This article is all about how to make navy blue paint and experimenting with popular blue colors to see what you need to mix with them to achieve the perfect navy for your next art project. Before we dive into the experimenting, let’s quickly go over the basics.
There are a few ways to make navy blue paint. You can add black to deepen the blue, purple to cool the blue, or orange to also deepen and mute the blue paint. Since navy is a cool blue, it will work best to start with blue pigment with a cool undertone. If you don’t have any blue paint, you can mix cyan (bluish green) and magenta (reddish purple) and go from there.
Still, I highly recommend that you make experimenting with your paints a regular part of your creative practice. It provides an unequaled opportunity to really understand the color you’re working with and will give you so many new colors that you never knew you had!
Ready to tag along and see the results of my experiment? Let’s go!
In This Article...
Navy blue is a deep blue that lands between primary blue and black. It also has a cool undertone and is neither too vibrant nor too dull.
Navy blue got its name from the dark blue uniforms worn by the British Royal Navy. That said, navy blue has almost become an umbrella term for any dark blue, but we artists know the truth about the gazillion tones of any color, am I right?
To understand how to make navy blue paint by mixing orange with blue, you’ve got to have a basic understanding of the color wheel and how different colors interact.
If you look at a color wheel, you’ll notice that orange is directly across from blue. That makes it a complimentary color.
Complimentary colors are fantastic when painted next to each other. It’s what gives you that huge WOW factor. There’s not a subtle thing about it.
However, if you were working with the two colors side-by-side and they were both still wet, you might accidentally mix them. When this occurs, the vibrancy will become duller and will deepen.
This is a good thing when making navy blue paint because you want your blue to be deep and not too vibrant.
This is something you may have seen me recommend before if you’ve been around these parts for a while but do make sure to check out my article that teaches you about color and how to keep track of your paint colors.
First thing’s first. Can you make navy blue if you don’t have any blue paint in your artist tool kit? As long as you have cyan and magenta, you sure can!
You may have noticed that printer cartridges don’t go by the same color codes as what we use. In printing, they use the CMYK color scheme.
CMYK is an abbreviation using the color initial:
- C = Cyan (a bluish green)
- M = Magenta (a reddish purple)
- Y = Yellow
- K = Key (nowadays, the “key” color is black)
Are ya still with me? Good. I promise this will shed some light and be a big help in the future because, contrary to popular belief, you CAN make primary colors or an extremely close dupe for them!
So, if printers only use cyan, magenta, and yellow to make colors, how can they make the primary colors of red and blue?
If you’ve ever really researched colors, you’ve probably seen people say that you can’t create primaries….. that’s why they’re called primary colors.
However, in the printing world, the primary colors are cyan, magenta, and yellow. What happens when you start mixing those colors to make secondary colors? Ding! Ding! Ding! You end up with blue, green, and red.
CMYK color recipes:
- Cyan + magenta = blue
- Magenta + yellow = red
- Yellow + cyan = green
In theory, you should be able to mix cyan and magenta and come out with a true blue. Keep reading to find out the results when I put this theory to the test!
Every experiment result is worth knowing, so I feel it’s important to include all of the mixtures. Even the ones that don’t make navy, whether that’s because that particular mix just doesn’t look good or because we end up with a paint mix that goes rogue (I’m lookin’ at you, green + purple = blue and turquoise!).
For this paint color experiment, I wanted to answer the following:
- Will every blue work with every orange to make navy?
- Can you light a super dark blue paint to make it navy?
- Can you darken a light blue paint to create navy blue?
- Is there a navy paint mixture that would make a good sub for Prussian Blue?
I’ll also include any other observations I feel worth mentioning, and, of course, feel free to make a note of any color combos you’d like for your own paint recipe book.
Paint Colors Used
I wanted to make sure that I used the most popular blue paint colors so a wide variety of people who want to know how to make navy blue would have a better chance of using paint they already have instead of having to purchase a bunch of new paint.
Keep in mind that your results may end up differently than mine if you use different paint brands. Use what you have and look at this experiment as general guidance.
