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What Do Orange and Purple Make When Mixed?

It’s time for another pigment party for color swirling fun! Fresh off my exploration of “What Does Purple and Green Make?” I realized that I’ve never before asked: What do orange and purple make when they’re mixed together? Let’s dive into unpacking this question — and get prepared, because there’s more than one answer, and it’s complicated. Now, let the first illustration I made slowly hypnotize you into a hue haze as we begin…

Purple and orange together
Time to swirl purple and orange together!

Purple Plus Orange Equals…

When I do these color mixing experiments, I don’t cheat by looking up the answers online — I first do extensive test with my own art materials. You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when I created the drawing below, smudging together purple plus orange… and found that there were at least NINE totally different shades resulting! How would you describe the colors shown below? Dusty pink? Brownish red-magenta? Whoa! Unexpected.

How to make russet or brown-pink-red.
Purple and orange make many shades of brownish-pink.

Primary Color Science

To figure out what was happening and pinpoint exactly what color was resulting from purple and orange together, I backed up and did some color mixing math, creating the drawing below to illustrate the primary colors that make up each “ingredient” in this mix. Suddenly it all made sense…

The color science behind why purple and orange make reddish-brown.
The science behind what purple and orange make.

Why Orange and Purple Make Reddish-Brown

Here’s the pigment math of what’s happening with this color combination, illustrated by my drawing, above, which breaks each primary color component apart, then shows how they add up. First, we see that purple is made up of red and blue. Meanwhile, orange is created by red plus yellow. Now the separated parts are clear: Red, red, blue, yellow.

Next, take the blue from the purple and the yellow from the orange, which creates green. Then combine that with the red from the orange, and we know that the answer to “what does red and green make?” is brown. Then you have one more red left over (from the purple), and you add that to the brown to make the final answer: Purple plus orange equals reddish-brown!

Can The Two Colors Make Black?

Why don’t the two colors form black? Because to get black in pigment mixing, you need equal parts of all three primary colors. As you can see from my illustration, there’s an overabundance of red in the mix, and the two are not complimentary colors or opposites (though they’re close — yellow is), so purple plus orange will always result in a color that’s in the brown family, not black.

What Do Orange and Purple Make
What Do Orange and Purple Make? Russet! Sometimes.

Reddish-Brown is “Russet” Color

It turns out there’s a fancy name for the particular reddish-brown that purple and orange join forces to create: “Russet!” Yes that’s right — like Russet Potatoes, russet colored hair, Golden Russet Apples, and russet mites. It’s a really pretty color! Think of the richest russet-hued soil, or dark auburn hair. Nature loves the color russet. But wait — russet is not the only color that results from this combination of orange and purple.

When russet is lighter, it becomes dusty pink.
When russet is lighter, it becomes dusty pink.

Making Dusty Pinks

As you can see from more than half of my experiments here for the art prompt, “What color do purple and orange make?” my pigment mixing resulted in another family of colors more clearly than the dark reddish-brown of russet: mostly I got dusty brownish pinks!

How does this differ from my answer to “What Do Yellow and Purple and Make?” The resulting pinks and browns from purple and orange together are more reddish than the ones from purple and yellow. Why? Remember that color math chart I drew earlier — the latter combination has one less chunk of red in the mix.

Mixing purple and orange paint.
Mixing purple and orange paint.

What Do Orange and Purple Make?

We’ve now solved the answer to what color orange and purple make when mixed together! They combine to form either russet — a rich reddish-brown — if they’re dark and saturated enough, or a wide range of dusty brownish pinks. Now go forth and make all these cute drawing ideas using that sweet color set! Enjoy…

Want more? Check out “What do Orange and Green Make?” and my full color mixing chart!

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