What Colors Make Blue and How to Make Shades of Blue Color

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Blue is a very important color and one of the most often used colors on a painter’s palette. It will serve you well to learn how to mix different shades of blue colors, as it will immediately expand your color mixing abilities.

There are many different shades of blues – light blues, dark blues, warm blues muted blues… the list goes on! Here you will learn the important nuance of what colors make blue and exactly how to achieve creating different shades of blue colors.

Shades of blue color in a painting
Shades of blue colors in a seascape

What colors make blue?

Blue is a primary color and as such, you aren’t able to create a “pure blue” mixing colors together. HOWEVER, we are able to create numerous shades of blue colors through the art of color mixing! Let’s take a look at what colors mixed together make different shades of blue starting with a light blue color.

How to mix light shades of blue colors

You will run into many situations in which you will need to mix different shades of blue colors that are lighter. Below is a chart that will show you how to mix different kinds of lighter blue colors using both ultramarine blue and cobalt blue

You will see here that I used ultramarine blue in the first two color mixtures and cobalt blue in the last two color mixtures. To make blue lighter I simply mixed blue with white. The result is a bright saturated color.

Ultramarine blue and cobalt blue are very bright saturated colors when mixed with white. Therefore, I show a muted blue by mixing a little bit of orange with blue. When mixing orange with a lighter blue you get a light blue that is slightly muted as seen in the second and fourth lines.

When the blue is lightened with white you can more readily notice how ultramarine blue is warmer (leans toward purple) while cobalt blue is cooler (leans slightly more towards green). You can observe the difference between both blue colors in all of the color charts below.

How to make dark shades of blue colors

Blues make excellent dark colors! Ultramarine blue is already a very dark color, so it is natural to create dark colors with it. Also, if you haven’t already – you can grab my FREE Color Mixing Guide for helpful color mixing instructions and techniques!

Dioxazine Purple

As seen in the first line dioxazine purple and ultramarine blue make an excellent dark color. Not only does dioxazine purple make ultramarine blue darker but it also adds a little purple shade to it.

Dioxazine purple/ Pthalo Green

On the second line you will see ultramarine blue mixed with dioxazine purple as well as pthalo green. Pthalo green is a dark color that will darken the blue/ purple mixture more while adding a slight green tinge to it.

Burnt Umber

Not only does burnt umber mixed with ultramarine blue create a dark blue color but it also makes a great muted blue. So, if you want to have a dark blue that is not a very saturated (bright) blue – then burnt umber is a great option to mix it with.

Pthalo green and alizarin crimson

When mixing pthalo green and alizarin crimson together you get a lovely black color. This can also be seen in the black color mixing guide. So, when you want to get a rich dark blue, then mix pthalo green and alizarin crimson with ultramarine blue. This will give you one of the darkest and most interesting blue colors.

How to create muted shades of blue

I spend a great deal of my mixing time muting blue colors. As I rarely use blue color that is straight from the tube for anything. If you have used ultramarine blue and cobalt blue you will know that they are very bright colors, and a well constructed painting demands a variety of muted colors. So, let’s dig in and learn how to create different shades of blue colors that are muted!

Complementary colors

Complementary colors are very important when it comes to mixing muted colors. A complementary color is the color that is opposite it on the color wheel. So when looking at the color wheel below, you can see that purple is directly across from yellow – therefore yellow and purple are complementary colors. Additionally, orange is directly opposite from blue. Therefore, blue and orange are complementary colors.

Complementary color wheel diagram

Muted blue color charts

Since orange is the complementary color of blue it is put into action in the color chart below. Color mixing tip: in addition to creating multiple shades of muted blue colors – you can mix blue and orange together to make a nice shade of brown.

muted blue colors
In addition to creating muted blues, you can mix orange and blue to make a lovely shade of brown color

Orange + ultramarine blue/ cobalt blue

In the first line you can see cadmium orange mixed with ultramarine blue. Mixing the orange into the blue takes away the brightness of the blue by making it into a ‘dull’ color. In other words, mixing orange into the blue made the blue less blue! This is exactly what happens when one mixing two complementary colors together – as explained above with the color wheel.

However, the warning is not to mix too much orange with your blue as it will end up looking a little bit green. If this does happen just mix in more blue to counteract the orange.

Burnt umber + ultramarine blue/ cobalt blue

Next option for muting blue is to mix burnt umber with blue. I personally always prefer to mix orange with blue as this creates for a much more interesting and richer muted blue. Burnt umber on the other hand creates more of a brownish blue. That said, there are definitely times when you will need a muted brownish blue. In those moments remember this mixture.

How to mix warm shades of blue colors

Blue is generally considered a ‘cool color’. However temperature is relative when it comes to colors. So, it is possible to mix warm shades of blue colors.

Ultramarine blue is already a warm blue as it leans more toward purple when compared with other blue colors. However, there are always instances when you might need to make an even warmer blue.

The first option – mixing alizarin crimson with blue makes for a purpleish blue. Ultramarine blue ends up being much more purple than the cobalt blue mixture since ultramarine already leans toward purple to begin with.

The next option is to mix burnt umber with blue – a mixture we have already talked about. However, this mixture is also great for mixing a warm blue color.

Lastly, you can mix green (cadmium green or a green of your choice) with blue. This mixture does not create a blue that is as warm as if you mixed it with burnt umber or alizarin crimson. However, it is a good option for when you do not need a blue that is overly warm.

