Knowing what colors make brown − so that you can easily make your own brown color, is absolutely necessary if you are a painter. Especially if you are a painter who paints from observation.
When painting from what you see, you will encounter the need to create different shades of brown color all the time. Shades with varied values and color temperatures such as; cool browns, warm brown colors, dark browns, light shades of brown, the list goes on!
In this article, you will learn what colors make brown and how to make the color brown (starting with the basics). Then I will go into further detail by showing you how to make different shades of brown color. So that you will know how to easily mix any shade of brown color you need as you paint!
What colors make brown?
Did you know that when you mix all of the primary colors together (Red, Yellow and Blue) you get the color brown? However, depending on the ratio of each primary color you use, you can come up with quite a variety of different shades of brown.
You don’t always have to use Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red and Cobalt Blue, as seen in the color chart above. You can switch these out for different colors as well. Such as Ultramarine Blue can be substituted for Cobalt Blue, and Alizarin Crimson can be substituted for Cadmium Red. Lastly, Cadmium Lemon Yellow can be substituted for Cadmium Yellow.
There are even more different kinds of yellow, red and blue colors available. So you can also just use whichever colors you might have on hand at home to make the color brown.
How to make brown using complementary colors
Complementary colors mixed together, can also create the color brown! If you are unsure what the complementary colors are, take a look at the color wheel below.
Complementary colors are those that are opposite each other on the color wheel. For example, yellow and purple are both opposite each other on the color wheel and are thus complementary colors of one another. In addition, red and green, as well as blue and orange are also complementary colors.
To learn more about complementary colors and color mixing you can read ‘Color Mixing with Oil Paint’.
If you haven’t yet – Grab my FREE Color Mixing Guide for additional help with color mixing techniques in your painting!
What two colors make brown
You can mix brown by mixing two complementary colors. Take a look at the following recipes to see exactly, what two colors make brown when mixed together.
Orange and blue mixed together
Try to mix an equal amount of orange with blue in order to achieve a shade of brown. If you only mix a little bit of orange with your blue you will just get a muted blue, continue to add more of the appropriate color until you reach a brown hue. The same principles hold true for purple/ yellow and green/ green.
When blue and orange are mixed together they create a wonderful brown color! Try to mix an equal amount of orange with blue in order to get brown. You can also add in a little bit more blue to make it a cooler brown, or add in a little bit of orange to make it a warmer brown. Either way – this combination is a simple way of how to make brown color.
You do not need to always use ultramarine blue for a blue and cadmium orange for an orange. Instead you could mix your own orange and shades of blue colors to get a color mix you desire. Also, you can use a variety of different blues such as cobalt blue, cerulean blue, pthalo blue or whatever you have on hand!
What colors do green and red make?
To create a really nice basic brown color, you can use the complementary color green and red. However, as with the blue and orange mixture we talked about above. The shades of brown colors green and red make will vary depending on the types of red and green colors you use.
For example, you can use Sap Green, Pthalo Green or mix your own green to use. Also, you can use different kinds of reds such as Alizarin Crimson, Quinacridone red or a more earth tone red such as Burnt Sienna. *Artist tip: With Burnt Sienna you cannot mix your red as it is a primary color like blue and yellow.
I encourage you to experiment with mixing different types of reds and greens together, to see what kind of results (and brown color mixtures) you get!
Purple and yellow mixed make what color…
The brown color you get from mixing purple and yellow together is the most colorful of all browns you can mix.
You can use different yellows besides cadmium yellow to mix up a brown with purple. Cadmium Lemon Yellow is a brighter and lighter yellow that will help to get a lighter brown. Also, Yellow Ochre is an excellent color to use to mix up a brown – though it already is a very earth tone color on its own.
You can also use different types of purple colors to mix up shades of brown color as well, such as Provence Violet Bluish or any other violet/ purple color you may have on hand. As another option, purple is a very easy color to mix yourself, so mix together some blue and red and voila!
