How to Mix Neutral Colors From Orange and Blue

Updated on April 4, 2020
Robie Benve profile image

Robie is an artist who loves sharing what she's learned about art and painting in the hope that it might help other creatives.

A tutorial on how to mix neutral colors starting from just two colors, one being in the orange family, and the other a blue. A short time-lapse video shows four examples of orange/blue neutral mixes using acrylic paint.
A tutorial on how to mix neutral colors starting from just two colors, one being in the orange family, and the other a blue. A short time-lapse video shows four examples of orange/blue neutral mixes using acrylic paint. | Source

Four Examples of Neutral Mixes From Orange and Blue

In this article, we’ll review four examples of how to mix a neutral color using just two colors: one belonging to the orange family, and the other being a blue.

The time-lapse video below shows the following four mixes:

  • Cadmium Orange + Ultramarine Blue
  • Cadmium Orange + Cerulean Blue
  • Vermillion + Ultramarine Blue
  • Raw Sienna + Ultramarine blue

But before we get started, let’s look at how the science behind the color wheel. The knowledge of some color attributes can help us make better decisions.

The Four Mixes Done in the Video Below

Four examples of how to mix a neutral color using just two colors, one being in the orange family, and the other a blue.
Four examples of how to mix a neutral color using just two colors, one being in the orange family, and the other a blue. | Source

How Do You Mix a Neutral Grey or a Neutral Brown?

The secret to mixing a neutral color is to include a little bit of paint from each of the primary colors. If you combine in your mix some kind of blue, some kind of yellow, and a red, you are bound to get a neutral color.

The same way, if you want to dull down any color, you just need to add to it its complement. That ensures that all three primaries are somehow present.

How Do You Get Started Mixing Neutrals?

Let's look at what questions you need to ask yourself before you start mixing.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Color wheel, front.Color wheel, back.
Color wheel, front.
Color wheel, front. | Source
Color wheel, back.
Color wheel, back. | Source

What Temperature Do You Want?

Before you start mixing a neutral, ask yourself: is the color that you are trying to mix warm, or is it cool?

  • If it’s warm you are trying to create a mix that belongs to one side of the color wheel where the yellow-orange hues are.
  • If it’s cool you are working on the other side of the color wheel, where you find the blues and the greens.

If you are aiming for a cool color, then you’ll be predominantly featuring the blue in the mix, and the result will be a grey.

If the color that you are aiming for is warm, then the yellow-orange will be predominating, and the result will be a dull brown.

What Value Do You Need?

Depending on what you are trying to paint, you need to figure out what value is your neutral going to be. Is it light, middle, or dark?

You can use a value scale to assess it, or just squint and figure out how light or dark you need to go.

Tip: If you need a dark value don’t start by mixing colors that are too light.

It Helps to Know Your Colors

Things can get tricky if you are not very familiar with the hues that you are mixing.
For example, cadmium red light has some yellow in it, so if you mix it with blue to get a bright violet, you’ll be very disappointed.

The same way, cadmium yellow deep has some red in it, so when mixed with blue it cannot make a bright yellow-green.

Keep reading to learn about the secret color bias of the most popular colors.

The Word "Hue" in the Name of the Color

When it comes to artist’s paint, the word “hue” references the fact that the paint is a mix of colors, not a single pigment.

Time-Lapse Video: Mixing Four Neutral Colors from Blue and Orange.

Let’s Talk About the Four Examples in the Video

The video shows a time-lapse of me mixing the four neutral combinations below.

Cadmium Orange + Ultramarine Blue

The cad orange is a very warm color, halfway between yellow and red on the color wheel. When mixed with ultramarine blue, that also has some red in it, it makes a nice dark brown.

When you add titanium white to the mix, the white makes it chalkier and cooler, turning into a lighter neutral, but still leaning towards the warm side.

Cadmium Orange and Ultramarine Blue make a warm, dark brown, when white is added in it gets really neutral.
Cadmium Orange and Ultramarine Blue make a warm, dark brown, when white is added in it gets really neutral. | Source

Cadmium Orange + Cerulean Blue

Very similar results can be achieved mixing cad orange with cerulean blue.

This time though, the mix is slightly warmer and slightly lighter that the cad orange and U. Blue mix, but as you add white you can see how it can still serve as a very nice neutral.

Cadmium orange and cerulean blue make a nice brown, that is slightly lighter and warmer than the previous mix.
Cadmium orange and cerulean blue make a nice brown, that is slightly lighter and warmer than the previous mix. | Source

Vermillion + Ultramarine Blue

If you mix ultramarine blue with a redder orange, like vermillion, because this orange does not lean so much towards yellow, and is a little darker in value than cad orange, you get a much darker and cooler mix.

When mixed with titanium white, it reads like a beautiful grey.

