Secondary Makeup Colors

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These are colors produced by mixing two primary colors in equal proportions. 

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In some unique circumstances, it is possible to achieve secondary makeup colors by only mixing primary colors. However, these colors are still better suited for special effects rather than day to day color schemes.

Secondary Colors or Secondary Makeup Colors for Special Effects

Secondary RYB Colors

The RYB primary colors combine subtractively to absorb light. Therefore, combining colors in the RYB color scheme will result in darker secondary colors. (Theoretically, you will eventually achieve black - in this case, all the light is absorbed)

Tertiary makeup colors

Tertiary RYB colors are made by mixing either one primary color with one secondary color, or two secondary colors.

Tertiary RYB Colors

The secondary makeup colors are now starting to evolve into tertiary makeup colors.

The following pictures show the tertiary colors created by mixing 1 primary and one secondary color.

Primary Colors

RYB Primary         +

Secondary Colors

RYB Secondary

Tertiary Colors

=        RYB Tertiary

Tertiary colors have specific names, for both the RGB and RYB models. The RYB names are as follows :

  • Red + Orange = Vermilion or red-orange
  • Orange + Yellow = Amber or yellow-orange
  • Yellow + Green = Chartreuse or yellow-green
  • Green + Blue = Viridian or blue-green
  • Blue + Purple = Violet or blue-purple
  • Purple + Red = Magenta or red-purple

These names apply when making tertiary colors by mixing 1 primary color with 1 secondary color.

The following pictures show the tertiary colors when mixing 2 secondary colors.

Citron Tertiary Color


Russet Tertiary Color


Slate Tertiary Color


  • Green + Orange = Citron
  • Purple + Orange = Russet
  • Purple + Green = Slate

Quaternary and quinary colors

As you may have guessed by now, the quaternary and quinary colors are made by mixing more of the colors. Two quaternaries will make a quinary color and so on.

By this stage, you can clearly see how the system works and by looking at the colors on this screen, you can now start to see how we are slowly making our way to our skin tone.

While the secondary makeup colors are still too far away from our skin tones, the next few pictures will start to evolve into colors that are now similar to our skin tones.

Once achieved, we will then add Shades, Tints or Tones which will vary the depth of the color to finally get our match.

Quaternary colors

Buff Quaternary Color


Plum Quaternary Color


Sage Quaternary Color


  • Citron + Russet = Buff
  • Russet + Slate = Plum
  • Slate + Citron = Sage

Quinary colors

Blue Grey Quinary Color

Blue Grey

Grey Brown Quinary Color

Grey Brown

Khaki Quinary Color


  • Plum + Sage = Blue Grey
  • Buff + Plum = Grey Brown
  • Sage + Buff = Khaki

Complementary colors

Brown and grey colors can be made by mixing complementary colors. Complementary colors are pairs of colors that when mixed in proper proportions, will produce neutral colors of either grey, white or black.

Traditional RYB complimentary pairs are :

  • purple and green
  • orange and blue
  • yellow and violet

To highlight the differences between additive and subtractive color schemes, this quick example gives a good description.

Mixing a little ultramarine with orange will produce a dark variation of black in a subtractive environment.

But when the same colors are mixed and used in a additive environment, they produce white.

Fine tuning your colors and more links related to this topic

Click to read Primary RYB Makeup Colors that also explains Shades, Tints and Tones.

Click to read Makeup Colors that also explains the differences between the 3 color schemes - RYB, RGB and CMY-K

Starting from the back ... quinary, quaternary, tertiary, secondary, primary

Here we put all the pictures into one box that is now easy to visualise.

Quinary Khaki
Quarternary Sage
Tertiary Slate
Tertiary Colors
Quinary Grey Brown
Quarternary Plum
Tertiary Russet
Secondary Colors
Quinary Blue Grey
Quarternary Buff
Tertiary Citron
Primary Colors

We love working with colors but we can pull our hair out if we move too quickly. Remember to keep very accurate notes. One gram can change a color and if you do not make a note, it is very unlikely that you will find it again.

Experiment, keep notes and have fun.

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