When it comes to mixing paint colors, brown can be one of the most illusive. This can be so frustrating because there are so many uses and needs for brown. The earth, skin tones, favorite desserts (chocolate cake with caramel frosting anyone?) and even coffee are varying degrees of brown. In fact, I don’t think you can get through an entire day without the color brown.
Life without brown is like life without coffee.
You may have noticed that brown does not appear in the rainbow. Brown is not a color in the visible light spectrum. Thus, it cannot be a combination of two colors.
In your notebook, experiment with these methods for creating brown tones. Keep notes of mixtures so that you can recreate your favorite results.
Primary Color Method
On a palette, squeeze out a little bit of each of the primary colors, keeping them separated. Now, mix a little of all three colors to get brown. The brown may be a bit muddy. Try these recipes for different brown hues:
2 Blue + (1 Red + 1 yellow ie orange) = a blue brown/steel grey
2 Red + (1 yellow + 1 blue ie green) = a warm rich brown/chocolate
2 Yellow + (1 blue + 1 red ie purple) = a mustard/ochre
Once the correct type of brown is mixed then white or black pigment can be added to make it lighter or darker.
Complementary Color Method
Complementary colors are the colors on the color wheel that are directly across from each other.
Blue + Orange = Brown
Red + Green = Brown
Yellow + Purple = Brown
Secondary Color Method
Secondary colors are the result of mixing two primary colors together. Mix any two secondary colors (purple, orange or green) together, and brown appears.
To create secondary colors:
Red + Blue = Purple
Red + Yellow = Orange
Blue + Yellow = Green
Orange and Black Method
For a saturated brown, start with orange and gradually add black. You can then warm the brown with red and/or yellow, or cool it with a bit of blue. Lighten with white.
The Store-Bought Method
Tried and true, the store-bought method is reliable. Any paint supplier will have a variety of shades of brown that are just right for your palette.