Purple Isn’t Made of Red and Blue!
We’ve been told since we were children that red and blue make purple, that yellow and blue make green, and that red and yellow make orange. How many times, though, have you mixed a red with a blue and the result is either not purple or a yucky purple? You figured out that red and blue don’t mix to make purple.
I’ve heard painters comment about the difficulties of blending a smooth, clean, and vivid purple during my years of teaching colour. They then go out and buy rainbow paint tubes, but they are still unsatisfied. It’s aggravating.
I overcome this anger many years ago when I heard about the colour bias that virtually every primary tube of paint contains. As a creative who enjoys the colour purple, I overcame this frustration many years ago when I learned about the colour bias that nearly every primary tube of paint holds. To put it another way, I taught myself to notice the extra colour or “colour bias” that primary paint tubes provide.
Purple is created by combining red and blue. The trick is to use a tube of red and a tube of blue that will produce the purple colour you like in your art.
Permanent rose, magenta, thalo red, cadmium red, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson shade, quinacridone magenta, naphthol red colour, pyrrole crimson, scarlet, pyrrole, red, vermillion, and others are examples of red tubes. (This isn’t a whole list.)
Phthalo blue (red and green shades), cerulean blue, cobalt blue, Prussian blue, ultramarine blue, permanent blue, Antwerp blue, turquoise, manganese, and other blue tubes are common. (This isn’t a whole list.)
Whatever medium you’re working in, that’s a lot of red and blue tubes… And the colour companies want to make them for us!
Red and blue tubes can have different names in acrylics, watercolours, and oils. In each medium, though, the range of reds and blues is enormous.
None of the above reds and blues makes a beautiful purple? Trying to make a decision can be difficult. (Each colour swatch in the above map is made up of many separate tubes of paint from various brands.)
Why Don’t Red and Blue Mix to Make Purple?
What is the reason for this?
Since artists try to use yellow-tinted red and blue tubing!
We realise that yellow is purple’s counterpart, and that when the two are combined, they de-saturate each other. To put it another way, whether you blend a little yellow with purple, the result is bland or lacks saturation. The colour map below depicts the results of blending different yellows and purples. If you can see, the mixture produces a brown or gray/black colour.
Another aspect that makes purple mixing impossible is that many painters use a normal or traditional palette of colours that excludes purple. Cadmium red, alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow medium (or new gamboge or Indian yellow), hansa yellow light (or cadmium pale or lemon yellow), ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, and curelean blue are all used in many colour palettes. After that, they incorporate optional earth colours, white (acrylics and oil painters), and black (or neutral tint) to round out the paint palette.
For a colour palette like the one above, red and blue don’t render purple. To make a pure purple, you’ll need a tube of red with a clear blue colour preference and no yellow. The cadmium reds, for example, have a yellow colour preference. As a result, no matter whatever blue you use, they will never mix a light purple. I’ve combined cadmium red and ultramarine blue in this painting. As a consequence, you’ll get a purple-black or grey colour.
A common colour, alizarin crimson, has a blue colour bias but is a dull or de-saturated red. Alizarin crimson can be used to make a purple-tinged mixture, but it can never be a pure, light purple.
The colour combination and swatch below demonstrate that alizarin and ultramarine do not produce a vivid purple. A little white was applied to the bottom of the swatch to show that it does produce a grey-purple.
How do you feel about this shade of purple?
It’s slightly grey, but it has a purple tint to it. A small amount of white has been applied to the bottom of the swatch. I recommend that you make a map using your reds and blues.
Let us know which red and blue combinations you’ve tried and which ones you like. Take pleasure in the act of exploration!
Since rare blue pigments are valuable, only a few were mixed to produce violets. As a result, painters of the past avoided using permanent violet shades. Those made of organic dyes have totally vanished.
Violet and purple are never purchased by certain painters. Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue are used in the blend. Although the purple created with Alizarin Crimson is a nice hue, it is not lightfast; in 100 years, the mixture will be blue instead of purple. For Ultramarine Blue blending, Gamblin’s Alizarin Permanent is a good option. Create violets with lightfast and clear Quinacridone Red or Magenta to get a permanent purple with a much higher chroma.
Gamblin violets are all single-pigment shades with their own distinct characteristics. Use them to create vibrant purples or to catch the subtle violets found in nature.
Ultramarine Purple is a violet colour with a rich reddish hue. Produces soft grey violets.
- Excellent quality oil paints, available in 75 colours
- Made with slow-drying and non-yellowing Walnut Oil – used extensively by the artists of the European Renaissance
- Free flowing, remains wet for longer than most artist oils
- Can be mixed with any other oil paints and mediums
- Solvent free
This pigment dries quickly and is translucent. Burnt Sienna is an essential colour in oil painting and should be on your palette. It’s made by heating Raw Sienna, as previously said.
It has a red-brown hue, more like a brick red, that looks particularly nice when used in glazing techniques. These glazes produce thin, translucent layers that are pleasing to the eye. However, you should stop painting in dense layers because this can cause the painting to get sloppy. Thick layers, when painted opaquely, may make the painting dull and unevenly matted.
If you mix Burnt Sienna with Ultramarine Blue, you’ll get a great black paint that’s a good substitute for store-bought blacks. These blends are vibrant and have a good sound. Burnt Sienna has a lot of tint strength. I place such a high emphasis on its brilliant colour and features that it is without a doubt my favourite paint. This colour aids in the creation of clear warm shades in the flash and portraits… and I use it liberally on paintings.