How To Mix Earth Tone Colors

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What are earth tones?

Earth tone colors in its narrowest definition means colors that contain some brown. However, more broadly it can be defined as ‘natural colors’ (colors found in nature) such as olive green, terra cotta red, and wheat grass yellow.

At face value, earth tones tones might not seem like the most exciting colors. However, this could not be farther from the truth! These colors have been used from the time of cave painters until today. If you just look at some of the old master painters you can see what is possible with using just earth colors.

Do you need to mix your own earth tones?

No, you do not ‘need’ to mix your own earth tones as they can be readily purchased. In fact, they tend to be cheapest of all the colors. However, some of the earth tone colors are not necessary to always have on your palette. Though, I do suggest you keep at least one earth tone on your palette. In this article you will find mixing instructions for the occasion when you need more earth tone colors.

How to Mix Earth Tone Colors

Lets dive into exactly how to mix these earth tone colors!

Yellow Ochre

Yellow Ochre

Yellow ochre is an ancient color and one of the most reliable pigments. Many artists have it permanently on their palette. However, it is not absolutely necessary to have – I know many artists who paint without it.

To mix Yellow Ochre:

  • Start with a base yellow – you can use cadmium yellow or any other
  • Mix in purple (the complementary color to yellow)
  • If your yellow starts to look a little green then add some red
  • If your mixed yellow ochre is looking too orange then add blue
  • Make any necessary adjustments

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How to mix Raw Umber and Burnt Sienna

Burnt Umber

Burnt Sienna can be a particularly useful color, but not one that is needed all the time. So, to avoid having to keep it on your palette all the time – you can just mix it yourself. Burnt Umber can also be very useful (is somewhat darker than Burnt Sienna). Both are warm browns and muted darkened orange colors.

Burnt Sienna

To Mix Burnt Sienna:

  • Mix Ultramarine Blue with orange.
  • You can also mix all primary colors together – blue + yellow + red, but maintaining a dominance towards the warmer colors of red and yellow.
  • Mix together orange and black – this is my least favorite method as I believe it results in a less rich color. However, you can still try it out.

To Mix Raw Umber:

  • If you wish to darken your burnt sienna color and create a raw umber then add some black or more Ultramarine Blue.

If you want more information and instructions on mixing different browns then visit the article – color mixing to make brown.

Olive Green

In order to create an olive earth tone green you can simply mix yourself a muted green

To Mix Olive Green:

  • Mix together yellow + blue to create a green for yourself
  • Mix in a small amount of red (cadmium red or another form of red will do) to your green in order to mute the green color. Red is the complementary color of green – so this is why it is perfect for muting your green.
  • If you wish to mute your color more and make it more of an earth tone – you can add more red.
  • If it is too red/ orange then you can mix in some blue.
  • Make adjustments as you see necessary.

Do It Yourself

The absolute best way to learn how to mix is to simply do it. If you are not satisfied with the way a certain earth tone color looks – then, make adjustments and experiment with mixing in different colors until satisfied. As always, the doing is what creates understanding. So, more than anything, just continuing to mix on your own will help you to learn and understand how color works.

Recommended Resources if You wish to Purchase your own Earth Colors instead of mixing them


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    Hi! I am Elisabeth

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    12 thoughts on “How To Mix Earth Tone Colors”

    1. רותי כהן

      תודה רבה על הטיפום המיוחדים
      עוזרים לי מאוד

    2. Hello Elisabeth, this is a great post. I paint landscapes all the time and I think the proper use of these muted colours keep it more natural. Thanks very much for this article, it will be a great help to me, and I need all the help I can get.
      Dave M.😎🇦🇺

    3. I have finally started water color painting at 80. Maybe I can be a Grandma Moses!
      I found your advise on mixing colors helpful and well defined. Thanks! I will gladly revisit.

    4. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say
      that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.

      In any case I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed
      and I hope you write again soon!

    5. Hi Elizabeth thanks for all the tips on mixing colours in oil I’ve struggled for years to mix colours since I started painting at sixty one years old and had no form of training so all the information is really helpful to me thank you again
      PS I don’t have a website

      1. Elisabeth Larson Koehler

        Hello Claudia, Thank you for your kind note! I am happy to hear that all the information is helpful for you! I hope that the resources on this site will continue to be helpful for you on your learning journey 🙂

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