What Colors Make Red?

Wondering what colors make red? Today you’ll find out what two colors make red when mixed and how to mix different shades of this color.

When the human eye perceives color, magical things happen. What’s more, light plays a vital role in mixing colors.

Specifically, human vision or a healthy eye has three types of receptors in the retina. These are called cone cells, allowing us to see over 100 shades per receptor. [1]

Each cone cell type is sensitive to photons of a specific wavelength. They are nicknamed L, M, and S for long, medium, and short wavelengths.

While long wavelengths are perceived by these cells as red, short wavelengths are blue. The medium ones appear green.

So all the colors we perceive are actually mixtures of multiple wavelengths.

In today’s article, we will discuss the colors that make red when mixed and how you can create different tints and shades of red by mixing two or more colors.

Color Types

traditional color wheel with names

When it comes to color types, they are classified into four categories: primary, secondary, tertiary, and intermediate colors.

While tertiary colors are also referred to as intermediate colors in the world of physics (RGB color model), they differ in traditional art’s RYB color space. More precisely, they are created differently.

Primary Colors

As you may have learned in school, there are three primary colors

  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Blue

That’s true, but they apply to traditional art. The color model used in art is called RYB, a traditional subtractive model.

When we talk about light, the primary colors are matched to the cone cells in the human eye’s retina. Thus, they are red, green, and blue. These are the primary colors of the RGB color model used in digital art. Furthermore, RGB is an additive color model.

On the other hand, the printing world works with a different set of primary colors. These are cyan, magenta, and yellow and are part of the CMYK color model. This color space also uses black as an additional color to add blackness.

So, as you can see, the primary colors differ depending on the medium you are working in.

Secondary Colors

Any color formed by mixing two primary colors is called a secondary color. 

The secondary colors are not the same for all color models because of the different sets of primaries and mixing types (additive vs. subtractive).

In the RYB model used in art, the secondary colors are orange, green, and purple.

  • Purple = Red + Blue
  • Orange = Red + Yellow
  • Green = Blue + Yellow

The shades of purple, orange, and green differ depending on the proportion used in the mix. For example, a deep orange will have more red and less yellow. On the other hand, amber will have more yellow but less red.

Tertiary Colors

Tertiary colors are mixtures of two secondary colors. This definition only applies to traditional art using the RYB color model. Slate, olive, and brown are examples of tertiary colors in RYB.

  • When you combine green and purple, you get slate.
  • By mixing orange and green, you get olive.
  • Mixing purple and orange makes brown.

Furthermore, a tertiary color implies using all primary colors in the mix. Let’s take purple or orange as an example. Purple is a combination of blue and red, while orange is a mixture of red and yellow.

In light and physics, tertiary colors are produced by mixing a primary with a secondary color. For this reason, people often confuse them with intermediate colors.

In practice, tertiary and intermediate colors are used interchangeably only in RGB and CMYK models.

Intermediate Colors

Intermediate colors are those between a primary and a secondary color on the color wheel. So they are formed by mixing a primary with a secondary color. 

Intermediate colors are yellow-orange, red-orange, blue-purple, red-purple, blue-green, and yellow-green.

Neutral Colors

Black and white are not recognized as colors of the entire color spectrum. While some call them shades because they augment colors, others call them achromatic colors because they lack a dominant hue. 

However, achromatic hues are qualities or attributes that include black, white, and gray, as well as starlight. [2]

Furthermore, scientists do not call them colors because neither has its own wavelength on the visible spectrum.

Since their mixing produces different shades of gray, they can be considered neutral colors. Furthermore, they can be called achromatic colors because they contain all light wavelengths without a dominant hue.

What Colors Make Red?

In traditional art (RYB color space), red is a primary color. That means it cannot be created by mixing other colors. This is due to the fact that it is one of the three building blocks used to create other colors.

While painters will agree with this statement, those working in digital design will find it incorrect. So red is not a primary color in all three color models, specifically in CMYK.

In the CMYK color space used in the printing world, red is a secondary color created by mixing two primary colors. In short, the answer to the question of what colors make red is magenta and yellow.

what colors make red

Magenta and yellow are two of the three primary subtractive colors. 

An additive primary color is created by combining two subtractive primary colors. So, if you mix two CMYK primary colors, you will get red, green, or blue.

