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What are Primary Colors and How Do They Make Other Colors?
What are Primary Colors and How Do They Make Other Colors?

If you’ve ever wanted to make your own bespoke paint colors but have felt a little daunted by the process, be afraid no more! Pretty much all colors on the spectrum can be made by a careful combination of primary colors. All you need to do to mix your paint colors is to have an idea of what color you want to make; then it’s time to experiment. This is a fun activity that needn’t be stressful at all and can lead to some surprisingly wonderful results.

01

Learn the Color Wheel

A color wheel is built up of the colors red, blue, and yellow, and every shade and hue they make when combined. This is a great way to learn how the colors affect one another. To make a certain color, look at the color wheel and see which primary colors they fall between - this gives you an idea of which colors you need to mix.

02

Gather your Supplies

tools for mixing paints ROMAOSLO / Getty Images

Like any other skill, color mixing becomes easier with time and practice.

To start, you'll need to have a palette to mix the paints on, and a paintbrush or palette knife in order to start mixing. A palette knife will allow you to get a smoother, more uniform color.

You can mix your paints in a jar if you are making larger quantities, or want to do your painting later. Mixing with a paintbrush should be done carefully. Be sure to clean your brushes thoroughly between each mix, to stop any unintentional color mixing.

03

The Right Paint for the Job

types of paint ROMAOSLO / Getty Images

In general, paints come in two qualities. Student grade paints are cheaper, and if you're just getting started, they can stop you from having to invest in expensive paints. As you're looking at paint mixing, you may want to invest in larger amounts of the primary colors. It's important to remember that the paints you use will affect the ratios for color mixing.

04

Basic Paint Mixing

how to make different colors DusanManic / Getty Images

When you have primary colors, you can easily make secondary colors. Mixing yellow and blue makes green, yellow and red mixed together make orange, and red and blue together make purple. These are your secondary colors.

Tertiary colors are created by mixing a secondary color with a primary color. In general, this makes six more complex hues. They are yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, and yellow-green.

05

How to Lighten or Darken Paint Colors

making lighter colors ROMAOSLO / Getty Images

Once you've had some practice making your various hues, you might find that you want to play with the shades of colors. Adding white and dark is a great way to lighten or darken colors. If you're looking for pale shades, it makes sense to add the colored paint to the white paint. If you're trying to darken your shade, carefully add little bits of black. For a slightly different take, you can also add yellow to lighten a shade, or blue to darken it.

06

How to Make Brown

how to make brown alexxx1981 / Getty Images

When it comes to mixing paints to make brown, you'll find that you can get a shade of brown by mixing a tertiary color with a primary color that isn't already part of the mix.

The ratio of colors changes the shade of brown. Colder, darker browns can be made by adding blue and green. Red and yellows will create a much warmer more russet brown.

07

How do I make camel or khaki?

If you're looking to make more neutral sandy or camel shades, you can do this by mixing small amounts of red into yellow-orange. This will create a deeper, darker color than you are looking for. Carefully mix in small portions of white until you get the right shade.

To make khaki paint, you can mix blue paint into yellow-green, which will give you a similar dark shade. Again, simply add white into the mix to get to the right shade.

subjug / Getty Images

08

How to Make Medium Shades

mixing medium paint colors Lisa-Blue / Getty Images

In order to make medium shades of paints, you need to experiment with the way that you mix white. For example, to make a medium blue, you'll need dark blue paint and white paint. Mix the blue into the white until you get the shade you're looking for.

If you don't have any white, you can mix a light blue with a dark blue. Or you can add a tiny amount of black into dark blue, although this will give you a less saturated shade.

09

How do I make a pastel color?

pastel paint colors Ekely / Getty Images

If you're hoping to mix some of the popular pastel shades like millennial pink or teal, then you are going to need some of your tertiary color, and a larger amount of white paint. Take the main hue that you wish to turn into a pastel paint, and add it little by little into the white paint. Be careful to start with a small amount, as a little of these paints will go a long way.

10

What about black paint?

how to use black paint 77studio / Getty Images

In general, to darken colors you will find that you enjoy the color result more by mixing in brown, or the dominant primary color.

Typically black paint will lose some of the vibrancy of the colors and lead to them being darker and more muddied. As with white paint, if you do decide to use, remember that a little bit goes a long way!

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