The paints I used were the Liquitex Basics line, Arteza Premium, Winsor & Newton, and Steveson and are as follows:
- Ultramarine Blue (Liquitex Basics)
- Phthalo Blue (Liquitex Basics)
- Cerulean Blue (Liquitex Basics)
- Prussian Blue (Liquitex Basics)
- Cobalt Blue (Liquitex Basics)
- Diox Purple (Liquitex Basics)
- Cadmium Red Light (Liquitex Basics)
- Mars Orange (Arteza Premium)
- Orange Yellow (Arteza Premium)
- Ivory Black (Liquitex Basics)
- Iron Oxide (Mars) Black (Stevenson)
- Titanium White (Winsor & Newton Galeria)
- Turquoise (Stevenson)
- Quinacridone Magenta (Liquitex Basics)
NOTE: I didn’t bother using Primary Blue from Liquitex Basics because it is pretty much the same color as Phthalo Blue. You can see for yourself in my article where I show you how to find alternative paint colors.
Learning to make navy blue paint means mixing a lot of colors, and so I tried to keep things as organized as possible (which is more challenging than you might think!)
For the main experiment, the four rows represent different blue paints and the six columns are the additional colors used to try to create navy blue.
Keep an eye on the image’s caption for all the paint recipes!
In addition to the main experiment, I took each blue mixture and added white so that you could see the color really well. Navy blue is very dark and can be hard to see in photos. Mostly it ends up just looking black.
Lightening the resulting colors allows you to see the fine details of each tone. Plus, it gives you even more colors to play with! Believe me, it will become obvious why this was an important side experiment.
Lastly, you’ll get to see a few experiments I did to find a color that closely resembles Prussian Blue, which I also lightened so you could see just how close the subs came to the real thing.
In addition, we’ll take a look at my experiment with making blue from other paint colors. Let’s take a closer look at all of the end results!
The Results Of The Main Experiment
As you can see from the image above, not all blue paint will make navy. It will depend on the undertone (cool vs. warm) and the strength of the pigment used.
That said, there are a lot of colors you can use to make navy blue paint if you don’t have one straight out of the tube.
- Ultramarine Blue is relatively easy to make into a Navy Blue by using Orange Yellow, Mars Orange, Ivory Black, or Mars Black
- Phthalo Blue will give you an intense teal unless mixed with Diox Purple
- Cerulean Blue/Mars Black mixture creates a dusty color that leans toward a grey-green when lightened (you’ll see the results of the lightened colors a little later)
- Cerulean Blue/Mars Black mixed with Orange Yellow paint is a very strong black
- Cobalt Blue mixed with Mars Black makes a nice navy blue
- Diox Purple gives a lot of vibrancy (this would be my first choice if I was trying to make a vibrant navy blue paint)
- Cadmium Red Light brings out a green undertone
- Orange Yellow from Arteza Premium is a SUPER strong pigment, so less is more (we’re talking, add it in a speck at a time so you don’t end up wasting paint)
- Mars Orange works well with Ultramarine to make navy blue paint
- Ivory Black has a more subtle tinting strength than Mars Black, making it less intimidating to work with when mixing colors
- Mars Black helps to deepen Ultramarine Blue and Cobalt Blue to create solid navy blues
Adding White To The New Navy Blue (Or Not) Color Mixes
It can be challenging to see the true color of navy blue when mixing your own hue because it’s so dark.
For you to get a good sense of what the colors really are (leans toward green or purple or doesn’t make blue at all!) I decided to lighten each mixture up.
The bonus is that it gives you an idea of what you can use to add highlights to any navy blue elements in your paintings.
- Ultramarine Blue is by far the easiest color to use to make navy blue paint
- The only color that doesn’t really work is Phthalo Blue because it leans toward green a bit too much
- Diox Purple is a bit vibrant but would be a great color to use if you were painting a blue fabric like silk or velvet
- To cut back on the vibrancy that the Diox Purple creates, I would try adding a smidge of Mars Black or even a tiny bit of orange or yellow
- Phthalo Blue would be one of my last choices to use when making navy blue because it leans toward green a bit too much
- You can make some beautiful turquoises with the color mixes shown
- Mixing with Diox Purple is your best bet to achieve a color close to navy blue but you would probably want to add some Mars Black
- This was an experiment to see if you could darken a lighter blue to make navy blue paint
- Cerulean Blue/Mars Black and Diox Purple make a really great navy blue
- All other colors didn’t work so well
- Cerulean Blue/Mars Black mixed with Orange Yellow makes black (at 15 parts of the blue mixture to 1 part of Orange Yellow, I think it’s safe to say that this combo would take wayyyyy too much work to get it to be anything other than black)
- Cerulean Blue/Mars Black plus Cadmium Red Light makes a lovely forest green
- This is another blue that can easily transform into navy blue
- Cobalt and Cad Red Light make a beautiful teal that lightens into a soft turquoise
- Cobalt and Mars Black make a great navy blue
Finding A Sub For Prussian Blue
If you don’t want to know how to make navy blue paint and would rather find something that you just need to lighten a bit with white, look no further than Prussian Blue.
