How to Make Brown for Artists – Mixing What Colors Make Brown

You are in the right place if you want an answer to the question ‘what colors make brown?’. Brown is not an appealing color nor does it stand out among other bright and beautiful colors. But it is an important color.

Without a brown color palette, you cannot bring life to subjects related to nature like wood. In this article, we will discuss not only what colors make brown but also different types of colors, the process of mixing paints, the history and importance of brown color, shades of brown, and a lot more.

Let us dive into the world of colors!

Types of Colors

Your first step towards making brown color is to know and understand different types of colors and how they behave when mixed with each other. Creating mixtures can give you any color in the world that you do not have in your palette.

Primary Colors

These colors cannot be made by mixing any other color. The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. All other colors are derived from these three colors.

Secondary Colors

These colors are made by mixing primary colors. Secondary colors are oranges, greens, and purples. The following primary colors are mixed to make them – Yellow and blue make green, blue, and red make purple, red and yellow make orange.

Complementary Colors

You will understand them better if you study the color wheel below. Complementary colors are colors that ‘complement’ each other and are pairs of colors across from each other in the color wheel. If used together, they make each other look better and intense. On the contrary, they cancel each other out when mixed. They act like positive and negative numbers.

How to Neutralize a Color?

As mentioned earlier, to neutralize a color you just need to mix the complementary color of that color. It will start neutralizing slowly. For example, if you take red and mix a little bit of green into it, you will see that it will start turning into yellow. The greener you mix into it, the yellower it will get.

Similarly, if you take orange and mix some blue in it, you will have brown. Thus, brown is a neutralized warm color. Warm colors are colors like yellow, red, and orange. If you take any one of them and mix it with its complementary color, you will get different shades of brown.

Brown Color: Origin

Although brown is not a glamorous color, its importance is recognized by artists everywhere. Brown helps in creating a sense of realism in any piece of art. It has existed from the beginning of art when artists used umber (a natural earth color) with other colors to get variations of brown.

Composite adjectives are used to name its shades like red-brown, yellowish-brown, dark brown and so on. There are different ways of making browns which we will discuss in the latter part of this article.

Shades of Brown

Before understanding what colors make brown, you need to know the different variations brown has. When we describe colors, we measure them in three ways: Color value – the darkness or lightness of the color, hue – the dominant color group and intensity – how vibrant/dull the color is. Brown has different shades like red-brown, Beige, chestnut, chocolate, cocoa brown, dark brown etc.

What Colors Make Brown?

You can make a brown color in three ways:

  • With primary colors
  • With secondary colors
  • With complementary colors

Primary Colors

You can create a variety of colors with primary colors including brown. The simplest way of making brown is to mix all the primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) in equal amounts. There are different kinds of red, blue, and yellow colors and as you change them, you will also change the shade of brown.

Primary Colors

To give your brown a little bit of depth, you can mix the set of primary colors with a hint of white. Do not use it too much if you do not intend to create a light, dull shade. This sounds simple, but it is not that easy.

The painter is not satisfied usually because depending on the grades of the paints that are mixed, some pigments overpower others. Then you will need to adjust to the appropriate ratio to get the right shade.

Secondary Colors

Creating brown colors from secondary colors is also simple. You just must mix blue with orange and yellow with purple to make brown. What are we doing here? We are mixing one secondary color with its complementary primary color. If you want to make a light shade, mix white color and adjust.

Complementary Colors

As you know already, complementary colors are found on opposite sides of the color wheel. You can mix them and create brown. You can also use these colors to determine the intensity of your brown. So, you can combine different colors to make different browns.

You can start with mixing an equal amount of orange with blue. If you mix a little amount of orange with blue, you will get a dull, muted blue. Continue adding the relevant color and you will land with a brown.

Blue and orange mixed make an amazing brown! To make your brown cooler add bluer and to make it warmer add more orange. You can also use purple with yellow and green with red to play with colors and get more brown shades.

What Colors Make Different Shades of Brown?

The amount and intensity of each color mixed can change the shade of the resultant color, brown in our case. The shade also changes how we perceive the color. It is important to know that brown as a color is subjective. You may see or describe a shade of brown differently than your friend.

