How to Mix Colors to Create Tan for Painting

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Things You'll Need

  • White paint

  • Brown paint (burnt sienna and/or yellow ocher)

  • Palette

  • Palette knife

Tan is a pastel brown.

Tan is an easy color to create. It is also extremely useful. Often, neutral colors in painting are not sufficiently appreciated. The less showy neutrals provide a counterbalance for more dynamic colors. In addition, the can produce a neutral ground to which almost any color can be successfully added. The paucity of hue in neutrals is what makes this possible. Depending on the type of tan you want, there are corresponding artist's colors to achieve tans that go from yellowish to reddish, or a solid tan.


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Step 1

Mix a teaspoon of white paint with equal parts of burnt sienna and yellow ocher. The volume of the burnt sienna and the yellow ocher should be about equal to a split pea. This is because their pigments are stronger, and tan is on the light side. Mix the colors on the palette. Sweep them about with the palette knife. Mix until you have a solid color. For lighter tan, add more white. For darker tan, add more yellow ocher and burnt sienna in equal parts. This combination produces a typical tan, without leaning towards red or yellow.


Step 2

Mix a teaspoon of white paint with burnt sienna, in about the volume of split pea, on your palette. Again, mix well. This produces a reddish tan. Adjust with burnt sienna and white as required to reach your desired tone. Make sure the color is solid.

Step 3

Mix a teaspoon of white paint with yellow ocher for a more yellowish tan. Use about the volume of a split pea of yellow ocher. Adjust as necessary. You can even add a hint of burnt sienna if the tan appears to yellowish. Blend the paint well. Scoop and turn over the paint periodically on the palette to ensure full mixing.