Prussian Blue is a very rich, velvety deep dark blue, and I would describe it as midnight blue. It’s so close to being black that you have to look closely to see that it’s truly blue.
Okay, but what if you don’t have Prussian Blue but all of these other colors? Is there any way to whip up a batch of Prussian Blue so you don’t have to buy it? Yep!
Although the color mixtures I’ve created aren’t an exact dupe, they’re pretty darn close.
As you can see, the mixture on the far right is the closest dupe, but wait, there’s one more that you can use!
While trying to figure out how to make navy blue paint with no blue color, I stumbled across another paint combination that creates a gorgeous sub for Prussian Blue (see diagonal inset in image above).
Making Blue Paint With No Blue Base Color
Now, I know what you’re thinking; how can you say that you’ve made blue paint without starting with a blue base color? Clearly, there’s Phthalo Blue in that first mixture! And you’re right but….
Technically, Phthalo Blue changes into teal when mixed with Phthalo Green. So now we’ve got teal which is then mixed with magenta and, voila! You’ve got yourself a swoon-worthy dark blue paint that not only makes navy but is a great substitute for Prussian Blue.
Following the theory that cyan and magenta make blue when you’re printing, I decided to make my own turquoise/teal before adding magenta to it to see what would happen.
Cyan is actually a range of colors that includes all blue-greens. That would mean that turquoise, teal, aqua, etc., are all part of the Cyan family. This is the reason that I started by making my own teal first.
Still, if you had a tube of turquoise, that works as well, but you’ll probably have to cool it down a bit.
Remember earlier where I said Diox Purple is great at adding a bit of pep to navy blue? It also works wonderfully in this situation, as you can see from the bottom right paint recipe.
- If you run out of blue paint and need some right away, think of the primary colors used for printing
- To replicate Cyan, it would be better to use a dark teal or to mix up your own by mixing Phthalo Blue and Phthalo Green
- Phthalo Blue, Phthalo Green, and Quinacridone Magenta “from scratch” blue mixture comes very close to creating Prussian Blue
Now that you know how to make navy blue paint, how can you use it in a painting? If you really want to showcase your awesomely amazing custom navy blue paint color, I’ve got a few ideas for you!
- Night sky (with tree silhouettes and lots of stars)
- Northern lights
- Deep ocean
- Shadow color for anything that you’ve painted blue
If you’ve decided to use your new navy blue paint color in an abstract or a paint pour, you may be stumped as to what other colors to use.
In the world of design and fashion, navy is seen as neutral, so just about any color will work. Still, you’ll want to consider the feeling you want your painting to promote. Let’s take a look at energetic paint combos and calming combos.
Energetic Colors to Pair with Navy
When thinking about a color to pair with a navy that will create an impressive impact, you want to stick to colors that are opposite on the color wheel or very vibrant colors, like hot pink, lime green, bright sunny yellow, etc.
- Bright Coral Orange/Pink
- Primary Red
- Lemon Yellow
- Sunny Yellow
- Burnt Orange
- Hot Pink/Fuchsia
- Lime Green
- Vibrant Turquoise
- Crisp White
Calming Paint Colors to Use with Navy
On the flip side, if you want to make sure that your painting gives off soothing vibes, you’ll want to use muted/pastel colors and/or colors close to blue on the color wheel that have the same depth.
- Deep Bordeaux Red
- Blush Pink
- Periwinkle Blue
- Dark Dusty Purple
- Pale Seafoam Green
- Sage Green
- Dove Grey
The Color Hunt website is a great place to see even more navy blue color palette ideas.
If you want to know how to make navy blue paint, you’ve got to be willing to experiment. Luckily, I’ve done that for you, so all you have to do is pick your favorite recipe and get mixing!
As we’ve learned, you can make navy without a base blue color. You just need to mix up a blue first and then continue on with the recipe of your choice.
Plus, you’ve also learned how to make a substitute paint color for Prussian Blue. This will be a recipe you’ll want to copy down in your notebook because I’ve seen it used quite a bit in different YouTube painting tutorials.
Knowing how to mix a custom navy paint color will give your future acrylic painting projects that added level of “from scratch” that is always a welcome addition to any masterpiece.
Share this article with your friends so they can grab their favorite navy blue paint color recipe too!
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