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Pastel colors

Updated February 21, 2017

The colour wheel is made up of 12 main colours: three primary colours (red, yellow and blue), three secondary colours (orange, green and purple), and six tertiary colours (red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green, green-yellow and yellow-orange). Pastel colours refer to the softened, lightened hue of these colours, specifically the primary and secondary colours.

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Although, when you think of pastel colours, red may not be the first colour that comes to mind, pink probably does. Pink, which is made of red colour mixed with white, is a very common pastel colour. This light hue of pastel pink is typically called tea rose, cherry blossom pink or Nadeshiko pink. To make pastel pink in paint, start with white paint, mixing in tiny drops of red until a faint pink hue is made.


Orange can also be made into a soft pastel colour using white or pink hues. A simple pastel orange is often referred to as apricot, atomic tangerine or sherbet orange. In paint, these pastel oranges are often created with a white paint base, mixing just the right amount of orange to obtain these soft hues. But you can also make pastel orange with a pink paint base. Adding in small amounts of orange will render the shades bittersweet, coral or tea rose (orange).


Different shades of yellow range from a soft yellow-beige to a florescent yellow-green that is almost difficult to look at. But there are also some very attractive and faint pastel yellow hues. Because primary colour yellow is very bright, you will only need a very tiny drop of yellow to mix with your white paint base to make any pastel shade. Different shades of pastel yellow are cream, flavescent, light butter, icterine, popcorn and lemon chiffon.


A number of "true" or deep-green shades exist like Michigan State University, hunter and Army greens. But there are only a couple of light pastel greens. Although you can make a faint pastel green -- like celadon or honeydew -- using white paint base mixed with a small amount of green paint, common pastel greens are typically mixed with yellows or blues as well. Mix a small amount of green to the white paint base, and add a tiny drop of either light yellow or light blue to create the pastel shades of moss, tea green, Paris green or mint cream.


The primary colour blue can be found or made into many different shades. Some of the favourite colours of blue are pastel shades like sky blue, powder blue, light blue, Alice blue, baby blue and Tar Heel (or University of North Carolina) blue. These light pastel hues can be made easily with a white paint base. Add just a tiny amount of blue to the white to render Alice blue. Continue to mix in small amounts of blue to create different shades of pastel blue.


Purple ranges in shades between the colours red and blue. Purple can be more of a reddish-pink shade like red-violet, mulberry or wine; or purple can be more blue like royal purple or Han purple. Therefore, mixing purple with white, red or blue, you'll get different pastel results. Always starting with a white paint bast, if you add a tiny amount of purple to the paint, you'll render light violet or medium purple. Add a very tiny amount of red to the mixture to get light orchid. If you add just tiny amount of blue to the white and purple mixture, you'll get the soft pastel shade of heliotrope.

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About the Author

Andrea Griffith has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published by the "Western Herald," Detroit WDIV, USAToday and other print, broadcast and online publications. Although she writes about a wide range of topics, her areas of expertise include fashion, beauty, technology and education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and English from Western Michigan University.

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