French Ultramarine – A Bold Beauty

Angela's Ultramarine

What a dazzling bold blue French Ultramarine is!  Foreign and  Exotic. Tempetuous.   There is nothing cold nor timid about Ultramarine blue.

Angela's Ultramarine
Angela’s Ultramarine
French Ultramarine Pb29 Mixes
French Ultramarine Mix

Bold Blue French Ultramarine  Pb29 Paint

Ultramarine Blue was originally derived from lapis lazuli which was sourced in mountain valleys of Afghanistan.

The Kokcha valley was one of the primary lapis source sites.   The cost, time, effort and hazards involved with procuring this stone and colour made it a luxury of the rich and royal houses of Europe.  This colour has been used for well over 3,500 years.     Synthetic ultramarine has fairly recently been produced in the last 100 years or so making it a colour all can indulge in.

The name  Ultramarine comes from the Latin,  “ultra”  meaning  Beyond  and “mare”  meaning Sea.  Thus, we have a colour from Beyond the Sea… Ultramarine Blue.


French Ultramarine Pb29 (pigment blue 29)  is the finer grade,  upmarket version of ultramarine, giving a slightly more luminescent quality to the paint.

On many occasions I will use normal Ultramarine. It too, is Pb29.  Its just not milled quite as finely, and will generally provide me with quite reasonable results given the price difference.

Ultramarine Mountain landscape
Ultramarine Mountain

Ultramarine blue is most often used for “Cobalt Blue HUE.”  The manufacturers will mix it with white and sometimes phalo blue to create a simile colour of cobalt. But that paint will not, of course,  mix the same type of foliage greens that we get with the genuine cobalt however.

Many times, I like to blend both Ultramarine and Cobalt blue together at a 50-50 ratio estimate.  This gives me quite a strong blue with the granulating properties of Ultramarine, the depth of Ultramarine and with a shimmer of Cobalt in it.   I really like this mix.


Ultramarine watercolour
Ultramarine Watercolour and Collage


Ultramarine Uses

Ultramarine is a Warm blue.  Cobalt, cerulean, phalo, prussian are all Cool blues.  Cool blues make better and easier mixers, especially for foliage greens. Having said that, there’s always exceptions!

I generally do not use it for the sky, as it’s too hot of a colour for the sky!

Unless I’m doing a wet in wet stormy sky using burnt sienna with it to create lovely charcoals, greys, thundery blacks.

Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber are fabulous at ‘neutralising’  the intensity of Ultramarine, when needed.

Ultramarine… of course is perfect for ocean and water highlights, accents!  For vases, flowers, fruit, jacaranda trees, animals, clothing, scarves, hats. As you can see, I can easily get caught up in the magic of Ultramarine.


Seductive Blue

In my early painting days I fell into a whirlwind love affair with French Ultramarine and used it nonstop, everywhere.  There was no ‘judicious’ use whatsoever.  The colour is captivating.

Be careful not to be ensnared, make full use of your other range of blues…. cerulean, prussian, indanthrone, cobalt, cobalt teal blue, indigo.  This will ensure you paintings do not get monotonous and boring – like mine did!


ultramarine landscape mountain, cascade green,
Ultramarine Reflections, with cascade green


5 Colour Recipes for  Ultramarine Blue

Ultramarine + Permanent Alizarin Crimson is the BEST  Purple on the Market!!

Mix Ultramarine with Winsor Lemon for a lovely pale yellow green.    Next,  try raw umber for a superior landscape (meadows/fields)  type of green.

Ultramarine + Burnt Sienna will provide you with Very Easy – greys and blacks. Easy.

Ultramarine + Quinacridone Gold or  Azo Yellow create a sensational granulation green of varying intensity depending on how much blue you’re adding to the mix.


ultramarine blue mixed azo yellow,
Ultramarine Blue and Azo Yellow mixed on the paper

If,  you look at the above colour mix –   one thing I’d really love to share, is that I get the most enjoyment, the most beautifully mixed colours ever,  WHEN I permit  the 2 colours to run together on the paper.

When I do not mix them up myself ahead of time, but just let them melt together naturally, with a lovely flow. Its sensational!


As you can see, there are many ‘recipes’ and many ways to use Ultramarine.  I had fun creating some of these samples to illustrate the just a few of the aspects that this dazzling and bold ultramarine blue has to offer.

ultramarine blue with cascade green, landscape,
cascade green and ultramarine blue trees


ultramarine pb29, landscape with moulding paste
Ultramarine on Molding Paste Board

Are you inspired yet to go get your Ultramarine Blue out?!  Just use your ultramarine paints in whatever medium you have and having a play with mixing the colours, seeing just how boldly beautiful it can be.




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 and,

10 thoughts on “French Ultramarine – A Bold Beauty

  1. Oh deb! My jaw is hanging open at all this beauty! You are so talented and so knowledgeable and so inspirational. Thank you!!! Thank you for sharing tips

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hi Jodi 🙂 geesh, thank you ! you know I’m happy to share the info I have with others – so I’m tickled when its useful!


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