Warm shades of blue with Cobalt Blue

Below is the same color chart as the one above – however the ultramarine blue is substituted with cobalt blue. Cobalt blue is a cooler blue than ultramarine blue. So, the blue mixtures below from the color combinations are not quite as warm as when mixed with ultramarine blue.

Mixing turquoise blue colors

Have you ever seen those beautiful blue/ turquoise ocean waters? Or perhaps a blue sky that almost seems to have a little bit of yellow in it? You cannot get these colors without a little bit of green… so here I introduce some different shades of blue colors by mixing green with blue!

turquoise blue painting, shades of blue

Mixing blue with cadmium green

I first mix ultramarine blue and cobalt blue with cadmium green. You can see that the result is a blue that has a tinge of turquoise to it. To make it lighter I mix a little bit of white to the blue/ cadmium green mixture. The result is a lighter blue that leans toward turquoise.

Mixing blue with veronese green

Next I mix shades of blue colors with veronese green – a bright cool green. This creates a very interesting turquoise blue that retains more of its “blueness” than when mixed with cadmium green. Both the ultramarine blue and cobalt blue when mixed with veronese green made for rich colors. When lightening the veronese green/ blue mixtures with white the result was lighter but equally rich colors.

Examples of different shades of blue colors in art

Not all blue mixtures will be as straightforward as what I described in the color charts. However the color charts will help to guide you down the path to learning how to mix colors. To achieve certain colors sometimes a much more complex color mixing is required.

I have a few paintings here done by myself in which I will share how I mixed certain colors – so you can see what mixing blues in real life looks like.

Mixing blue color using cobalt blue

blue still life painting

Here are some examples of mixing different shades of blue using cobalt blue (as well as some ultramarine blue). The colors in this piece are generally closer to the the cobalt shade of blue than ultramarine blue (ultramarine leans more toward purple). Notice that a little bit of cadmium green is used as well.

Mixing dark and muted shades of blue color

Blue seascape,

This piece has a lot of very dark shades of blue. The blue on the bottom area or the painting is the darkest – you would be surprised how dark burnt umber mixed with ultramarine blue can get! When making lighter blues for the other two mixtures I make sure that they color is muted enough by mixing in orange to my blue. Often when making blue lighter it can create a very bright blue – so it is important to mix in enough cadmium orange to mute it enough for this painting.

Mixing warm shades of blue color

shades of blue colors in a painting

This painting has a lot of blues that lean towards purple. I used a lot of ultramarine blue and even a little bit of alizarin crimson – which helped to make the blue shades even more purple like. I also used a little bit of green for some of the green for the lower left color. Speaking of green – of course you can use blue to make green…but there are several other lovely shades of green you can make with blue in addition!

Now, over to you!

The more you paint the more you will realize how important the color blue is in painting. The next time you encounter a lot of blues, work on observing the subtleties in the colors and spend some quality time mixing up the different shades of blues you see.

Also, give yourself the freedom to experiment with different color combinations – you will be surprised at the varieties of colors you will get by mixing together different colors!

Other color mixing article guides for you:

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    Hi! I am Elisabeth

    Art Studio Life exists for you to be able to stay inspired, learn, and improve your skills.

    Elisabeth Larson Koehler creator of art studio life
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    18 thoughts on “What Colors Make Blue and How to Make Shades of Blue Color”

    1. I am a self learning hobby-painter, only interested in temperate mountain landscapes. Created a few that looked good and were appreciated by my circle of friends, But the water color paints in the market are really toxic and I wast quite disturbed by these paints. So I gave up the painting. I am now again trying my hand on paintings by using home made non-toxic paints. Will it really work? Your comments please.

      makawosa from Kashmir Himalayas.

      1. Hi Makawosa, Thank you for your comment and question. That is great that you are getting back into painting and making your own paints. You certainly can successfully do that! Just make sure that the ingredients you are using make the paint archival as you wouldn’t want your painting to fade! I have found that ‘Natural Earth Paint’ has some helpful information on natural paint making.

        I also have a few natural paint making tutorials. These are not archival – but can be fun to use:

        Instant coffee: https://artstudiolife.com/painting-with-coffee/

        Beet vegetables: https://artstudiolife.com/how-to-make-ink/

    2. After a layoff of 20 years or more I decided to try to paint again. As I never took any lessons and did not paint all that much even back then.
      When I started to purchase paints, etc. I found that a lot had changed.

      Without going into great detail, needless to say starting over is a challenge but one that I am really enjoying.

      As to the reason for my post, I just wanted to let you know how much your site is of great help answering many question I have.

      I forgot to let you know what type of paint I am using,{Acrylic}.

      Thanks again, looking forward to your next message.


    3. Κική Χειλά

      Thank you very much for this post. It is very interesting and helpful to me as a hobby artist. I am very satisfied with your clear instructions. Very kind of you the offer. Greetings from Greece

    4. Hello Elisabeth, thanks for a very helpful post. I am always looking to be able to mix from limited palettes, it is a very interesting string to have in your bow. You can never have to many of those can you ?
      I am what the upper crust of the art world would call a hobby artist, but I am at the stage where I am chuffed with my own work sometimes, thinking that some of my stuff is almost good enough to sell. Good feeling.
      Please keep these types of posts coming, I, for one ,really appreciate them. Who can afford painting lessons , right ?
      Thanks again, Dave M😎🇦🇺

      1. Hello Dave,

        Thank you for your kind words! I am glad that this post is helpful. It is such a satisfying feeling when you get to a stage that you start feeling more satisfied about the work you are creating – that is wonderful!

        More posts are coming 🙂

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