Red is a primary color so there is nothing you can do to make a pure red with any medium. However, you can create different hues and shades of red by combining pure red with other colors.
Method 1 of 4: Understanding Color Theory
Step 1. Know that you can't make red
Red is a primary color so you can't make it by mixing other colors.
- Primary colors are colors that already exist by themselves and do not contain traces of other colors. Apart from red, the other primary colors are blue and yellow.
- While you can't make pure red, you can still create different shades of red by mixing pure red with other colors. You can change any hue value in the same way.
Step 2. Change the hue by adding another color
Mixing pure red with other colors will turn the red hue. You can combine it with most primary and secondary colors, and each combination will produce a different hue.
- When mixing red with another primary color, add only a small amount to prevent the red from turning too far. A small amount of yellow can produce a red-orange hue, but if the yellow is too much, the red will turn orange. A small amount of blue can produce a red-violet hue, but too much will produce violet.
- Mixing red with a secondary color orange will produce a red-orange, but you should limit the amount of orange to as much or less than the amount of red, so that the hue remains reddish rather than orange. While mixing red with a secondary violet will produce a red-violet, you should limit the amount of violet to as much or less than the amount of red.
- You can also mix red with a bit of the final secondary color, which is green. Since they are complementary colors (i.e. two colors that are opposite on the color wheel), adding green to red will give you a brown tinge. However, adding too much green will turn the red into a brown or cloudy gray.
Step 3. Change the value by adding black or white
If you want to change the red value without ruining the hue, just mix pure red with white or black.
- Adding white will lighten the red tinge. However, too much white will result in pink.
- Adding black will darken the red tinge. However, if there is too much black, the original red hue will no longer be recognizable.
Method 2 of 4: Mixing Red Paint
Step 1. Prepare some paint
When painting, you will most likely need an assortment of red tones. You can make the most of the hue by mixing pure red with other colors.
At a minimum, you should have red, yellow, blue, orange, violet, green, black, and white paint. Choose paints that are closest in hue to their respective pure colors
Step 2. Take pure red
Pour a small dot of red paint onto the painting palette. Use a brush to apply a line of color onto the test paper.
Observe the red strokes. This is the original sample for comparison with other red hues resulting from the mixing process later
Step 3. Practice mixing red with other primary colors
Pour two globs of red paint over the palette. Add a little yellow to one of the lumps and a little blue to the other.
- Each time you add another color, add a small amount of that color and mix well. Adding too much of another color can drastically change the red color and make it a different hue.
- Dab a red-orange line (which was made with yellow earlier) next to the original red sample. Paint a red-violet line (which was made with blue earlier) on the other side of the original red sample. Compare the difference in hue.
Step 4. Mix red with orange and violet
Pour in two new globs of red paint. Add orange paint to one and violet paint to the other.
- You can mix the two colors (red and orange or red and violet) in equal amounts and the resulting hue will still appear red, but the red element will appear stronger if you use a higher amount of the secondary color (orange or violet) a little.
- Paint a new red-orange line (secondary) next to the first red-orange paint (primary). Apply a new (secondary) red-violet line next to the first red-violet (primary) paint. Compare these new hues to the previous ones and to the original red sample.
Step 5. Mix red with green
Pour a glob of red paint over the palette and toss with a little green paint. The red paint will turn brownish red.
- Instead, start with a small dot of green. If you want, you can add a little green at a time to change the hue even further. Adding too much green will result in a brown or tan-gray color.
- Paint a line of this new color on the paper, near the original red sample. Compare the colors.
Step 6. Change the tint
Add a little white to lighten the red paint and add a little black to another red blob. Stir well.
- Dab a darker red line next to the red-brown sample, then compare. Both colors will appear dark, but the red-brown sample will have a pronounced brown element, while the dark red will not.
- Also daub a lighter red line on the paper. Compare the tinge to the other samples.
Method 3 of 4: Making the Red Frosting
Step 1. Make the frosting in advance
Making bright red or dark red frosting can be difficult at times, but the color of the icing will thicken over time. It's a good idea to prepare the frosting 24 to 72 hours in advance so that the color is stable when you want to use it.
