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.
Contents of this Article
- What colors make blue?
- How to mix light shades of blue colors
- How to make dark shades of blue colors
- How to create muted shades of blue
- How to mix warm shades of blue colors
- Mixing turquoise blue colors
- Examples of different shades of blue colors in art
- Now, over to you!
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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
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
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
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:
- How to make the color brown
- What colors make orange when mixed together?
- How to make shades of green color