At face value, earth tone colors might not seem like the most exciting… However, this could not be farther from the truth! If you just look at some of the old master painters, you can see what is possible with earth tones colors.
Earth tones come in a wide variety of colors and hues. And the great news is that you can easily mix your own earth tones for your paintings! All you need is a basic understanding of color theory and a few painting supplies.
But first off, a quick explanation of what earth tone colors are…
Contents of this Article
What are earth tone colors?
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.
There are an infinite number of earth tone colours, but they all share some common characteristics. Earth tones are typically muted, natural-looking colors found in nature. They can be warm or cool, light or dark, but they always have a calming, grounding effect.
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 when you need additional earth tone colors. Or when you want to create a quick mixture that you can use to mix with other colors with it on your palette.
How to mix earth tone colors
For the purpose of this article we will be focusing specifically on how to mix earth tone colors that you will often find available for purchase. In particular, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber and also Olive Green.
But you can mix a whole range of different shades of colors − such as earthy greens, browns, reds and more… utilizing the earth tone hues (as well as others) we are focused on creating below.
Let’s dive into exactly how to mix these earth tone colours!
Mixing 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.
Steps to mix your own yellow ochre color:
- 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
If you haven’t already – Grab my FREE Color Mixing Guide for help with Mixing Colors!
How to mix Burnt Sienna
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.
Steps to mix your own burnt sienna color:
- 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.
Mixing Burnt Umber
Burnt Umber can also be very useful (is somewhat darker than Burnt Sienna). Both are warm browns and muted darkened orange colors.
Steps to mix your own burnt umber color:
- If you wish to darken your burnt sienna color and create a burnt umber then add some black or more Ultramarine Blue.
You can find more information and instructions for how to mix different browns, here.
Mixing your own Olive Green
In order to create an olive earth tone green you can simply mix yourself a muted green.
Steps to mix your own olive green color:
- 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.
Start mixing your own earth tones
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.
Earth tone colors you can purchase
Again, there are many earth tone colors readily available for purchase that are incredibly useful. Now that you know how to mix your own – you’ll be able to play with when you want to use ones from a tube vs mixing your own.