How to Make Brown: Mix Brown Paint with the Color Wheel


Hey there happy artists, welcome to my studio!

Today I want to answer the question, "How do I make brown?" I'm going to show you how to easily mix brown whenever you need it. To do so we're going to use just the primary colors. And with a couple quick, easy lessons on color theory, you're going to be off to the races mixing brown! So, let's get started!

Now before we get started, I wanted to let you know it doesn't matter what kind of paint you use. I'm an oil painter, but this works equally well with acrylic. It also doesn't matter what color of red, yellow or blue you use. But for those who are interested, I'm using naphthol red, ultramarine blue, and Hansa yellow light, and I've got some titanium white that I may use to lighten some of my mixtures.

If you're curious why I'm using these specific colors, it's because they are made of non-toxic ingredients, and having a non-toxic studio is very important for me.

Primary Colors

primary colors

Ok, so for starters, we have the primary colors. And from these primary colors, you can get any color in the world. So, our first step towards making brown is to understand that creating color mixtures will give us new colors that we don't have yet. So, for our first step, let's mix these primary colors together to get what's called our secondary colors.

Secondary Colors

secondary colors

Ok, so you see how from the 3 primary colors, we have mixed and gotten 3 brand new colors: orange, purple, and green. These are called our secondary colors. From here, we have the basic color wheel where we can start working our magic.

warm and cool colors

Color Temperature

And to learn how to make brown, now we need to talk about the idea of "color temperature." Colors fall into a basic category of being either warm or cool colors. So, if I draw a line right here through the color wheel, on the left side we have what's called warm colors--red, orange and yellow. And on the right side we have our cool colors--purple, blue and green. So, here's where we start getting closer to understanding what brown is. Brown is a neutralized warm color. On the other hand, if you were to neutralize the cool colors, you would get what we call grays.

neutralize colors

How to Neutralize Colors

So how do we neutralize colors? Well it's very easy. To neutralize a color, we simply take the color that is directly opposite, known as the complementary color. Mix some of that in, and you'll see your color start to neutralize.

With orange for example, say I take some of this orange, and I add a little bit of blue, which is its complementary color. Mix that together, and you’ll see that this orange color has started to turn brown. The more of the complement you mix in, the browner it's going to look.

Brown is a Neutralized Warm Color

Now you may have noticed I said brown is a neutralized warm color. So, it's not just one specific color. Brown is actually an entire category of different colors.

You've got cup of coffee brown, you’ve got caramel brown, you've got peanut butter brown! So, you need to start thinking about browns as a category of neutral warm colors, rather than one specific color. Let's mix more browns and I’ll show you what I mean.

neutralized warm colors

See what I mean about there being different types of brown? Here we have what you could call a reddish brown, an orangish brown, and a yellowish brown. All of these you could mix together with each other to make even more brown tones. And you can also neutralize these even more, to make them look even more of a dull brown in color. It all depends on what brown you're looking for. 

neutralizing paints

So, these are some very neutral brows in the center. you can also add white to any of these mixtures to make a light color brown.

neutrals with tints

So now you see we have all different types of browns we can use in our painting. We have neutralized reds and their white tints, we have neutralized oranges and their tints, and neutralized yellows in their tints. And all we had to do to make those browns was take a warm color, and then neutralize that warm color by mixing in a little bit of its complementary color. The more of the complementary color you add, the more dull and brown it will look.

Thanks for joining me in my studio! If you want to learn more about mixing colors, I'm offering a free video to all my email subscribers. This video is called Painting in 50 Shades of Gray, and it teaches you how to use neutrals to make your paintings pop! Visit the link below to get your free video. Happy painting, everyone!

Watch Painting in 50 Shades of Gray!

painting in 50 shades of gray

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