What Colors Make Red & How to Make Shades of Red [Color Mixing Guide]

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Red is a primary color, so you cannot mix your own pure red color. However, you can create (by mixing) a variety of different shades of red – dark red, light red, cool red, warm red and muted red… In this article, you will find color mixing guides that will show you, what colors make red and how to make red different shades!

What colors make red (different shades)

In order to make different shades of red, you simply need a base red color to start with. Now as you learned from the introduction, you cannot mix your own pure red as it is a primary color. However, there are numerous types of red colors available to purchase for you to choose from.

Here is a few of them listed below:

  • Cadmium Red Light
  • Cadmium Red Medium
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Burnt Sienna.
different shades of red
Different types of red colors available to purchase

Although you can buy a lot of different shades of red colors pre-mixed. You won’t be able to find all of the nuanced shades of red you will need while painting (from the shelves of an art store). So, it is really important to learn how to mix different shades of red yourself.

Now that you know what colors you can use (as a base) to make different shades of red. Let’s get started with how to make your own shades of red colors, beginning with what colors make red darker!

How to make dark red

Mixing shades of dark red color
How to make dark red shades of color

In the first column of the red color mixing chart below, you can see how you can mix red with Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber to create dark reds. Burnt Umber mixed with Ultramarine Blue mixed together make a nice brown black color. Then, when mixing the brown black color to red you get a dark red. The Alizarin Crimson mixed with the Burnt Umber/ Blue mixture makes a dark cooler red.

dark red color mixing chart
What colors make dark shades of red (color mixing chart)

In the bottom two rows of the color chart above, you will see another way of how to make red colors that are dark in hue using Pthalo Green. Pthalo Green and Alizarin Crimson mixed together make a very rich black. So, mixing this rich black color with red, makes a rich dark red color.

Pthalo Green and Alizarin Crimson are very strong colors. Burnt Umber in comparison is a muted earth tone color. So, the dark red you get by mixing Pthalo Green and Alizarin Crimson with it will result in a richer deep red than mixing blue and Burnt Umber with red.

How to make light red colors

how to make light red color shades on a glass palette
Mixing shades of light red color with cadmium red and white

There is a very thin line between light red and pink. Pink is a very fascinating color. It is the only color when mixed with white, that has a whole new name given to it. When mixing blue with white you call it ‘light blue’, and when you mix green with white it is called ‘light green’. But when you mix white with red you don’t call it light red you call it pink.

In the color chart below you will see light red colors that would normally be called pink. As you can see cadmium red makes a warmer pink while Alizarin Crimson makes a cooler pink. And the reds that are mixed with cadmium lemon yellow make an even warmer pink since yellow is warmer than white.

How to make light red color chart
Different shades of light red color chart

If you want a light red but do not want a pink, I suggest you take a look near the end of this article, as I will introduce how to create a light, muted red. When you lighten a muted red it does not turn pink!

Mixing warm shades of red color

Mixing alizarin crimson with red to make warm shades of red
Colors like Alizarin crimson are what colors make warm shades of red

Red is by nature considered more of a warm color. Though of course color temperature is relative and there is such thing as a cool red and a warm red. For example, look at cadmium Red in the color chart below, positioned directly above Alizarin Crimson. You will see that cadmium red is clearly warmer than Alizarin Crimson. Alizarin Crimson looks like it has some blue in it compared to cadmium red.

warm red colors chart
This chart will show you how to make red colors that are warm in temperature

Even though cadmium red is a warm red we can make it even warmer if we want to. We just need to add warm colors to it. In the first line of the color chart above, you will see I mixed cadmium orange with cadmium red and alizarin crimson. This resulted in a warmer version of their color.

In the last line from the color mixing chart above – I also mixed cadmium lemon yellow with cadmium red and alizarin Crimson. The colors were not as warm as those mixed with cadmium orange but still make a warm red.

How to make red color, cool in temperature

Artist with palette knife mixing cool red colors on a glass palette
You can use Ultramarine Blue when mixing red colors to make it cooler in color

Video guide: What colors make red cooler in temperature?

Cool shades of red color mixing charts

Cool reds can be interesting as they often can have a purple hint to them. Which is no surprise when we see that to make a red cooler you only need to add some blue – the same combination needed to make purple. You will notice in the color chart below, that I mix both Ultramarine Blue and Dioxazine Purple with red to create cool red colors.

mixing chart with different shades
Color mixing chart showing how to make shades of red that are cool in color temperature.

Notice how when Ultramarine Blue is mixed with Cadmium Red the resulting color looks much more similar to Alizarin Crimson. This is an example to see how cool Alizarin Crimson really is. So, you can imagine when Ultramarine Blue is added to Alizarin Crimson it makes it an even cooler red – looking more similar to a deep red plum color.

Dioxazine Purple is not as cool as Ultramarine Blue. However, since it is much cooler than red it is a useful color for making red cooler in temperature. Both Cadmium Red and Alizarin Crimson have a purple color hint to them.