However, the color red created by mixing yellow and magenta may appear rusty or even orange. If the red tends more towards orange, you have mixed in too much yellow. If the result is too pinkish, you’ve used too much magenta.

  • The CMYK code for red is 0, 100, 100, 0. 
  • The Hex code of red is #FF0000, and its RGB values are R: 100, G: 0, B: 0.

Why Do Magenta and Yellow Mix to Make Red in Subtractive Color Mixing?

In the context of color mixing, magenta and yellow (along with cyan) are referred to as subtractive colors because they work by subtracting or absorbing certain wavelengths of light to create the perception of color. 

The term “subtractive” comes from the fact that these colors subtract or remove specific portions of the light spectrum, resulting in the colors we see.

When light shines on a surface, it contains a combination of different wavelengths that our eyes perceive as color. However, when pigments or dyes interact with light, they selectively absorb or subtract certain wavelengths of light while reflecting others.

In the case of magenta, it absorbs green light, subtracting the green wavelengths from the incident light. Similarly, yellow ink absorbs blue light, subtracting the blue wavelengths.

Moreover, when magenta and yellow inks are combined in the CMYK color model, they subtract different portions of the light spectrum. 

So, magenta absorbs green light, while yellow absorbs blue light, allowing only red to be reflected.

How to Mix Different Shades of Red

If you’re looking for the answer to the question of what two colors make red, well, the most straightforward answer is magenta and yellow.

Suppose you want to know what colors make red paint. In that case, the short answer is different shades of red such as alizarin crimson or cadmium red mixed with yellows (cadmium yellow and lemon yellow) and oranges (cadmium orange or yellow ochre).

Are you wondering how to make red paint? Here’s a red mixing guide for getting light, dark, warm or cool shades.

what two colors make red

Since red falls in a wavelength range between 620 and 750 nanometers on the light spectrum, there are many shades of red.

To make your red base, you can use a mixture of yellow and magenta or a combination of red with different secondary colors.

If you use primary red and secondary colors in traditional art, you can make different shades of red, from warm to cool and dark to light.

Dark red can be created by mixing cadmium red or alizarin crimson with phthalo green. Alternatively, you can combine alizarin crimson with ultramarine blue, then add burnt umber.

What about the colors that make light red? Mix cadmium red and cadmium yellow or alizarin crimson with lemon yellow to make light red.

If you want to make a muted red, mix cadmium red with hookers or phthalo green. If you want a darker tone, use alizarin crimson instead of cadmium red.

When it comes to warm red, it can be made by mixing alizarin crimson and cadmium yellow. If you want a warm orange-red, mix cadmium red and cadmium orange.

If you want to make a cool red, you can mix cadmium red or alizarin crimson with ultramarine blue.

Here is a short color mixing guide to mixing different shades of red:

Mahogany = two parts red + one part blue

Crimson = Red + a splash of blue

Cherry Red = a mixture of red and white as a base + a splash of black

Ruby Red = Red + a hint of black

Raspberry Red = Red + a touch of magenta

Candy Apple = Red + a hint of orange

Strawberry Red = Red + white + a hint of orange

If you want to make a muted red, you can mix cadmium red with cadmium green; alizarin crimson with cadmium green; or alizarin crimson with pthalo green; Don’t forget to add some white to your red base.

So, there are many ways to make red, from using a primary color with other secondary colors from the RYB model to mixing two primary colors from the CMYK model.

Furthermore, adding black and white can create different tints and shades. However, the best method is trial and error to get to the desired shade.

Color Bias Plays a Vital Role in Mixing Red 

What is color bias

Every color carries a bias, meaning that it leans towards another color. So the color temperature used in mixing red is critical. 

For example, a red that leans towards yellow is not pure but a warm yellowish red. The same applies if it leans more toward blue, resulting in a cool bluish-red. 

The same applies to yellow. It can be a warm reddish-yellow – leaning towards red or a cool greenish yellow – leaning more towards green.

Thus, the temperature of the mixed red depends mainly on the color bias. If you want to make a cool red closer to purple than orange, add a splash of blue. On the other hand, if you want a warm red, mix a warm yellowish red with a warm reddish yellow.

Furthermore, the temperature of the mix can affect the color’s emotion.

Last Words on Colors That Make Red

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