Ultramarine blue and vermillion, a darker orange, give a nice dark and cool neutral.
Ultramarine blue and vermillion, a darker orange, give a nice dark and cool neutral. | Source

Raw Sienna + Ultramarine Blue

Raw Sienna is a dark, dull yellow-orange. Mixing Raw Sienna and Ultramarine blue, the resulting neutral is very similar to the one obtained mixing Vermillion and Ultramarine blue, but this time the mix leans towards a dark blue-green.

When white is added, it retains some of the blue nature all the way.

Mixing Raw Sienna and Ultramarine blue, the resulting neutral is very similar to the one obtained mixing Vermillion and Ultramarine blue, but this time the mix leans towards a dark blue-green.
Mixing Raw Sienna and Ultramarine blue, the resulting neutral is very similar to the one obtained mixing Vermillion and Ultramarine blue, but this time the mix leans towards a dark blue-green. | Source

Color Bias and How They Effect Mixtures

Every color, even if it looks pure, possesses a color bias, which means the color has influences from a neighboring hue on the color wheel.

The color bias affects the results of mixes with other pigments and how the color looks when applied as a glaze.

Examples of color bias are in the table below.

Any blue containing a hint of red would not create a bright green when mixed with yellow but would be ideal to produce a purple or a lilac.

By contrast, blues biased towards green are cool blues and would be suitable for mixing pure greens, but would be unsuitable for mixing bright violets.

Some reds are biased towards yellow. These reds would be an inappropriate choice to mix with blue to produce a clean violet or purple, but their warm nature makes them ideal for mixing orange.

Some reds tilt naturally towards violet in their color bias, as they contain a little blue, and may not produce clean, dazzling oranges if mixed with a yellow.

Warm yellows (biased towards orange) would be a good choice to mix red for making pure orange.

Cool yellows are biased towards green. Any of these yellows would be great for mixing clean, bright greens.

Some Examples of Color Bias in Popular Colors

Color
Color Bias
Relative Temperature
Ultramarine blue
Red
Warm blue
Winsor blue (red shade)
Red
Warm blue
Cerulean blue
Green
Cool blue
Pthalo blue
Green
Cool blue
Winsor blue (green shade)
Green
Cool blue
Cadmium red
Yellow
Warm red
Alizarin crimson
Blue
Cool red
Magenta
Blue
Cool red
Cadmium yellow
Orange
Warm yellow
Indian yellow
Orange
Warm yellow
Cadmium yellow deep
Orange
Warm yellow
Lemon yellow
Green
Cool yellow
Cadmium lemon
Green
Cool yellow
Every pigment possesses a color bias, an influence from a neighboring hue on the color wheel. The color bias affects how the color mixes with other pigments and how it looks when applied as a glaze.

How do you mix a dull yellow-orange to paint a rock?

You may start from a yellow-orange paint out of the tube, like cadmium yellow deep. Looking at the color wheel, you know that the complement of yellow-orange is a violet. That means that you can add a bit of violet to dull it, and it will also darken it.

You can use dioxazine violet or try some ultramarine blue, that has a red bias and it’s close to blue-violet.

Mix with a palette knife and assess.

It will be surely duller and darker than the starting color. If it becomes too green, add a bit of red, If it becomes too blue-violet, add a warm color, like more of the initial yellow-orange.

Keep mixing, keep comparing. If it moves too much toward blue, add some warm orangy color, if it becomes to yellowish, add a bit of blue-violet.

Tip: As you add colors to the mix, keep in mind the color bias from the table above and how they might affect the mix.


There Are More Ways to Mix Neutrals

Of course, there are lots of more ways to mix neutral colors, this article just covers a few examples that involve orange and blue.

Try to experiment on your own using other colors.
The main rule is: every time you mix together all three of the primary hues, either as color, or as color bias, you are bound to get a dull mix, and tweaking the proportions you can make it really muddy. That's when you get a nice neutral.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Robie Benve

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

        Robie Benve 

        2 months ago from Ohio

        Thanks a lot Claudia! I've self-isolated myself even before our Governor gave the order, painting and writing make the days go faster and happier. I hope all is well with you too. Here is to a healthy and happy quarantine. :)

      • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

        Robie Benve 

        2 months ago from Ohio

        Thank Liz! I'm one of those people counting on creative activities to keep me sane during this lock down. I know it's not everywhere, but here in Ohio we are all staying home and trying to keep busy. Painting surely helps. I've been thinking of all those people that always say they would love to paint but don't have the time. The time is now. :)

      • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

        Claudia Mitchell 

        2 months ago

        Very cool Robie - I love the subtle variations with the different blues and oranges. Stay safe and I hope you are well.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        2 months ago from UK

        This is a fascinating article. I'm guessing that there will be quite a number of people taking up or returning to painting at the moment.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, feltmagnet.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)