How to Mix the Color Maroon

All you need are primary colors, black, and white

Maroon acrylic paint
Winsor & Newton, Perylene Maroon acrylic paint.

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Maroon is in the red color family. It is a brownish, dark shade of blood red and is considered a warm color that is near the purple color range (reds that tend more toward the blues). The word maroon actually comes from the French word, marron, which is a large European chestnut used for cooking. There are slight variations in the verbal definitions of the color of maroon, but paint manufacturers themselves seem to be largely consistent.

On this color chart from the paint manufacturer Winsor & Newton, you can see where the acrylic paint color, perylene maroon, fits into the color spectrum compared to other reds and violets. (It is between alizarin crimson and quinacridone violet.)

Permanent maroon, made by Golden Paints Co., is another example of an acrylic maroon paint. It is very close in color to that from Winsor & Newton displayed in the photo above. 

In terms of computer coding, the hex number for maroon is #800000; RGB is 128,0,0. (To understand word color codes and hex codes, read "A Quick Color Explanation.") For graphic designers, Pantone has more than one color of maroon, including: 18-1619 TCX; 1815; Texas A&M Aggie Maroon, 7421; MWSU Maroon Pantone 202; and University of Chicago Pantone 202 Maroon.

Mixing Maroon

Maroon is in the red color family but tends toward blue with a bit of brown in it. It can be made simply with a mixture of the primary colors, red, yellow, and blue in a certain ratio. Start with those three colors and experiment with different ratios. Because blue is darker than red, it will overpower the red quickly, so you will need a greater quantity of red than blue to keep your mixture in the red color range, close to a ratio of 5:1 red:blue, depending on your paint. 

You should also be aware that each primary color has either a warm or cool bias and therefore will affect the mixture in a particular way. For example, rose madder is a cool red (it has a blue bias). When you mix it with ultramarine blue, you get a violet. To create a maroon color, you would also need to add a tiny bit of yellow to this mixture to warm it up. 

In comparison, cadmium red is a warm red (it has a yellow bias). Therefore, when you mix it with ultramarine blue, you are already adding a bit of yellow to the mixture. This will make the resulting color a bit brownish and closer to maroon. It is always important to be aware that different primary colors—and even different brands of paint—will have different effects on your color mixtures.

Mixing Paint Using the Color Wheel 

The color wheel is useful as a guide to mixing and also suggests how to use the tertiary color, red-violet, mixed with a bit of its opposite, the tertiary color yellow-green, to create maroon. As you can see, this combination is a variation on a mixture of the three primaries: red, yellow, and blue. 

Read "Tertiary Colors and Color Mixing" for a further explanation of tertiary colors and how understanding the color wheel helps you to mix the colors you want.

Watch this video to see how red is combined with green to create a darker red that is close to a maroon color.

Tints, Tones, and Shades

When trying to mix maroon from red, blue, and yellow, the color can appear too dark to tell what the true hue is. One way to help you determine whether the hue is right is to tint it with a bit of white. This will help you to see whether it tends toward purple (and appears cool) or red (and appears warm). 

Maroon's hue is a darker shade of red. That means that it is darker than primary red. A shade of a color is made by darkening it with black or with chromatic black (black made by mixing other colors together). So you could also try creating maroon by adding a bit of black to cadmium red.

Like any color, white can be added to tint it, gray can be added to tone it, and black can be added to shade it. 

Read "Tints, Tones, and Shades" to find out how adding black, gray, and white affects saturation and value.

And of course, whatever maroon color you mix will look different depending on the color adjacent to it due to the concept of simultaneous contrast. Context is key.

Have fun experimenting, and document your ratios if it's a color you'll need often or need to replicate later.