Colour mixing blue accurately can seem tricky as there are many types of blues to be found. Does the artist purchase lots of blue pigments for the different blues that can be perceived, or can lots of blues be mixed with a few basic pigments? Thankfully, there is a simple solution.
Different Types of Blues
Categories of Blue Pigments
Like any other colour, there is only four ways a blue can go when one looks at the colour wheel, which is violet, green, light or dark. The rest is just down to purity of the blue. When it comes to the aforementioned colour wheel, blue can either be warm or cool. This is known as ‘colour temperature’. This is why many artists have at least 2 blue pigments within their colour selection: a warm blue and a cool blue. The warm blue will have a violet cast. A common choice for this blue is ultramarine. Ultramarine is rather translucent in nature but is an ideal colour inclusion for summer skies, warm lake reflections or blue markings on crockery. Ultramarine is also useful for painting bluish casts found in snow.
Painting Violet Colours
Adding a little permanent rose to ultramarine will further tilt this blue to violet. With a little white, this will result in the ideal colour found near the horizon of clear, sunny skies. This bluish-violet can also be used for certain flowers such as wisteria, pansies or petunias.
Cool Blues in Art
The cool blue will have a greenish cast. A common choice for this is pthalo blue, cerulean, monestrial or manganese. Pthalo blue is an ideal counterpart for mixing cool, wintry skies, denim or irises. Having a greenish cast, these blues are also a good blue counterpart for obtaining crisps greens. The addition of a little viridian will tilt this blue further into green, ideal for bluish foliage or pine trees in mist.
How to Darken Blue
How to Paint Deep Blues
Objects perceived to be blue often possess other colours. Blue fruit such as blueberries and grapes for instance contain a fair amount of violet and earth colours. Earth colours are vital for tempering blues if the object is not shocking blue. Burnt umber is great for tempering pthalo blue if painting someone’s eyes. This earth colour has a cool cast, retaining much of the blue’s quality. Mixing pthalo blue with a little burnt umber makes Prussian blue or indigo unnecessary.
Burnt sienna mixed with ultramarine results in lovely silvery hues that can be found in mist or summer shadows cast over tarmac roads.
Essential Blues for the Artist’s Palette
As can be seen, the artist does not need lots of blue pigments to obtain a multitude of blues. French ultramarine and pthalo blue form the two blue counterpoints: warm and cool. Other blues the artist may find useful are cerulean, cobalt and manganese. Monestrial is a lovely rich, greenish blue but is no longer widely available. Permanent rose and cadmium red will darken blue; burnt umber burnt sienna will temper blue for smoky effects if mixed with white or almost black.
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