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

Shades of red brush strokes

When it comes to the world of colors, there is a lot more to them than meets the eye. In fact, there is a whole science behind the creation of colors and how the human eyes interpret them. The science of colors is often referred to as chromatics or colorimetry.

Any discussion about the mixing of colors has to consider the effects of light. Without getting too technical, we humans have three types of color receptors in our eyes. These receptors allow us to see hundreds of colors with each color coming to us as a combination of a single color or a series of colors, plus light.

In the following sections, the focus is going to fall on the color red. There will be a discussion about what colors you can mix to make the color red, as well as how you can use colors to create different shades or tints of red.

Color Types

Illustration of color wheel with primary, secondary and tertiary colors

Before addressing the magic world of mixing colors to create other colors, we want to educate you about color types. It’s possible you might remember some of this information from grade school. If not, you will hopefully find this information to be fascinating and useful. Let’s look at the three basic realms of color, which include:

  • Primary colors
  • Secondary colors
  • Tertiary colors

Primary Colors

Thinking back to grade school, you should have learned that there are three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. Every other color in the universe has at least one of these colors as a base color. The process by which other colors are created is called mixing.

There are no secondary or tertiary colors you can mix to create a primary color. With that said, it is possible to play with hues, tints, and shades to get back to a primary color.

For what it’s worth, you can mix all three primary colors and create a basic brown. You can also create brown by mixing any of two secondary colors and one primary color.

Secondary Colors

The secondary color realm consists of three colors: orange, green, and violet. You will note that the three primary and three secondary colors combine to make up the colors of a rainbow.

To create a secondary color, all you have to do is mix equal portions of two primary colors together as follows:

Violet = red + blue

Orange = red + yellow

Green = blue + yellow

You can create different hues of each secondary color by adding more or less of one of the applicable primary colors. Example: a light violet color would have more red and less blue.

Tertiary Colors

The third realm of colors is called tertiary colors. Tertiary colors are created by mixing a combination of primary and secondary colors. The most popular examples of tertiary colors would be yellow-green, yellow-orange, red-orange, blue-violet, red-violet, and blue-green.

As is the case with secondary colors, you can create different hues or shades of tertiary colors by mixing more or less of the applicable colors.

Neutral Colors

Based on the science of colors, there are two “colors” that scientists don’t recognize as colors. Black and white are what experts call neutral colors. The combination of black and white creates gray, which is technically considered as another neutral color.

You can create shades of gray by adding more or less of black or white.

What Colors Make Red?

RGB and CMYK color mixing diagram with additive and subtractive colors

First and foremost, there are no two colors you can mix to create red. The same would be true of the other primary colors because these are the three colors that serve as building blocks for all other colors.

While you cannot create red by mixing any two colors, there is an alternative process you can use to create the color red off of an alternative color wheel. The alternative process of mixing colors is called subtractive color mixing.

The color mixes listed above are based on the traditional color wheel but there are in fact several color wheels based on different color models and the subtractive mixing process is based on the subtractive color wheel.

The traditional color wheel includes the aforementioned primary colors: red, yellow, and blue, but the subtractive color wheel has its own set of primary colors, those being cyan, yellow, and magenta. Using the subtractive color wheel’s primary colors, you can create red by mixing magenta and yellow.

We can’t mention subtractive mixing without talking about additive mixing. The primaries here are red, green, and blue. The RGB model is used for displaying images in electronic systems, like TVs and computers.

Mixing Different Shades of Red

Red color palette illustration

There are well over 400 different shades, hues, or tints of red. While it would be near impossible to list all of them, here are a few color names you might recognize: Cherry Red, Crimson, Hibiscus, Ruby Red, Indian Red, Mahogany, Raspberry Red, Strawberry Red, and Candy Apple Red.

In your mind, you are probably trying to conjure up mental pictures of each of these colors. But how would someone go about creating these colors? Sticking with the listed shades of red, we will tell you the color mixes that create them:

Cherry Red = heavy black + light red

Crimson = hint of blue + red

Hibiscus = hint of violet + red

Ruby Red = hint of black + red

Indian Red = hint of white + blue + red

Mahogany = one part blue + two parts red

Raspberry Red = hint of magenta + red

Strawberry Red = hint of orange + white + red

Candy Apple Red = hint of orange + red

This is just a small example of how you can combine red with other colors to create new shades and hues of red. Anytime you add white, you are technically making a tint of red. Pink is a tint of red that is made by mixing red and white. Hot pink has more red while pale pink has more white.

Hopefully, the above information has opened the door to your creativity. Using red as a base color, you should feel free to mix a lot of different colors to red in your quest to create a new red that catches your artistic eye.