How To Make Red Paint

Red is a color that we expect to see in any set of paints – from basic kits to more extensive ranges for experienced artists. We always have a nice deep red and a more orange-toned vermilion on hand for color mixing, pops of color in cityscapes, or for a vibrant contrast in a landscape. But what if the red you have isn’t quite right. Can you make your own, and if so, how do you make red paint?

Can You Make Red Paint?

Surprisingly, it is possible to mix red from other colors. Our basic art lessons as children lead to a misconception that the red we have in front of us is all we can use. All colors start from red, blue, and yellow. But, that doesn’t have to be the case. Subtractive color mixing offers a different approach where you can play with red tones more freely.

Isn’t It True That Primary Colors Like Red Are Impossible To Make?

When we are young and learn the basics of color theory at school, we learn about primary and secondary colors. The primary colors come first and cannot be made with other paints, and then you mix two of them together to get a secondary color.

  • Red and blue = purple
  • Red and yellow = orange
  • Yellow and blue = green

You can also add white to red to make it pink.

That’s about all you need to know when you are a kid. You get your basic set of colors and either paint straight from the pallet or tube – which is why we all love poster paint as children – or play with some basic color mixing. This all leads to the assumption that you can’t make red. Red comes as red, and that’s it. We can buy various tones and hues in different types of paint, such as scarlet or vermilion, and then use that to make other colors. However, this isn’t necessarily the case.

Red Isn’t A Primary Color in Subtractive Color Mixing

There is a way that we can learn how to make red with paint. It focuses on using other colors to create some rich and appealing tones. Subtractive color mixing takes color theory in a different direction. Here, the primary colors are cyan, yellow, and magenta. When you mix the cyan with the yellow, you get a truer green than the darker tones seen with a traditional primary blue. The cyan and magenta give you a deeper blue. But, when you add magenta to yellow, to get red.

This form of color mixing is more commonly found in printing than in paint mixing. The ink in your color printer is a mixture of cyan, magenta, and yellow, these are mixed accordingly to match the tones of the image and reflect light correctly. However, there is no reason why we should bring this sort of color mixing process to our art when mixing paint.

Add Magenta to Your Palette for a New Way to Make Red

Magenta isn’t a classic tone in oil painting or acrylic painting. In the former, there is an expectation to use true reds and rose madder. But, you can get some interesting mixes in acrylics now, and magenta does find its way into some sets. It also isn’t uncommon to find it in watercolor paint. When you have a good set of paints ready, you can then start playing around with tones and creating the red that you want.

How to Make Red Paint Darker

Experimenting with color mixing is always a good idea for any artist, as you can discover tones that prove to be more realistic or impactful for your work. Creating a red is a good starting point, but you can also learn to alter the warmth, depth, and darkness of the tone. A common choice for darkening red paint is to add black. This can work, but you may also limit yourself to the tones produced. An alternative option is to use green. However, you have to be careful which type of green you choose and how much of it. Adding green to red creates a tertiary color leaning into the territory of browns.

How Is Red Paint Made?

The question of how to make red paint also leads us to consider how store-bought red paint is made in the first place. It is all about the different pigments used. Naturally, red pigments can provide a range of red tones, some more vibrant and others more earthy. Red Ocher is a common example that comes from clay. It has been in use as a red pigment for art from prehistoric times. Over time, we learned how to combine pigments and other ingredients to make substances truer to the paints used today. Many red paints today may have alizarin crimson, carmine red, or quinacridone to help produce the desired intensity for artwork.

Painting with Pigments At Home

It is possible to get hold of some red pigments and use these to make your own red paint. This could be either as a paste with water or by adding that paste to some white paint. You could also try taking some red-toned natural materials and adding them into your work – emulating those that used red clays and pigments in ancient times. You might not get the same depth of color or the true red tone you might be used to. But, it is still a fun experiment if you are interested in the science of colors.

How to Make Red Paint

As you can see, you aren’t stuck with the red tone that you get in your store-bought tube of paint. Subtractive color mixing with magenta and yellow opens up new doors when experimenting with red tones for your work. Also, you can get creative with pigments and clays to see how you can bring natural reds into your work and build your own red paint from scratches. Have fun experimenting and seeing red in a whole new light.