What Colors Make Purple? Best Mixing Methods

what colors make purple

With so many shades of purple, it’s quite difficult to make the right one. As a painter, you need to know how to mix different primary colors to produce secondary colors. If you are wondering what colors make purple, this article will provide you with all the right answers.

What Is Purple? The Science Behind the Color

What Is Purple

First of all, purple is an intermediate color between red and blue. Although purple is similar to violet, which is a shadowy color with a unique wavelength on the discernible range of light, purple is a complex color mixed using red and blue. Purple is commonly associated with magic, mystery, devotion, royalty, and other related practices.

When purple is mixed with pink, it produces the perfect color for eroticism, seduction, and femininity. In ancient times, the Roman judges wore purple, making it the majestic color worn by the monarchs of the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Roman Empire. This color also became the signature color for Roman Catholic bishops.

In Japan, this color was associated with aristocracy and the Empire. It is also important to mention that purple’s harmonizing color is yellow. The word purple originates from an old English word “purpul”, which comes from the Latin word ‘purpura”. The word purpura comes from the Greek word “πορφύρα”, which is the name of the Tyrian purple dye produced in a traditional relic from a mucus produced by the bristly dye-murex snail.

The word purple is reported to have been used for the first time in the English language in 975 AD. Traditionally, violet and purple colors are normally placed between blue and red, especially in the old color wheel used by traditional painters. This is mainly because purple is closer to red, while violet is closer to blue.

In Science

As mentioned above, purple is not a visible spectrum color. So, it was not part of the rainbow colors that were identified by Isaac Newton. Furthermore, purple doesn’t have its own wavelength of light. That’s why it is referred to as a non-spectral color. In theory, purple is defined as the non-spectral color between violet and red.

Also, in terms of color theory, the spectral colors violet and indigo are not purple, but they are considered purple when used in common English. In color printing, purple is usually represented by magenta. But it can also be created by mixing magenta with blue or red.

Purple and Violet Aren’t the Same

Although purple and violet are not the same color, many people normally confuse one with the other. However, there are several glaring differences between purple and violet. For instance, if you look closes at the two colors, you will notice that purple is more reddish and saturated, while violet is less saturated and more bluish.

Apart from the visible difference, several other dissimilarities exist between purple and violet. But to understand these differences, you have to be aware of how the eyes work. The electromagnetic range is an unbroken range of wavelengths that are not completely visible to humans.

Since humans neither see the ultraviolet wavelengths and shorter, nor the infrared wavelengths and longer, they rely on their cones to see the rest. Cones are the three main types of color-sensitive cells found in human eyes. So, when violet light hits your retina, both blue and red paths are activated. Your brain interprets this input in a specific way that is commonly referred to as violet.

As mentioned earlier, purple is not a spectral color. This means that when you see a purple object, normally it is a mixture of different wavelengths that reaches your retina, activating your cones at a ratio that cannot be achieved by a spectral color. That’s why purple looks more reddish than violet (a spectral color).

What Colors Make Purple?


As indicated above, a mixture of blue and red produces purple. But what if you do not want a bright, saturated purple? In that case, you should consider mixing muted colors. These colors are important elements of any painting because they make bright colors to be prominent.

It is also important to mention that when colors that reflect light in various ways are mixed together, their reflection capacities are also mixed together. That’s how composite colors like purple are made through light waves. There are two main methods of mixing light to create colors: additive mixing and subtractive mixing.

How to Make Purple Using Additive Mixing

Additive mixing is used precisely for combining light waves. For instance, it helps to create colors for computer monitors, televisions, disco lights, and other related applications. By layering various wavelengths of light and mixing them with a white body, this color mixing technique can help you to create any color you desire.

With this color mixing procedure, you can make purple by mixing the wavelengths of blue light and red light. When you are combining these colors, use different proportions. The final product can be a soft purple like lavender or a gallant, dark purple like merlot.

How to Make Purple Using Subtractive Mixing

Unlike additive mixing, subtractive mixing creates colors by subtracting the wavelength of visible light through various physical elements, such as pigments, dyes, and paints. Instead of being reflected back as the colored pigments are combined, some wavelengths of light get absorbed. This is what makes this color mixing technique subtractive.

Most professional painters prefer to use subtractive color mixing to create purple because it produces a very rich and strong purple color. When you mix red and blue paints or dyes using this technique, you will also be mixing different wavelengths of light. The red paint will reflect one wavelength, while the blue paint will reflect another.

The compounds in this mixture will reflect the red and blue wavelengths back in a whole different way. This combination of the reflected light is what your eyes see as purple.

How to Make Purple Using Tints and Shades

You can also make purple by mixing tints and shades. But the question is: What are tints and shades? Basically, you get a tint when you mix white with another color. For example, pink is a perfect tint because it is acquired by mixing red with white. You can also get a tinted purple by mixing purple with white.

On the other hand, a shade is acquired by mixing black with another color. Therefore, you will get a shade of purple when you combine purple with black. The brightness of your purple shades and tints will depend on the amount of black or white colors you add to the purple color.

The ratio of black or white to purple is referred to as saturation. This means that a saturated purple shade or tint has little black or white in it.

What Other Colors Can You Make with Purple?

You can make many shades of purple depending on the colors you start with and how you mix them. But the most effective way to create different shades of purple is to mix blue and red with either white, black, or gray. The most common red tints of purple include magenta, red-violet, orchid, heliotrope, fuchsia, and merlot.

You can also increase the amount of blue in your purple mixture to create blue tints of purple. Some of the main blue tints of purple include periwinkle, lavender, blue-violet, indigo, amethyst, and lilac. When you add gray to a mixture of red and blue, you will have purple with gray undertones. Some of the common shades of purple with a grayish tint include mauve, French lilac, and lavender gray.

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