Sweet, the lovely enchantment of paintings in blue! Crystal clear and calming. Refreshing. Mysterious. Deep. Let’s dive into the mysteries of blue paints: Ultramarine, cerulean, cobalt teal blue, indanthrone, prussian, cobalt, phalo and manganese.
Unravelling the Mystery of Blue Paints
The beginner needs to dive headlong into the refreshing diversity and beauty of blue paints!
The new beginner painter does not have enough blue paints.
What! not enough blues? Don’t I need to buy greens, purples, browns, greys, blacks? I hear these voices ask. No, not in my head… real voices. From students. (Just so you are crystal clear on that one!)
But isn’t it easier to just buy the tube of green and use it? Easy yes, wise… debatable. How so? Range, diversity, naturalness, smooth fluid transitions, and warmth/coolness temperature control. “Control” of depth and perspective is increased at least 75% by mixing your own greens, browns, greys, purples.
Which Blue Paints and Why
Cobalt blue pb28
Cobalt pb28 is my staple blue that is first on my list to get. Especially for beginners watercolour painting. It mixes beautifully with just about everything I throw at it, creating a lovely range of foliage greens, browns, greys, mauves. Cobalt pb28 is a clean, Transparent blue paint colour that is great for glazes. This artist quality blue paint is the perfect blue for a sunny blue sky day. Used for foliage, ocean, sky, hills, trees, still life, just about everything.. Brilliant!
You don’t want to be fooled into buying a cobalt blue hue… it will be made from phalo or ultramarine blue with white.
Ultramarine blue pb29
Ultramarine pb29 is a stunning warm blue that is a Granulating pigment, creating beautiful textural effects on the surface of the paper naturally. Sensational for mountains, hills, foliage and shrubbery. I love to add it into my ocean scenes, as it gives a nice touch of warmth to the waters. I usually prefer the French Ultramarine, its a bit finer and warmer, but its also more expensive. So, I have both.
Easy RECIPE for Grey: Ultramarine blue + Burnt Sienna = grey (at a ratio of est. 50-50)
Stunningly Vibrant Purple: Ultramarine + “Permanent” Alizarin Crimson = vivid purple
Phalo blue pb15
Phalo blue pb15 can be quite tricky to use, as it is very ‘nuclear’! Its power, is amazing. Just one little drop can spoil a whole painting, so test it rigorously. It is a Stainer, there will be no textural effects, it dries smooth, flat. Great to glaze with.
Mixes well with others. Very lovely when diluted liberally with white, into soft creamy pale tints of ethereal blues. It will create a strong green turquoise when mixed with phalo green. Then, if you add white to this, it will soften off into an exquisite frosted aqua. Phalo blue when handled with care can be a most useful blue; and very handy for ocean, water, foliage.
Prussian blue pb27
Prussian blue pb27 is a very easy blue paint to use, it mixes great with most colours and is a perfect accessory to the landscape artist. It is a Stainer, it won’t lift off 100% its quite powerful very deep and dark; plus, will creep and spread in delightful ways that all Staining pigments will do.
Prussian is fabulous for foliage greenery. Mixed with winsor lemon creates nice spring yellow greens; mixed with burnt umber – a darker cooler forest pine green. Sometimes I will add a slash of it into my ocean waters, to provide a hint of deep dark greeny blue to draw the eye.
Cobalt Teal blue pg50
Cobalt Teal blue pg50 This blue/green even though it is an Opaque, and not a good mixer, remains one of my favourite colours. I love this colour! Ideal for water, perfect to cool down areas in a painting, or to act as little accents here and there.
Cerulean blue pb35
Cerulean blue pb35 is my runner up replacement for Manganese blue. Cerulean is both an Opaque and a Granulator, however it does mix considerably better than most other Opaques.
Cerulean is lovely for winter skies, providing a nice cool touch to the horizon. It creates delicate foliage greens, gorgeous rock pools, rivers, lakes. Beautifully cool and refreshing. The textural effects it gives makes it a great choice for soil, foreground, bark.
Cobalt Violet OR … Rose madder genuine + cerulean = Delicate pale lavender
Indanthrone blue pb60
Indanthrone blue pb60 WOW, what a blue! I wouldn’t be without it. There is a brand variance in colour intensity, thus, I prefer the beautifully fully saturated richness of the Daniel Smith Indanthrone blue. This gorgeous blue is a near black at full intensity with a peek of violet red undertone for warmth.
When I want an inky black-blue, THIS is the blue I reach for. Its perfect. A Stainer, it mixes well with others and makes great glazes. Night skies, deep ocean currents, eggplants, delphiniums… and so on.
Manganese blue pb33
Manganese blue pb33 has been discontinued some time ago due to its toxicity. I understand the health issues involved made it no longer viable for the manufacturers and the public. But, this blue was divine in its versatility and softness and mood. I still look for it at garage sales and once in a blue moon, score an old Winsor and Newton Manganese Blue.
This blue was delicate. Perfect for flowers, leaves, foliage, rockery, portraits, pets, skies, mountains, hills. It could create a mood and ambience all on its own. If you are an old time painter, and actually have a tube or 2, lucky you! Just be aware to use with caution. Wash your hands etc. Gloves would be a good idea and no drinking/eating while painting.
I’ve been careful to include not just the name of the blue paint, but its PB number i.e. its Pigment Blue # That way, when you see it on the tube of paint before you buy, you know it is the right colour that will mix and behave the right way! Those manufacturers can name their paints whatever they like. But, once they put the pb# on then we can tell if it really is the colour they have ‘named’ it. This Pigment # is the identifier I’ve used now for some years, in order to stop buying cheap ‘hues’ and to stop duplicating my colours. It works.
A Blue Paints Chart with Cobalt, Ultramarine, Cerulean, Indanthrone, Prussian blues