What Colors Make Red? What Two Colors Make Red

In this article we share with you what colors make red. You’re probably curious what two colors make red because you’re either trying to mix paint, chalk, make-up, or even play-doh.

Either way, we will share with you the theory behind color mixing and how this can be done easily.

Keep reading…

Most of us learn at an early age in elementary school that red is one of the primary colors. We were taught that Red, Yellow, and Blue are the primary colors.

And most importantly that a primary color cannot be created by mixing other colors. (or can it?)

So in theory, if Red is a primary color we should not be able to make it by mixing any two colors.

But in reality, you can make red color!

I know it’s a crazy revelation and you’re probably upset with your grade-school teacher for miseducating you.

Not to worry though as we’re to going to share with you what colors combined can make red. But before we do that I wanted to share with you a little background on why we were taught this.

RYB (Red, Yellow, Blue) Color Model

mixing primary colors

Do you remember when you got your first brand new set of water color paints in elementary school? Your teacher probably taught you how to mix paint using the basic color wheel that consisted of the primary colors: Red, Yellow, and Blue.

The simple diagram above explains that if you mix the colors adjacent to each other  you will get a new color.

You were taught that if you mixed red and yellow… you get orange.

While blue and yellow combined… make green, and blue and red make purple/violet. It’s interesting to find lots of reference that purple is actually violet. That might be a whole other blog post in itself =)

These colors mixed together make up the secondary colors.

Essentially you can create six colors if you have a color palette consisting of your primary colors. (Forgot to mention you can also make black if you mix all of these colors together).

But is this really the origin of all colors? I’m afraid not and we’ve been misinformed this whole time.

Even in a post on the JohnMuirLaws website they talk about this…

Red is not a Primary Color I often see red and blue included in paint sets and on color wheels as a primary color. A bright fire engine red is usually shown as the red and some form of navy blue such as ultramarine stands in for the blue. Neither of these colors are primaries.

Next, let’s talk about the CMY Color Model…

CMY (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow) Color Model

Have you ever wondered why inkjet printers use the colors Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow for creating colors instead of red, yellow, and blue?

I always thought it was odd that when I went to go search for ink at Best Buy it would reference this.

For example…

Here is an ink cartridge for sell. It’s listed as the “Canon – PGI-1200 3-Pack Ink Cartridges – Cyan/Magenta/Yellow”

CMY Ink Cartridge

Personally I would have never researched about the CMY Color Model if I didn’t have to buy ink. So I basically stumbled upon this color theory. (Fun facts you can share at the next party when you’re playing trivial pursuit)

CMY colors can mix together using a color model known as Additive Colors and Subtractive colors.

what two colors to mix to make red


Mind blown! I know…

So you’re probably wondering…why do they still teach us that red, blue, and yellow are primary colors?

There are several reasons.

First, the idea that red, yellow, and blue were primary colors originated a long time ago, where many painters believed that they could only use red, yellow, and blue to mix colors.

Theories of primary colours: The idea that painters can mix all colours except three can be traced back to Aristotle in his Meteorologica [c. 350 B.C.], but surprisingly Aristotle (Fig. 6.2.1A) gives these colours as the same three he saw in the rainbow: red (phoinikoun), green (prasinon) and blue/violet (alourgon). 

And finally, one of the biggest reasons (in my opinion) we are not taught about the CMYK color system, is that it is difficult to explain to a 5 year old about the colors “Cyan, Magenta, Yellow” and easier to teach them about “Red, Yellow, and Blue” colors.

What Colors Make Red?

Alright so now that we got all the background and educational piece out of the way… Let’s get down to business.

“What two colors make red?” you might ask.

If you look at the chart above you will see that if you mix the colors Magenta and Yellow you can make RED!


Here is a video that demonstrates that if you mix these two colors you can make red.

You can also make different versions of red, either lighter or darker than true red, by adding white or black to your color palette. What I suggest is to make separate color sections and mix them so you have a wide range of reds to choose from.

This can work for any medium, whether you’re trying to mix paint, ink, clay, etc. the theory applies to all.

You can also easily test this with colored markers.

Take a yellow marker, and use it to draw a patch of yellow on a piece of paper. Next, take a magenta marker, and color over the yellow patch, and voila, you have red!

As I said before, you can also try this with paint, clay, or even dye. Just make sure that you have colors that are close to true magenta.

Whether you’re trying to learn to mix paint, crayons, make-up, or just simply want to educate yourself. Learning how to make red can be a useful piece of knowledge.

Remember next time you’re with a group of friends you can say… “Did you know that you CAN mix colors to make red?” or try having a debate with a 5 year old about mixing colors =)

Hope you enjoyed learning how to mix colors to make red. Cheers!

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