How to make dark brown color
You might come across instances when you need to create a dark brown color for your painting. Most of the instructions above on how to mix brown produce lighter shades of brown colors. However, there are very easy ways to darken any brown to achieve different shades of dark brown – whether it is a mixed brown or a brown straight from a tube (such as Burnt Umber).
So what colors make dark brown? Ultramarine Blue and Dioxazine Purple when mixed with brown create very dark colors. Ultramarine Blue creates a cooler dark brown than Dioxazine purple does.
How to mix a very dark brown shade
In addition, Pthalo green mixed with Alizarin Crimson creates a black color. So, when this color is mixed with brown it creates a very dark brown. In fact, it is one of the darkest browns you can get by mixing colors yourself. Mixing just Pthalo Green with brown will create a darkened and greenish brown.
What colors make light brown color
Knowing what colors make light brown, is just as important as how to mix dark brown color (as demonstrated earlier in this article). To make light brown you simply need to mix colors that are lighter in value with your brown color.
Take a look at the brown color chart below, to see how to mix shades of light brown:
What two colors make brown lighter? It might seem obvious to mix white with brown but this is one of the quickest ways to arrive at a light shade of brown. However, you can also mix yellow with brown – which is a good way of how to make the color brown lighter, while making it a warmer shade as well. In addition, Cadmium Green Light will also help to make your brown lighter in value. It will also make your brown a little greenish.
Though neither Cadmium Green Light or Cadmium Yellow will make brown as light as white does – they do lighten your brown while also making it colorful. However, when using titanium white to lighten colors it can often have the adverse effect of making a color look ‘chalky’ and suck out the color. To counteract this, you could mix titanium white with brown and then add some yellow or green (or another color) to give the brown some color.
How to make the color brown cooler in value
Warm and cool colors are important when it comes to painting. Therefore, it is important to know how to mix different temperatures for the color brown. Here I will go over how to get both cool and warm brown colors.
Ultramarine blue mixed with brown is one of the quickest and best options for getting a great cool brown. You can also use different blues such as Cobalt blue or Prussian blue (or any kind of blue you have on hand).
Mixing Dioxazine Purple with brown will give you a brown that is not as cool as one mixed with blue. However, it is also a great option for getting a cooler temperature brown – especially if you want one that is not as cool as blue. Pthalo Green on the other hand is a very cool green and will give you a cool greenish brown.
How to mix warm shades of brown color
Now last, but not least, we cover what colors make brown warmer in value. Brown on its own is technically considered a warm color. However, you will in all likelihood run into scenarios when you need to create warmer shades of brown. The color chart below will help you to see what color combinations will help!
Alizarin Crimson is one of my favorite colors as it is extremely useful and is great for mixing warm browns. Cadmium Red is also a great option for mixing a warmer brown with. In fact the Cadmium Red will mix an even warmer brown than Alizarin Crimson. This is because Alizarin Crimson is cooler than Cadmium Red. Cadmium Orange (or an orange mixed yourself) will also help to create a warm brown.
Experimenting with different shades of brown
This article is meant to be a guideline to help you get started in learning how to mix the color brown as well as different shades of brown. However, it is not meant to act as a formula for how to mix all of your brown colors in your paintings. There are so many different shades of brown colors in the world and you need to be able to mix a variety of colors. This article would never end if I attempted to add in all the color combinations for what colors make brown!
The color charts in this article will help you to get started. However, then it is important to experiment with mixing a variety of different colors into your brown shades of color as you create them. Observe your colors closely and trust your instincts! Though, it is important not to worry about getting a color to be exactly like what you see as this is not possible. Rather, concern yourself with getting a color correct relative to the other colors in your painting.
Need help figuring out what subjects to practice mixing shades of brown colors for? Take a look at this how to paint a landscape tutorial or challenge yourself with portrait painting in oil master copy.