How To Mix Vibrant And Exciting Orange Acrylic Paint Colors

Even if you know the basics of mixing orange when you paint it is not so straightforward as there are many other things to think about. Here I share some of the things I have learned about orange.

To make orange acrylic paint you mix red and yellow, orange and yellow, or red and green. Depending on the orange you want, you use either warm or cool, bright or subdued colors, or add other colors to it to make the orange darker or lighter, less bright. or burnt orange.

There are lots of exciting ways to mix many different and interesting oranges. I touch on a few of those with examples of how you can make them. Once you have eth basics you can swap out the colors to make many more oranges. I love to use my acrylics to experiment and explore color. I share some of those colors here with you. I hope it helps.

Lots Of Interesting Ways To Make Orange Acrylic Paint

You can mix Orange using any of the following mixes: using yellow and red, orange and red, orange and yellow, or red and green. For this section, I am exploring the first 3 ways to mix orange.  Then going on to warm and cool oranges. For how to mix red and green to make orange please see the section on how to make orange without yellow.

Two Color Primary Color Orange Paint Mixes: Red and Yellow Make Orange 

This is the most classic way to make an orange. To get a bright vibrant orange this way use cadmium red and cadmium yellow.

Cadmium red + cadmium yellow with increasing amounts of red paint.

Art Tip: When you create orange add the red in small amounts to the yellow or it will overwhelm it and you will end up with red

Two Color Primary Mix: Orange and Yellow Make Orange

Cadmium Orange + Cadmium yellow

Here you have increasing amounts of cadmium orange acrylics added to the yellow.

Orange And Red Another Two Color Mix To Make Orange

If you have a ready-made orange like the one I here you can add red to it to make a more red-orange

Makes a much deeper orange as you already start with less yellow in the orange.

How To Make A Lovely Warm Orange

To make a warm sunny orange you need warm red and yellow. Pick warm colors like cadmium red and cadmium yellow.

Here are two examples. The top one is the orange plus yellow mix. The bottom one is red and yellow all cadmium colors. If you want a slightly less warm color simply swap out one of the colors to a neutral or cooler color like lemon yellow.

How To Make A Cool Orange With Acrylics

To make the orange cooler choose cooler or mid reds and yellows like lemon yellow and Naphthol Crimsonor Alizarin Crimson.

Lemon Yellow + Naphthol Crimson

Alizarin Crimson + Lemon yellow

You can see just by looking at these oranges that they have cooler undertones than the warm oranges above. This changes the whole look of the orange. Great for cooler areas in a painting.

How To Mix Orange Paint Without Using Yellow

Red and green It has to depend on which red and green you use.

Make A vibrant Bright Orange With Your Acrylics

To make the brightest orange you need to know not only what colors make orange but also which paint colors have their complementaries or will mix their complementaries. Then you need to avoid them when you mix orange. This avoids your orange being dulled down. So choose red and yellow.

The complement of red is green

The complement of yellow is purple

If you have alizarin red it has a blue bias so it will dull down your orange mix. This is because green is the complement to red. When you mix this red with yellow you are in effect mixing in green

The same goes for lemon yellow which has a greenish undertone. It’s not quite as intense as alizarin crimson but it’s there. These colors will dull down your orange as the blue will mix with the red.

The color bias in your paint tube is not always as obvious as with alizarin crimson. If you are unsure you can either look it up or mix it. It will soon be clear if it has a bias.

The colors I have found to make the brightest orange are cadmium red and cadmium yellow. This is because cadmium red is an orange-red and many cadmium yellows have an orange bias, cadmium yellow deep even more so.

How To Easily Darken Orange Acrylic Paint

You can use the following ways to darken orange paint:

  1. Use black
  2. Use its complementary color -blue

Many artists don’t like to use black as they say it dulls down their work too much. Also, as it already uses all three primary colors you are in effect adding another 3 colors that may not be the ones you have chosen for your orange.

Other artists use black just fine. This debate has been going on for years and no doubt will continue. Try both and see which you prefer. 

The top row below is darkened with black. You can see from the example the effect black has on the orange when you darken it.

Complimentary Color

The bottom row above is orange with ultramarine blue. As you can see the more added the more the orange becomes muted and browner.

Blue is the complement of orange on the color wheel

You can simply pick a blue and use that to darken your orange. However, if you look at the color wheel each type of orange has its own complementary blue. If you want to be more accurate you can use a blue nearer to that if you prefer.

  • For a red-orange counter with a blue-green
  • For a more neutral Orange  blue like cobalt
  • For a yellow-orange use blue-violet

How To Lighten Your Orange Paint 

You can lighten orange acrylic paint by using the following:

  1. white
  2. yellow
light orange mix

The main trouble with using white is that it alters the color and turns the color chalky. You can see this in the top row.

You can use yellow which will make it lighter and more yellow. Add the orange to the yellow. Use the techniques and colors here to use yellow to make your color cool or warm.

How To Make or Mix Burnt Orange Acrylic Paint

To make a burnt orange color with acrylic paint you need to add a burnt color to it to make your orange browner. You can use any of the following colors:

  1. Burnt sienna
  2. Burnt umber
  3. Dark brown
  4. Black
  5. Blue
Burnt orange

This tones down the orange and gives it a more muted orange-brown look. For the best effect make sure you use warm browns or blues and warm orange if you want a warm burnt color.

In the example above I used cadmium orange (cadmium yellow and cadmium red) and added ultramarine blue for the top row and burnt umber for the bottom row to create lovely rich burnt orange. Make sure you only add a very small amount of your complimentary or added color to the orange at a time so as not to overwhelm your orange.
Each different choice of color mixes will give you lots of variations for your burnt orange colors.

How To Mix Cadmium Orange

True cadmium orange was a by-product of zinc production and it is made from only one pigment PO20. Therefore it cannot be mixed. However, there is no reason why we cannot get a very similar color if we mix it. It just won’t be as pure.

Use cadmium red plus cadmium yellow:

Here I have added more and more red to the yellow to get a darker orange more in line with the desired cadmium orange.

The other pigments you can use to get a cadmium orange are:

PY83 / PY112 / PY74

638 / PY83 / PO73

Py83, Diarylide yellow, cadmium yellow, cad yellow deep/Permanent Indian Yellow (hue) or Flavanthrone Yellow / Arylide Yellow or azo yellow or cadmium yellow, Hansa yellow

PY112 Flavanthrone Yellow also known as Indanthrene Yellow G;, and Permanent Indian Yellow (hue)

PY74 Arylide Yellow 5GX,

Cadmium yellow or Diaryide yellow/ PO73 – Arylide Yellow, brilliant yellow, cadmium yellow.

(Source of pigments)

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