5 Tips for Mixing Watercolour Browns

Burnt Sienna PBr7, monochrome watercolor landscape mountains, trees, debiriley.com

Browns and greens are watercolour beginners two main challenges. But with these 5 tips you can master mixing browns!

Browns watercolour debiriley.com
Browns monochrome watercolour debiriley.com


5  Problem solving tips for browns that have somehow gone awry:


1. If  Brown has gone too muddy, dense and thick,  wipe  half the mix away then add water to it and test on your Test Strip for Transparency. If its still too opaque, add a dash more water and retest.

2. If Brown is too yellow,  add a dash of red/purple to create a richer Mahogany brown

3. If Brown is too blue,  add more orange-red to warm it up to a lovely caramel or honey

4. If Brown is too pale,  add more paint to thicken it up, make it darker. Just a little at a time. And test on the Test Strip with each small increment

5. If Brown is too green,  add the opposite of green…Red.   The Red can quickly overpower, so be judicious with it.


It is easy enough to make your own brown with:

cobalt pb28 and winsor lemon py175 and  permanent rose.  Mix the yellow and red  to create Warm orange red –  then just add a bit of  blue until it goes brown.


Sometimes,  I want a Staining Brown, or a Granulating Brown, or even an Opaque. That’s when I’ll head to my Brown cabinet and do a little searching to see what might pique my interest.


Some of my personal favourite browns are Genuine Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber  (they need to be PBr7)  some manufacturers are now using synthetic substitutes which do not have the same clarity and luminosity.

Permanent Brown (Daniel Smith) is a vivid red mahogany that is very rich and clean, mixes well with others.  Staining.

A “Good Quality”  Light Red (I like Holbein)  is a sensational red brown and this one will mix well to create stunning blends. Opaque.

Lunar Earth is a auburn brown red that mixes extremely well with others. And is an fantastic, creative, textural pigment. Granulates.   Daniel Smith brand.

VanDyke Brown  (Holbein)  is deep, dark, cool and granulates.  Great in mixes, alone. And,  used dripped from the tip of a skewer onto a damp surface to create dark branches, trunks. Granulates.

indigo and quinacridone sienna watercolours debiriley.com
Brown mix Indigo and quinacridone sienna watercolours debiriley.com

Quinacridone Sienna is a fiery orange brown, a Staining paint, that remains a top favorite.  From plain old brown – to Knockout! This paint can turn anyone into a huge fan of brown!


It pairs with winsor lemon, indigo, lunar black, phalo blue, ultramarine blue, sepia and so on!  It makes a huge range of great browns.


With the 5 tips on ways to mix browns and ideas on how to choose browns, you can paint your landscape paintings with more confidence.


Published by debiriley

The act of creation, in any media is a fascinating and magical process. I simply love to create. Expressing in color, line, tone, texture - as if, they were words upon a page. Creating a uniquely me, interpretation. Enjoy More of my "one-of-a-kind" expressive art at society6.com/debiriley and, redbubble.com/people/debijriley/shop

3 thoughts on “5 Tips for Mixing Watercolour Browns

  1. This is so helpful!! I look forward to putting these teachings into practice! Thank you!!


    1. Thats Great!! Thank you very much for your feedback. I like to know what is helping. I realise good images get a good response, but I really want to share Practical, inspiring and useful beginner tips as well 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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