Basic Brown

We have already answered this ‘what colors make brown’ question. A basic brown is a simple medium brown that can be created by combining primary colors like red, yellow, and blue.

It is extremely important to use all the colors in equal proportions to get a simple brown. A medium, straightforward brown is always created by mixing primary colors in equal amounts.

This simple technique also allows you to change the color easily if you do not like it. A basic brown can also be made by mixing black and orange. What colors make brown is not a very tough question to answer because everything you mix will eventually look kind of brown-ish. When you have a specific shade in mind, that is when you need to mix colors carefully.


Beige is a very dull, light brown so you must include white when mixing colors. You can simply add white in a brown. However, mixing brown in white will not do your work. Beige has a hint of pink as well, so you can add a little bit of red to it as well. If you think your beige is too dark, you can add white and make it lighter. Similarly, you can add more black or brown to make it darker.

Dark Brown

To make a dark brown color, you must use colors that are darker than primary colors. To create the shade chocolate, you can add black or purple. If you are using just primary colors, you can add bluer and redder colors than yellow to get a darker effect.

A bright shade of red like cadmium red or naphthol red to get a better result. You should note that adding black and purple will get you different results. The black color will give it a smooth feel while purple will make it look brighter.

Light Brown

Light brown is just like beige, what colors make beige will also make light brown. We will give you a direct guide to make light brown – take a small amount of red in your palette and add blue with yellow. Remember that these should be in equal amounts.

Mix all the colors properly and to make the shade lighter, put a few drops of white. You can keep adding white until you get the right shade. Painters usually recommend adding white in this mixture drop by drop (in little amount) because it is easier to make the shade lighter than darker.

What Colors Make Brown Appear Warmer?

Colors have a temperature. Different temperatures are used to create mood and depth. Usually, oranges, reds and yellow colors are called warm colors and green, blue are called cool colors. You can use the same idea to make different shades of brown. For example, if you add bluer to your brown you will get a cooler brown and if you add orange or yellow, it will turn out to be a warm brown.

If you happen to add a little too much red, you can add blue to balance it out. Therefore, it is important for you to understand color temperature. Now that you know what colors make brown, you can change the temperature of your color as you want.

What Colors Make Brown: Acrylic Paints

If you need brown acrylic paint, you do not have to buy another tube. Although making the right brown is a bit of a challenge, but you can still get it right with a certain technique. Start with setting up your palette and putting equal-sized drops of primary colors.

Use basic versions of these colors. Ensure that there is plenty of space between the drops. Add a hint of white too. Mix the colors together with a palette knife until you get a solid brown shade.

After you achieve a muddy-brown hue, start adding white to make it lighter. Add white gradually, do not use it too much in the first go. This is when you will get a basic brown.

If you need another specific shade, get that by adding white and primary colors. Adding blue will give you a darker brown (cool) while adding red or yellow will give you a lighter brown (warm).

What Colors Make Brown: Experiment Yourself

With the help of this article, you will be able to get some idea of what colors make brown and how can you get the right brown. Remember that brown is one of the easiest colors to create by mixing other colors.

If you mix any color that you like, you may eventually get a brown shade. So, mix a variety of colors, experiment, take a note and see which brown suits your painting. When you start observing colors and understanding how they behave, you will not need a guide the next time you want to know what colors make brown or any color.

Why Should You Learn to Mix A Brown Color Palette?

Not just brown, there are many benefits of learning to mix neutral colors, including grays.

Simplifying Your Palette: Working with a few colors always makes the task of painting easier. It also facilitates harmony among all the colors in the palette.

Less Waste: You can create a wide range of colors with just a basic set. This saves money, time, and effort. Buying all kinds of shades that you do not know when you will use is senseless. Instead, you can just make one yourself whenever you need it.

Become A Better Artist: Understanding the color mixing process improves creative thinking skills. Being able to create colors of varying intensity is a required skill for artists.


Clara Wang

Holding a Master's in Fine Arts from Yale University, Clara Wang has been at the forefront of contemporary art and design for over a decade. She began her journey in advertising, developing a keen eye for color theory and design. Her experience includes working with renowned art galleries and contributing to various art journals. Outside of work, she enjoys painting and exploring the intersection of art and technology. She loves to engage in community art projects and photography in her free time.

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