How to Make Brown Paint: The Art of Mixing Brown Hues

Brown is a tertiary color that you can make by mixing several secondary colors together. You can lighten or darken brown by adding black or white and change the undertone by adding more of a warm or cool color. 

Color Theory and Its Connection to Brown Hues

How to Make Brown Paint: The Art of Mixing Brown Hues

The Role of Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors

In color theory, mixing two primary colors makes a secondary color. For instance, red and green make yellow in the RGB model. Mixing a primary and secondary color makes a tertiary color.

Brown is a tertiary color created by mixing complementary colors. However, brown isn’t on the traditional color wheel since it’s considered a dark shade of orange. Its hues are created by combining orange, red, and yellow with shades of green, blue, or purple.

Complementary Colors and Their Relationship to Brown

Complementary colors are located on opposite sides of the color wheel. For instance, red complements green, blue to orange, and yellow to purple. Mixing two complementary colors makes a brown hue.


The Brown Color Palette at a Glance

A brown color palette comprises warm, neutral, and cool undertones. Designers use light, medium, and dark variations of brown to create a monochromatic color scheme.

Warm, Neutral, and Cool Browns

Warm shades of brown add a cozy and inviting feel to a color palette. They have red, orange, or yellow undertones. Examples include caramel, cinnamon, chestnut brown, sienna, and gold.

Neutrals balance warm and cool undertones. They include beige, taupe, khaki, and fawn.

Cool browns have green, blue, or gray undertones. Some examples include ash brown, slate brown, and pewter brown. Natural wood colors like hazelwood also feature cool brown undertones.

Variations of Brown

Variations of brown are made when white or black is added to the color. Adding white color to brown makes lighter shades (tints) of brown. Beige, tan, and camel are light brown shades. Medium brown shades are chestnut, sepia, and sienna.

Dark brown variations are rich and often represent the earth. The shades symbolize strength and stability and promote a sense of calm. They include mahogany, chocolate, and espresso.


What Colors Make Brown?

What Colors Make Brown?

Primary colors or complementary colors on the color wheel make brown.

Mixing Primary Colors to Create Brown

Mixing the primary colors in a color wheel creates a brown color. Equal parts of red, yellow, and blue combine to make a muddy brown color. Adjusting the color ratios creates a different shade of brown.

Combining Secondary and Complementary Colors

Combining a secondary color and its complementary color makes brown shades. For instance, orange and blue make brown. Mixing equal parts of purple and yellow also makes a grayish-brown color.

Adjusting the Shades of Pre-Mixed Browns

  1. Making a tint or shade of brown: Adding white paint or a lighter brown color to the mix creates a light brown color (tint). In contrast, you can add black paint or a darker brown color to darken a light-brown mix.
  2. Adjusting the hue: Mixing in small amounts of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, or purple alters the hue of a brown shade. Adding red or orange gives a warmer, reddish-brown tone. Adding blue or purple creates a cooler, grayish-brown tone.

Techniques for Mixing Different Shades of Brown

There are various techniques for mixing the desired shade of brown.

Mixing Primary Colors to Create Brown

  • Start with equal parts of red, yellow, and blue paint.
  • Use a palette knife to blend the colors for uniform distribution of the pigments.
  • If the brown paint is too dark, add more yellow paint to lighten it.
  • Keep mixing and adjusting until you achieve the desired shade of brown.

Combining Secondary and Complementary Colors

  • Choose a secondary color like orange, a mix of equal portions of red and yellow.
  • Identify the color’s complementary color. In this case, blue is complementary to orange.
  • Add a small part of blue paint and blend. Add more blue paint until you reach the desired shade of brown.
  • Adding more blue makes the paint cool or grayish. Using more orange paint gives the brown paint warm, reddish undertones.

Adjusting the Shades of Pre-Mixed Browns

Use small portions of black paint to darken a pre-mixed brown paint. 

When creating a light brown paint color, add white in small portions. It’s easier to add more white than to get rid of excess white in the paint.

Making Brown Paint With Acrylics

Mixing cadmium orange with light blue makes a light shade of brown. A mixture of red, yellow, and blue also makes brown paint. Using more orange than blue gives a warm, dark shade of brown.

Making Brown Paint With Watercolors

Dip a paintbrush in water and load it up with phthalo green watercolor. Dap the paint on a palette and repeat the step until you have enough color. Clean the brush with water, then dab an equal amount of pyrrole red next to the green color.

Clean your brush, re-wet, and mix the two colors. Adjust the portions until you achieve a brown shade. You could also start with permanent rose and ultramarine blue, which combine to make a vibrant purple color. Mix in small portions of lemon yellow and blend for a golden brown hue.


Making Brown by Experimenting With Different Art Mediums

You can mix brown paint in various mediums like oil, colored pencils, and digital media.

Mixing Brown in Oil Paints

Mixing oil paints in cadmium red with phthalo blue makes a brown shade. Cadmium red features yellow undertones, which makes the brown paint vibrant and light.

Creating Brown Shades With Pastels and Colored Pencils

Begin with a yellow pastel color and add a small amount of red pastel color. Mix the colors until you get an orange color. Add a hint of black pastel to the orange color and mix it in. Add small amounts of black pastel until you achieve the desired brown shade.

Digital Color Mixing

Digital cameras, TVs, and image scanners use the additive color model to generate different colors. The color brown is a combination of red and green values. The resulting brown shade varies depending on the intensity.