happy to me!
Combining 3 or More Colors
If you think about it, in this entire article, we’ve been using red plus blue as the base of creating purple, then adding in one or two other colors to the mix. As long as that third color is in a small enough enough, the overall result will be some shade of purple. For example, when we said, “Pink and blue make (light) purple,” we are actually just adding red, blue, and white together, since pink is red plus white.
Meanwhile, blue and brown make purple (as long as it’s a reddish brown) because a reddish brown is red + red + blue + yellow, so that combination is actually blue + blue + red + red + yellow = purple and yellow = mauve.
Is Purple a Warm or Cool Color?
If you’re wondering whether purple is considered a warm or cool color, the answer is that it is seen as a cool color, along with blue and green. Cool colors often feel more calming and relaxed.
In contrast, the warm colors of red, orange, and yellow are more fiery and bold. As we’ve seen in my article “Is Pink a Warm Color?” purple is a bit more straightforward to answer this question for than pink, but “cool” and “warm” can also be relative, so you might have two purples next to each other, one of which is warmer or cooler than the other, depending on how much red or blue each has in it.
Purple Color Meaning
What does the color purple mean or signify, symbolically? What is it associated with? Well, in fashion, art, and decor, purple is often seen as having a regal flair, evoking the rich and lush power of kings and queens.
What is the spiritual meaning of purple? In the system of chakra colors, purple is associated with intuition at the Third Eye Chakra, and with Universal Energy at the Crown Chakra at the top of the head.
What Colors Make Purple, in Sum
I hope this exploration of the surprisingly varied answers to the question “What two colors make purple?” has been useful. I’m curious to hear from you: Which shades of purple are YOUR favorite? Want more? Check out my related color-mixing article, “What colors make pink?”
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!