What colors make red muted

what colors make red muted
Experiment with colors (see specific below) to make different shades of muted red colors

Since the complementary color of red is green we are able to mix a muted red by adding green to red. You can vary the degree to which you want the red to be muted by varying the amount of green you mix with red. If you just mix in a little bit it will just mute the red slightly. If you want to create a very muted red then mix in a lot of green. That is the beauty of mixing your own colors – you can add small amounts until you reach the exact color you want!

How to make muted red colors chart

In the color chart above I show how to make red colour muted using two different green colors – Pthalo Green and Cadmium Green. Cadmium Green is a much warmer green while Pthalo Green is a cool green that almost looks like a bluish green. Notice how the reds mixed with cadmium green are warmer while the reds mixed with Pthalo Green are cooler. Pthalo Green is also darker than Cadmium Green and therefore mixes a darker red as a result.

If you have neither Pthalo Green or Cadmium Green, you can simply mix up your own green by mixing together yellow and blue. If you want a cool green you can mix a little more blue into your green. Red is a very strong color so you will probably nd yourself often needing to mix a muted red – so keep these color mixtures in mind!

How to mix (light) muted shades of red

mixing lighter shades of muted red colors
Muted colors are extremely useful when working on your paintings

Since muted reds can look a little dark… Here you will see what muted reds look like when they are made lighter. Take a look at the color chart below and notice how these muted, lighter reds do not look so pink. So if you want to have a lighter red but not have it look pink… Your best option is to create a muted red and then lighten it.

Light, muted shades of red color mixing chart

You will be able to mix up all different kinds of lighter reds when you mute them. While also being able to create different temperatures, in order to create the exact shade of red you are looking for.

Learn more about mixing colors with these articles below:


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    Hello! I'm Elisabeth Larson Koehler

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    12 thoughts on “What Colors Make Red & How to Make Shades of Red [Color Mixing Guide]”

    1. It appears this article was from October 2021. Still very very good. Also a very new wanna-be artist.
      Have you used a damp wash cloth to clean most of your paints out of your brushes and from your palette knives when painting? (Wash them out at the sink) Works very good for me. Use a LOT less paper towels. Now I also use real cheap paper plates. I have purchased some 1 oz plastic bottles from Hobby Lobby. (Caps snap on tightly) to save unused paint when I have squirted out too much; what do you use for this purpose? When mixing paints, dark into light or vice versa? Thank you. 82 years and enjoying the journey. This time I’m getting a handle on drawing and building color charts from 33 colors. Will not use that many in a working palette. Because everyone seems to be using different colors, I will slowly learn a lot about color/s, then assemble a warm/cool palette? May our dear Heavenly Father spirit continue to be with you always.
      John Norris. 10/19/22.

      1. Hi John, Thank you for sharing and for your kind words. I paint mostly with oil paints so I use murphy’s oil soap for cleaning brushes – it works incredibly well. However, when working with watercolor I also just use water and a damp cloth when I have rags available to use! When working with oils and want to save some paint there are a couple of options – one is to use something called a “palette garage”. You can also cover the paints on your palette with plastic seran wrap. You could also just put a drop of linseed oil on each color to slow down the drying process.

        That is great that you are working on making a color chart. There is a lot learned when just mixing colors together and putting them into a chart. You can choose whether you set up your palette with a warm/cool color layout or a light/ dark value palette. Personally, I have my own palette set up in terms of values – the lightest color on the right and the darkest on the left.

        Happy painting to you!

      1. Olá, Elisabeth!
        Tudo bem!
        Confesso que tinha dificuldade em trabalhar com a cor vermelha. Depois que li o seu post, tudo ficou bem mais fácil. Admiro muito o seu trabalho e estudo e muito obrigado por compartilhar conosco. Um grande abraço.

    2. What brand of paint do you use? The colors and names do not match mine, (Gamblin, Winston, Blue Ridge, Richeson). I down loaded the latest Red. It did not fully load and has kept
      printing blank pages. Over and over.


      1. Hi Holland! Apologies for my delayed reply here. The brand of paints I primarily use are mainly Williamsburg but also have some Utrecht brand paint as well as RGH paints. The pages from the website are not printable. However, I do have a color mixing master guide that is printable.

    3. Hi Elizabeth,
      Your red/green mixing was really interesting to me as I’m red/green colour blind and often have to look at the name on the tube to be sure. Also have difficulty creating shadow colours. I know they are often purple but I can often mistakenly create a green or brown, my wife howls! I need very strict formulas to follow because I simply can’t see the colours.

      1. Hi Neil, I really admire you for working with those colors despite being color blind – I can’t imagine how much of a hurdle that must be to keep yourself following strict formulas. Am glad that the information here is helpful. Thanks for sharing!

    4. Krisda Indrasthitya

      Elisabeth. I just start to paint. This theory can use with all kind of color media, such as water color?

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