What Colors Make Orange and How Do You Mix Different Shades of Orange?

Shades of orange brush strokes

What colors make orange? The simple answer is red and yellow, but there is much more to it because you can change the shade and hue by tweaking the amounts used or by adding some other colors into the mix. For example, using different amounts of red or yellow will allow you to create many different versions of the ever popular orange.

By learning how the color wheel works and how colors are categorized, you will be able to create several different shades of orange and come up with everything from a bright and vivid orange to a muted apricot.

What Colors Make Orange?

Paint brushes and palette with red, yellow and orange oil paints

There are two main types of colors in the world. These are your primary colors and your secondary colors.

You will see that primary colors are found naturally. You do not have to create a primary color. The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue.

Secondary colors are created when you combine two of these primary colors together in order to make an entirely new color. The secondary colors are orange, green and purple.

Orange is made with red and yellow, so it is a secondary color just as purple and green are.

The color wheel is a wonderful visual tool that helps us understand how all of these colors come together.

Creating Different Shades of Orange

Abstract oil painting with different shades of orange, red and yellow

There are several techniques you can utilize to make different shades of orange. When you get comfortable mixing colors, you have almost infinite possibilities and creating the right shade becomes easy.

Changing the Hue

Simply altering the portion of red and yellow that you use to make orange will give you the ability to change the hue. Equal parts red and yellow will give you a pure orange. Adding the slightest bit more of either primary color will allow you to change the hue.

The two simplest variations of orange are yellow-orange and red-orange. These are referred to as tertiary colors. You can find tertiary colors dispersed evenly between the secondary and primary colors on your color wheel.

Yellow-orange: Use two parts yellow along with one part red to develop an orange that leans towards a yellow hue. Play around with this new and exciting color to make even more versions of yellow-orange. For example, using one part orange with one part yellow creates a brighter version of a yellow-orange.

If you want to explore even more options when it comes to a yellow-orange, consider mixing in different forms of red and yellow. Use deep, rich shades of red and yellow to create a burnt orange. You could also mix a lemon yellow with a deep red for a muted version of your orange that still contains a deep and rich look.

Red-orange: Created in much the same way, except the amounts of each primary color are changed. Use two parts red along with one part yellow. Again, this new color can be altered by beginning with one part pure orange and adding in one part red for an orange that definitely has a red hue.

Just like we talked about how you can come up with many more shades of yellow-orange, you can also create several red-orange colors by experimenting with different versions of red in your mix. A crimson red mixed with yellow gives you a robust orange, but when we change the mixture to include a pure yellow and a burnt sienna red, we will create a muted orange with earth tones.

Changing the Value

Orange color palette with tints, shades, saturation and hues

Value is a term used to describe the hue of a color. It is basically referring to how light or dark the color is. Artists use value to define forms and to create contrast in their work.

You can alter the value of orange by adding either black or white to it. The amounts you decide to mix in will determine exactly how light or dark your orange will be. When talking about color, the word “tint” is typically used to reference lighter versions of the color while “shades” is used to describe darker versions.

Making a Muted Orange

When working with a color that is as bright and vivid as a pure orange, it is important to know how to mute it. Rarely will an artist of any nature use a true orange in their work. It often requires some form of muting in order to achieve the desired look.

The first step in muting any color is to find its complimentary color. Complimentary colors are sometimes called “opposite colors” because they are found across from each other on the color wheel. When complimentary colors are mixed together, they will cancel each other out. The result is a grayscale color such as black or white.

Illustration of color wheel showing complementary colors orange and blue

Blue is the complimentary color found across from orange on your color wheel. Adding blue to your orange is the perfect way to create a neutral muted orange. You don’t always have to mix pure colors when experimenting with muting. Mixing your orange with a cobalt blue creates a warm muted orange. Do the same thing with an ultramarine blue and you have a cooler muted orange. Mix orange with a rich, dark blue and the result is a muted orange with a hint of green in it. As you can see, the shade of blue you choose will greatly change your end result.

Blue is the color you will most often use to mute orange, but green can help you discover some very impressive muted oranges as well. Green creates unique shades that add depth to the color. By experimenting with green, you can create muted oranges that range from light brownish oranges to deep robust shades.

Mixing Red and Yellow Makes Orange

Oil painting of couple in love holding hands sitting on bench near orange bonfire

A child’s simple color chart will easily reveal this to you, but the fun begins when you discover how to create different shades of orange. Whether you are working with paint or frosting a cake, understanding basic color theory will help you achieve the desired affect you are looking for.

Once you have become comfortable mixing different amounts of red and yellow to change the hue, learn how to alter the value with black and white, and then mute the orange you came up with by adding blue and sometimes green, you will find that the sky is the limit when it comes to how many orange colors you have available.