How to Mix the Color Maroon

Winsor & Newton, Perylene Maroon acrylic paint. Courtesy of

What is Maroon?

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.

See this color chart from the paint manufacturer Winsor & Newton to 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.)

So, with clarification of what maroon actually is, how do you mix it?

Mixing Maroon Using The Color Wheel

Maroon is in the red color family but tends toward blue with a bit of brown in it.  It can be made simply by a mixture of the primary colors, red, yellow, and blue in a certain ratio.  Start with those three colors and experiment with different ratios. Since 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 unique 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.  

However, 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 give you different effects in your color mixtures. 

Read Color Wheel and Color Mixing for an example of how to make a color wheel mixing the secondary colors from the warm and cool of each primary color. 

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 color 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 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 is a hue that 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.

The value of maroon is darker than that of primary red, but 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. Context is key!

Further Reading