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Secondary Colors 101: Everything You Need to Know

Secondary Colors 101: Everything You Need to Know

According to color theory, there are mainly three types of secondary colors that are formed by mixing equal quantities of two primary colors. In other words, they can be made with the purest form of each primary color. 

Colors play a huge role in art. Each color, whatever the type it is, has a meaning and conveys different feelings. For example, a blue color is used to show a calming effect whereas a strong red color is used to depict the feelings of love and enthusiasm. 

The interaction of colors is very important to understand because not all colors work well together. If an artist uses colors in his/her paintings harmoniously, he/she can create spectacular results. 

For example, red and yellow make orange, yellow and blue make green and blue and red combines to make purple. Hence, orange, green, and purple become secondary colors. The shades of primary colors play an important role in determining the hue of them. 

The shade of purple that we get from mixing cadmium red and cobalt blue is different from purple that we get from mixing cadmium red and cerulean blue. All these colors can be combined appropriately using an important art tool known as the color wheel. With the help of the color wheel, you can get to know graphically how different colors can interact with each other.

In today’s guide, we will talk about these colors – what are they, what the main types are, and how they are important in art. Plus, you will also come to know what the secondary colors of light are and how they can be mixed to make intermediate colors. 

Let’s get started!

secondary colors

How many types of secondary colors are there?

We often hear that if an artist wants to get brilliance in painting, he must use a combination of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. It is quite true! Color is a powerful and important design element that can simply enhance your art. 

If an artist learns to use it effectively, he/she can create warmth, elegance, and energy in the artwork. If we talk about secondary colors, they are everywhere and so are primary and tertiary colors. So, what are they?

There are three types – orange, purple, and green. All these three colors can be obtained when you mix two primary colors. Primary colors also have three types which are combined with one another to form them. 

These colors (primary colors) are not made from any other color and include red, yellow, and blue. These three colors are mixed in equal ratios to form three types. For example, yellow and red combine to form orange, red, and blue combines to make purple and blue and yellow are added together to make the green color. 

Yellow + Red = Orangesecondary color orange made from yellow and red

Red + Blue = Purplesecondary color purple made from red and blue

Blue + Yellow = Greensecondary color green made from blue and yellow

Note: When a primary color is mixed with a secondary color, a tertiary color is obtained. 

What are the secondary colors in art?

The world is full of colors. There is, in fact, a multitude of colors in our daily life. As an artist, if you want to capture the colors in your paintings, you just need to know how they are made. 

Every color, except primary colors (red, blue, and yellow), is a combination of a few basic colors that are added and mixed in different ways. Secondary colors are no different at all. 

Various amounts of primary colors are mixed, along with black and white, to create these colors. Note: White, black, and grey are not true colors. They are said to be achromatic or neutral colors. 

Whatever the primary colors you use, their ratio determines the final value. Let’s suppose you are going to mix red and yellow to make the orange color. 

If you add more parts of red and less part of yellow, you will get an orange color but more reddish in shade. Similarly, if you add more quantity of yellow and less quantity of red, a yellowish-red shade will be achieved.

On the other hand, additive and subtractive secondary colors are produced by combining two other additive and subtractive primary colors respectively. Additive colors are yellow, magenta, and cyan. They can be obtained by mixing additive primary colors (such as red, blue, and green). 

Similarly, subtractive colors are orange, green, and purple/violet and you can get them by mixing subtractive primary colors (red, blue, and green).

What are 3 secondary colors?

They are said to be the children of primary colors. These include:

  • Orange
  • Green
  • Purple

Usually, it is not necessary to buy these colors separately as you can get them by mixing three basic primary colors. But keep in mind that you should have a good set of primary colors with you so the mixing of these colors can give you a good set of them. 

Most artists prefer to buy at least one pure orange, one pure green, and one pure purple before getting on to paint. They are of the view that sometimes it becomes a lengthy task to mix primary colors to get secondary colors. 

Whatever approach you choose, you must first clearly know the difference between the primary and secondary colors and how primary colors are mixed together to get a perfect shade of secondary colors. Plus, you should also make yourself familiar with your paint palette before you start panting. Moreover, it is better to go for some mixing tests before applying the paints to the final painting.

What are the secondary colors of light?

When the green light is added with red light, yellow (Y) light is produced. When green and blue light are mixed together, cyan light is produced. And blue light and red light are added together to create magenta (M) light. Hence, yellow, cyan, and magenta become the secondary colors of light.

Red + Green = Yellowred and green make yellow

Green + Blue = Cyangreen and blue make cyan

Blue + Red = Magentared and blue make magenta

These three secondary colors of light can only be achieved if two primary colors of light are added in equal quantities.

Understanding the simple principles of secondary colors of light are important for artists to enchant the viewer. 

How can secondary colors be mixed to make intermediate colors?

When the secondary colors such as green, purple, and orange are mixed in different amounts, intermediate colors are produced. It is a great color mixing technique that can simply beautify your paintings in a unique way. 

In this technique, the additive primary colors are mixed with adjacent secondary colors to get a range of intermediate colors. For example, by mixing the secondary colors, you can get yellowish-green, yellowish-orange, or reddish-orange.

In short, intermediate colors can be used to create a new dimension to your artwork!


Art of combining colors using the color wheel is known as the color theory. Color theory has a huge role in determining the relationship between colors and the physiological effects of color combinations. 

In art and design, colors are widely used by the artists to create a message, to evoke a certain emotion, or to get a sharp response from the viewer. Red, yellow, and blue are primary colors. 

These primary colors can be mixed together to get secondary colors. This is the foundation of the color wheel. Each secondary color can also be considered as the complement of the primary color.

Want to give a unique definition to your paintings? Mix primary colors in such a way that you can bring out different hues of secondary colors!

So, now you have come to know everything about secondary colors. There is no need to wait anymore. Play with colors to create amazing shades of secondary colors in your artwork!

Question of the Day: What type of colors can bring a new dimension to your art?