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Mix Colors in Photoshop as if they were Paint

Mixing Red and Green

If you mix red paint and green paint, you get brown because they are complimentary colors in that color mode. In Photoshop, you get mostly green, with some browns toward the red side. In the middle area is an olive green.

Mixing pure red and pure green
Mixing pure red and pure green

 

Mixing Blue and Green

Here we get a predictable teal color when mixing pure blue and pure green.

Mixture of pure blue and pure green
Mixture of pure blue and pure green

 

Mixing Red and Yellow

Here we get a beautiful orange from pure red and yellow.

Mixture of pure red and yellow
Mixture of pure red and yellow

 

Mixing Blue and Yellow

When mixing blue paint with yellow paint, you usually get some version of green. In Photoshop, these two colors are opposite to each other on the RGB color wheel. What you get when you mix these two is pretty muddy. Somewhere to the yellow side there are some dull greens. What you get right in the middle is gray.

Mixture of pure blue and yellow
Mixture of pure blue and yellow

 

Mixing White and Red

A nice pink results from pure white and pure red. Hues mixed with white are called tints. You will get similar lightening results from mixing other colors with white.

Mixture of pure white and pure red
Mixture of pure white and pure red

 

Mixing Black and Red

Richer, darker red tones result from pure black and pure red. Hues mixed with black are called shades. You will get similar darkening results from mixing other colors with black.

Mixture of pure black and pure red
Mixture of pure black and pure red

 

Mixing Three Colors

You can get some interesting mixtures, similar to mixing paint, when you mix three or more colors.

Here I’ve mixed pure black, pure red, and pure blue. In the middle of the mix is a dark violet.

Mixture of pure black, pure red and pure blue
Mixture of pure black, pure red and pure blue

Here I’ve tried pure white, a light blue with a hint of gray, and a muted green.
Mixture of pure white, light gray, and green
Mixture of pure white, light gray, and green

Finally, I mixed yellow with a raw sienna color and a spring green.
Mixture of yellow, raw sienna, and spring green
Mixture of yellow, raw sienna, and spring green

 

Smudge that “Paint” Around

After you’ve mixed some colors, get the Smudge tool at 50% strength. Use a large brush size, and you can achieve some lovely painterly effects.

Smudge tool applied at 50% strength
Smudge tool applied at 50% strength

Mixture of light violet, magenta and burgundy
Mixture of light violet, magenta and burgundy

 

If you have any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What cool color mixtures did you come up with?

 

Done

9 replies on “Mix Colors in Photoshop as if they were Paint”

Found your site/blog looking for ideas in 5 huge graphics classes that I teach with high school kids at all learning levels and grades. You’ve got some really well written tutorials that are fresh and more importantly, tight. Many, Many Thanks!!

This is a good article and I realize It was written a while ago so I don’t expect and answer back but I had a question about one of your examples. Based upon the additive color wheel adding red and green together should give you yellow. The complement to Red in the additive wheel is cyan. In your example of red and green being mixed together the result is brown. Thats where I start getting confused. That would happen in a subtractive color mode but I thought photoshop used additive color mixing to get its results. Could you further clarify what you meant by they are complements in this mode.

Nice articled thanks!

If you have Adobe illustrator you can also try using the blend tool. Just make two rectangles of the chosen colours you would like to blend then go Object>blend>make (in adobe cs4)
you can then adjust the settings with the blend options, such as smooth colour, specified steps, etc.

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