What Color Do Brown and Purple Make When Mixed?

Brown to purple gradient making a dark plum color when mixed

Brown and purple aren’t often paired together, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make appealing designs. With one neutral color and the other vibrant, they’re sure to create a unique hue when mixed.

So, you might be wondering what purple and brown make when combined. Do they create the same color in every medium?

What Color Do Brown and Purple Make in Paint?

Brown and purple paint create a unique color when mixed together. They usually result in a dark purple, similar to plum. However, it’s also possible for them to look dark brown. The type of purple and brown you use may affect the results.

Understanding the RYB Color Model

Illustrative RYB color model

RYB is the color model most people think of first. That’s because it’s regularly taught to kids in early art classes when they learn how to paint. It’s a form of subtractive mixing, which means when two colors are combined, wavelengths are removed to create a new color.

Red, yellow, and blue are the three primary colors in RYB. Combinations of them can create the secondary colors, which are purple, orange, and green. When an equal amount of red, yellow, and blue are combined, they make brown. There are lots of ways to create brown because the more colors you add together, the muddier the mixture looks.

How to Make Purple Lighter or Darker

Plum can be a beautiful type of purple if mixed right. Yet, it might not be the exact color you’re looking for. If you were imagining a lighter or darker version of purple, there are a few ways to make that happen.

Mixing Tints

A tint is defined as a color mixed with white, which appears as a lighter version. So, adding white to plum will make it lighter, but also paler. If you want a more vibrant light purple, such as lilac, you should mix white with a purple that doesn’t have brown paint added to it.

Mixing Shades

Shades are the opposite of tints because they occur when black is mixed with a paint color, which makes it look darker. Adding a touch of black to plum can make it look even darker. Be careful, though, because too much black paint can easily overpower the other color.

Plum Color Meaning

Dark purple watercolor background

Plum is considered a formal color that symbolizes royalty, romance, and luxury. It differs from other types of dark purple because they usually relate to sad feelings or frustration. The color plum’s meanings are more closely related to purple in general than other shades of the color.

Purple usually means mystery, royalty, and imagination. It enlightens, inspires, and encourages those who look at it. Like all colors, it has a mix of good and bad meanings. It could be related to compassion, wisdom, and creativity, but it could also symbolize sensitivity, vigilance, and immaturity. It all depends on how you use the color plum.

Can You Make Purple and Brown Paint?

Many artists run out of certain paint colors before completing their masterpiece. If that happens, you might not need to go to the store because purple and brown can both be made using other paint colors.

Purple is easy to make because it’s a secondary color on the RYB color model. It’s made using 50% red and 50% blue.

Brown is a little trickier to make because it has so many options. The most common way to make brown is by mixing red, yellow, and blue together. However, if you choose darker versions of the primary colors, the result may look black instead of brown. Another way to make brown is by mixing complementary colors, which are colors on opposite sides of the color wheel. Some examples are red and green or blue and orange.

What Color Do Brown and Purple Make in Lights?

Graphic design with purple lights

There is no way to mix brown and purple lights because lights can’t be brown. If you look at the visible light spectrum and the RGB color model, you notice that there’s no brown on either one.

RGB is the additive color model used for mixing colored lights and digital displays. The primary colors are red, green, and blue, while the secondary colors are cyan, magenta, and yellow. Unlike RYB, the more colors that are added together, the lighter the mixture gets. Thus, if you combine the three primary colors in this color model, you’ll get white instead of brown.

So, light can’t be the color brown, but we can still see brown objects. Why is this?

Why Does Brown Not Exist in Lights?

The reason you never see lights as brown is that brown lights can’t exist naturally. There are no wavelengths that represent the color brown, and none can combine to create it.

So, we can perceive the color brown because it’s a color that exists due to context, not wavelengths. Our eyes do a lot to see colors, but they don’t always work alone. They also rely on our brains to apply context for some colors. Brains can alter the colors we look at in some scenarios, which is why we can see darker colors like brown, black, and gray.

When you see something brown on a digital screen, it’s really dark orange. The colors around it can make it appear differently. Orange on a black background just looks orange, but orange on a white background can look brown. So, to trick our brains into thinking orange is brown, it needs to be surrounded by things that are brighter than it.

There are lots of colors we can see that don’t exist naturally in lights. Yet, the way our brains perceive them can help us see them. That’s how we can see such a wide range of colors in the world around us. However, even though we can see darker colors like brown, we’ll never be able to mix brown with other colors in lights.

How Do Our Eyes Perceive Colors?

Visible light spectrum wavelengths

Even though our eyes rely on our brain when seeing colors, our eyes still do a lot of work. When light shines on an object, certain wavelengths get absorbed into objects while others reflect off them. Each type of wavelength is a color, and the colors that bounce off objects are what we see those items as.

When you look at the visible light spectrum, the colors are red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue, and violet in that order. Red has the longest wavelengths, while violet has the shortest. So, the wavelengths get progressively shorter as they go from red to violet on the spectrum.

For example, let’s say you’re looking at a red apple. In that scenario, all the wavelengths would get absorbed into the fruit except for the longest ones, which represent red. The red wavelengths are reflected toward us, and that’s why the apple appears red to us.

In our eyes, we also have cells called “photosensors” that help us interpret the colors. Cone cells are used to help us see colors in bright lights, while rod cells are more sensitive and can only see colors in dim lights. Together, cones and rods help us see all the colors around us, no matter the lighting.

Does Brown Exist in CMYK?

Even though CMYK seems similar to RGB, brown exists in CMYK. CMYK is a form of subtractive color mixing that’s used for printing. The primary colors are cyan, magenta, and yellow, while the secondary colors are red, green, and blue, making it the opposite of the color model for lights.

In CMYK, it’s much easier to make dark colors than it is in RGB. The primary colors of CMYK create black, so brown is a possibility. An easy way to make brown ink is by mixing black, yellow, and red. If you mix brown ink with purple, you’ll get a plum or dark brown color just like you would with paints.

Designing with Purple and Brown

Purple and brown interior design

Brown and purple might not be one of the first color combinations you picture, but the two colors actually go very well together. Dark purple can go well with light browns, such as tan, coffee, or beige. You might see the two colors used together in room designs, outfits, and paintings.

If you want to make the design more interesting, you should consider adding more colors. White, gray, blue, or yellow are just a few colors that could go well with the pair. If you don’t want to use brown and purple together, there are plenty of ways to design with them separately.

Brown is neutral, so it goes well with nearly every color. Colorful hues like fuchsia, mint, yellow, and blue could go well with brown, along with other neutral pigments like white, black, or gray. Purple is often used with blue, pink, red, or yellow. Yellow is on the opposite side of purple on the color wheel, so it can help it stand out more in posters and advertisements.

The Color Brown Is Difficult to Mix With

Even though brown isn’t the easiest color to mix with, it can have some unique results. In paints, it often makes the color look muddy, but with purple, it might make a pleasant plum color. Yet, when it comes to mixing in lights, brown can’t be mixed at all.

There are so many color combinations out there, and each one has a unique result. So, try combining lots of different colors to help you find the best hues to design with.