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

Shades of purple brush strokes

Artists and designers know all about color theory, the straightforward guideline about mixing colors and the various combinations that come from them. Understanding these concepts is necessary if you want to create colors that aren’t available in your paints, markers, or colored pencils, and one of the common colors people need is purple.

Let’s take a closer look at what colors make purple and how you can create some of the many wonderful shades of purple that exist. You can use the colors created in this guide for any type of design work.

The Color Wheel

Before you can create purple, it’s important to understand the color wheel.

There are three main categories on the color wheel in which you’ll find certain colors. The wheel has primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

With primary colors, you get your usual redyellow, and blue. Once you move onto the secondary colors, you’re looking at orangegreen, and purple. The tertiary colors come into play when you mix the primary and secondary colors, and these include yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet and red-orange.

So, now that you know where purple sits amongst the color wheel categories, it’s time to understand how we get to that point.

What Colors Make Purple?

Artist palette with purple oil paints and brushes used for painting

The main three secondary colors on the color wheel come from different combinations of the primary colors. When your aim is to create purple, all you will need to do is to put together red and blue.

Working with Different Mediums

It seems simple enough to mix blue and red together to make purple, but you have to keep in mind your choice of medium while you work.

For instance, creating purple with markers may not be the same as you would when using paints.

That’s because in some mediums, certain colors like red may contain slight traces of other colors like yellow, and this can completely change what purple you come away with.

So, it’s important to keep in mind what shades of red and blue you are using. Otherwise, you may not get the purple tone you wish to create.

At the same time, if you are interested in creating something that isn’t quite purple, you’re now looking into the shades of purple that fall on the tertiary category of the color wheel.

Mixing Shades of Purple

Once you start to move beyond the true purple color, you’ll notice there are several shades available to use. Of course, there’s the usual dark purple and light purple:

For darker purple tones, you can add more blue to the mixture or even a touch of black.

When it comes to a lighter purple, you’ll want to add a bit of white. Alternatively, you can add in red to create a warmer, softer purple tone.

Not only does using different amount of red or blue change the tone of purple, but as we mentioned before, the various shades of red and blue can create another look that’s not true purple:

For example, you can use an off-shade of blue known as cerulean blue in your mixture. This shade of blue has some slight green within it, but if you mix it with a lighter red such as permanent rose, then you can come away with a richer purple hue.

How to Use Opposing Colors to Make Different Shades

Female artist painting a purple lavender field

Although the first thing you’ll think of when making shades of purple would be to use different hues and amounts of blues and reds, did you know that opposing colors on the color wheel can come in handy as well?

Let’s take yellow, for instance. Adding just the right amount of the main yellow tone or even one of the many shades of yellow can help you change purple to a different tint. These purples are usually more muted and can work out quite well.

Also, you aren’t limited to just using more blues or a touch of black to make dark purple. You can successfully utilize shades of green, darker red tones, or even some brown tones to create different shades of a darker purple.

As always, it’s best to be careful how much of the opposing color you use, as you still want it to be obvious that the underlying color will turn out to be purple.

Purple and Violet: What’s the Difference?

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In your quest to make purple, you’ve probably noticed violet pop up on the color wheel. Some people confuse the two as the same color, but they are actually quite different.

The most obvious standout difference between them is that purple isn’t actually on the electromagnetic spectrum, but violet is. In fact, violet has the shortest wavelength of visible light that the human eye can detect. Purple is a manipulated color since you have to combine two colors to get there.

Also, violet tends to contain more blue rather than being a balance between red and blue.

Precautions to Creating Purple

Creating purple paint by mixing red and blue colors

To reiterate some of what we mentioned before, creating purple is simple, but you should know whether you want true purple or various shades, as this will determine what colors you need to combine.

Once you get purple, you can use that to dive into the assortment of shades from lighter tones to darker ones. Just take care not to mix too much of any color. This can cause you to blot out the purple, leaving you with a completely different color.

This is especially true if using white or black, as both colors can drown out purple if used in excess.

So, you can start out with the simple approach of combining a bold red with a good blue to come to your main purple color. From there, your choices are endless.