What Colors Make Red? (Mixing Shades of Red)

Last Updated on 22 November 2022 by Outmane

Have you been wondering how to make the color red? Then, this article is for you.

You’re a new artist (or you’re just curious about how colors work). And this question has been bugging you: What colors can I mix to make red?

Red is a bold, bright, rich color. We see it in nature and manmade objects, and it always makes a big impact. Check out my list of 45 things that are red in nature for some inspiration! 

If you’re a painter, you’ll know that learning how to mix colors is an essential skill. It’s also useful for any artist, whether you’re into graphic design, digital art, or pottery. 

You’ll even find this information helpful if you want to mix red frosting for cakes or cookies. 

So, what colors make red? I’ll answer all your questions about the color red in this article. 

What Colors Can I Mix Together to Make Red?

Let’s start with the most important part. You can’t make red by mixing other colors together because it’s a primary color. 

Like with yellow and blue,  you can’t make red paint from scratch. 

Unfortunately, it’s true. If you don’t have red paint to hand, you can’t make it by mixing two or more colors together. 

So, you’ll need to have a red color to start with. But if you have red paint, you can mix it with other colors to create different shades of red. 

That means you can still learn how to mix red with other colors to make your own paints. 

Color Theory: Primary Colors

what colors make red, color theory

First, it’s crucial to understand why you can’t make the color red. And that means going back to the basics of color theory. 

There are three main types of colors – primary, secondary, and tertiary

The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. What sets these colors apart is that you can’t make them by mixing other colors. 

But these three colors are the building blocks for mixing any other color you can imagine. 

When you mix two primary colors, you make a secondary color. For example, mix red and yellow, and you’ll get orange. Red and blue make purple, while yellow and blue make green. 

And when you mix all three, you’ll create a brown or black color (depending on the shades you use). 

How to Mix Different Shades of Red

So, now you know that you can’t make red from scratch. But there is a lot you can do by mixing red with other colors. You can lighten your paint, darken it, and create different shades of red or even a new color altogether. 

Let’s look at how to mix red with other colors to make your paint colors. 

Mixing Red + Yellow

mixing red + yellow = what color
how to mix shades of red and yellow colors

You can add a tiny amount of yellow paint to your red paint. That will make it look bright and citrussy and lighten it a little. But if you add too much yellow, you’ll end up with orange instead. 

Mixing Red + Orange

red + orange = what color
what color do you get when you mix red and orange

If you want to create a bright, fresh shade of red, consider mixing in a little orange. 

The color orange is already quite similar to red. But it has a great energy and freshness that makes it a vivid and bright color. 

So, adding some orange to your red paint will brighten it. But make sure to add more red to orange in your ratio. Otherwise, your paint will lose its red hue. 

Mixing Red + White

red + white = what color?
mixing red and white

You might have a red color that you want to lighten. In that case, you can mix in a little white paint. Pour your red paint onto a plate or palette, and then add drops of white. 

Mix it well until you can see what color you’ve created. Then, you can decide if you need to add more white. 

Mixing Red + Black

red + black = what color?
mixing red and black to get what color

If you want to make a darker red color, you can add a little black paint. You’ll create a deep, dark, rich red color. 

But you’ll need to take care when mixing red and black paint. Too much black and it will overwhelm the red color. So, make sure to use it very sparingly.

Mixing Red + Green

redd + green = what color
mixing red and green you get what color

So, what happens when you mix red and green? 

Red and green are complementary colors. When you look at a color wheel, you’ll notice that these colors are opposite each other. They have a high contrast when used next to each other, creating a bright, bold color palette. 

But when you mix red and green, you can create a murky brown color. This happens any time you mix two complementary colors. Depending on the exact red and green colors, it can also look gray.

This trick is handy to know If you need to make a brown color. You can create earthy colors or tone down your green or red paint slightly. But use too much, and you’ll wash out the colors altogether. 

Making Red Using the CMYK Color System

RGB and CMY color model

But when it comes to printing anything, printers use a different color system. They follow the CMYK model instead. 

The CMYK model uses cyan, magenta, and yellow as its primary colors. The K stands for black, which is the final color to complete this model.

And in this color system, it is possible to make the color red. 

By combining magenta and yellow, you’ll create a red shade. That’s useful to keep in mind if you need to do any professional printing. 

But unfortunately, it won’t help you to mix red paint. There’s still no way around making red paint from scratch by mixing other colors. 

Mixing Different Colored Lights to Make Red

additive and subtractive color mixing

So far, I’ve focused on the most common form of color mixing – subtractive color mixing. It sounds wordy, but it refers to pigment, paint, or dye mixing. 

Basically, it covers any kind of traditional media like paint, chalk, or pencils. 

But there’s another color system that we often overlook. The additive color system governs the mixing of different colored lights. 

So, making red light works differently from mixing red paint. Let’s look at the science behind it. 

How to Make Red Light

how to make red light

As humans, we can see wavelengths that measure between 400 – 800 nanometers. But there’s a whole spectrum of light that isn’t visible to us. 

And our brains can interpret colors that aren’t actually there. In this way, it’s possible to make red light by mixing two different wavelengths. 

The color red is around 700 nanometers (nm). So, you can mix two colors with wavelengths that equal 700 nanometers when combined, and it will look red. 

One example could be mixing purple light (around 450 nm) with ultraviolet light of 250 nm. Together, they create a wavelength of 700 nm – just like red light does. 

And as a result, you’ll make a light that the human eye perceives as red. It’s clever and a little hard to understand at first. But it works! 

The Wrap Up 

By now, you’re an expert on red and what colors you can mix to make it. So, you’ll know how to make red with different colored lights. 

And you’ll understand the limitations around mixing red paint (or any pigment). But you’ll also know how to mix red with other colors to make different shades of red. 

All this information will make you a stronger and more confident artist and creative. Whether you’re a painter or graphic designer, understanding color theory is essential.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below! And follow for the best resources on color theory, mixing, and creativity! 

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My name is Outmane, I'm the creative artist designer behind Proactive Creative

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