This is especially important if you want a pure red frosting made with only red food coloring. But the same trick can also be applied to variations in red if you want the color to be less intense
Step 2. Taste the icing periodically
When you're making dark or light red tones, the amount of dye used can make the icing taste bitter.
- By tasting the icing as you color it, you can monitor changes in taste and prevent bitterness from developing.
- If the icing turns bitter, you can usually improve it by adding more flavor. Use clear flavor extract and pour in about tbsp. (1.25 ml) per 1 cup (250 ml) icing.
Step 3. Add enough red coloring to the white icing
Place the white icing in a non-reactive bowl. Add the red food coloring little by little, mixing well with each addition, and continue this process until you get a bright red color.
- Instead, use food coloring in the form of a gel or paste specifically for icing. Standard liquid food coloring concentrations are not thick enough so the amount needed to make red frosting will spoil the taste and texture of the icing.
- As a general guide, you will need about tbsp. (1.25 ml) special red coloring for icing, per 1 cup (250 ml) white icing. If you are using unflavored red dye, add 1 tbsp. (5 ml) of dye per 1 cup (250 ml) of icing.
Step 4. Try mixing red with brown coloring
If you want to make dark red frosting but only have bright red dye, then the best way to get the color you want is to add a little brown coloring.
- Add red food coloring to the white icing in the same way as before. Continue until you produce a very dark pink or a bright red.
Add chocolate food coloring to the icing and stir. The amount of brown coloring should be about the amount of red dye, or less. Once mixed well, you will get a dark red icing with a brownish tinge.
In the same way, you can also mix cocoa powder into the red icing to darken the color. Cocoa powder can also enrich the taste of the icing
Step 5. Experiment with other variations
For other media, you can change the color of the frosting by mixing pure red or "red-red" food coloring with another color. Experiment with different combinations, starting with the white icing in a separate clean bowl for each color.
- Make a burgundy (burgundy) frosting using pink rose and violet coloring in a 5:1 ratio.
- Make a maroon frosting by combining “red-red” coloring with burgundy in a 2:1 ratio.
- Make it raspberry red by combining “red-red” dye with pink.
- Make it rust-red by mixing "red-red" dye with orange and brown in a ratio of 2 or 3 red: 5 to 8 orange: 1 brown.
- Make it a dark ruby by adding a little black to the red icing.
Method 4 of 4: Mixing Red Polymer Clay
Step 1. Make it a warm red
If you need a warm shade of red but only have pure red clay, mix red with a pinch of orange or yellow.
- Use golden yellows and avoid greenish yellows as they can produce reds with a brownish tinge. You can use almost any orange clay.
- To prevent the hue from changing too drastically, mix just a small pinch of the additional color into the red clay sample. Knead the clay until well blended. If you still need to change the hue, add another dye and repeat the process.
Step 2. Make it a cool red
If you need a cooler shade of red, mix pure red clay with a pinch of blue or violet.
- Warm blues with a hint of violet are a better choice than cooler shades with green. The addition of turquoise can result in a brown tinge to the final hue. You can use almost any violet-colored clay.
- As for the warm red, you can use the cool red by adding the cold additive to the red clay little by little.
Step 3. Darken the color
You can darken red clay using a pinch of brown or black clay. Whatever color you use, add a little at a time so the red doesn't change too drastically.
- The addition of brown clay will gradually darken the red, while changing the hue to a brownish tinge.
- Adding black clay will darken the red tones more drastically, but won't change the hue.
Step 4. Lighten the color
You can lighten the red by using a pinch of white or clear clay.
- Add the white/clear color little by little to the red clay sample. If the red color is still not light too, keep adding it until the result is to your liking.
- Adding white clay will change the value to red and too much can turn red to pink.
- Adding clear clay will make the red color less bright without changing its value. You can add clear clay up to about 1/3 of the total mixture. More than that can turn the red into a semi-transparent pale color, rather than an opaque hue.