Mixing Clean Violet in Paint

The color violet is can only be mixed by the pairing of two pure primary colors magenta and cyan – otherwise known as primary red and blue. But some red and blues will result in a dirty grey color, not ideal for clematis, summer skies or sun-dappled snow. What are the best pigments an artist can use for violet, purple and maroon color mixes?

The Best Blue and Red for Purple

Objects of Varying Purple

Many objects possess different purples. Tags for this color are: maroon, mauve, magenta, indigo, lilac, plum, wine, violet, lavender, purple lake or quinacridone. When it comes to painting purple objects, it is important firstly to judge how red or blue the violet is; then its tone and lastly its purity.

Guide to Purple in Art

Before exploring the best color mixes for violet, it must be stated that red is not a primary color and neither is any blue, but colors that resemble the primary colors of printing ink, which are magenta and cyan. These two pigments closely resemble permanent rose and pthalo blue in acrylics and oil paints, and therefore can be used as ‘primary red’ and ‘primary blue.’ These two colors form essential ingredients if the artist is to mix clean purples on the palette. How to Mix Clean Purples

Purple (or violet) is situated between blue and red on the color wheel. For this reason, violet can go either way when it comes to its bias, and that is violet-red or violet-blue. Mix primary red and blue (magenta and cyan) in equal measure and violet will have little bias either way. Violet can also be either pale or dark, or exhibit varying degrees of purity from bright purple to somber purple. The inclusion of essential art pigments for color mixing will enable the artist to mix any purple required.

The Best Blue for Purple Mixes

If a clean, bright violet is the aim, blues and reds that are biased towards each other are best. Ultramarine is a violet-blue. Permanent rose is also the perfect partner for mixing clean purples. Many other blue and red art pigments are biased towards one another and therefore would produce clean purple mixes. In terms of the blue counterpart, the following would be suitable: pthalo blue, Indianthrene blue, cobalt and Winsor blue (red shade).

The Best Red for Purple Mixes

As can be seen, a lot of oil or acrylic pigments are not needed to mix a multitude of purple and violets. I use pthalo blue, permanent rose, ultramarine and white for my basic violets, but other pigments can be explored. Purple can be darkened or tempered by the addition of a yellow pigment or a pigment that contains yellow.

Producing Clean Purple in Art

If aspiring for a clean, sharp purple, few other colors are required but the primary red and blue with varying amounts of white. Lilac can be produced by a little pthalo blue and permanent rose with white; lavender with a little more blue to the color mixture; purple reflections in a lake with a little ultramarine and permanent rose.

How to Mix Subtle Purple Hues

Red wine or grapes are often red in bias, but also exhibit earth colors. Simply mixing red and blue will not result in convincing color of wine as the resultant purple will appear too harsh. Cadmium red (which is slightly bias towards yellow) will temper the sharpness of purple and add warmth to the color. Adding a little burnt sienna to the purple color will also temper the sharpness of the violet. Darkening purple can be achieved by introducing a little earth color or a yellow color. Dark shadow beneath trees can be achieve with ultramarine (a violet blue) darkened with a little burnt sienna (a yellowish earth color).

Painting Misty Purple

Mauve mists as can be seen on distant mountains can be achieved by adding a little viridian to the purple mixture, not forgetting white regarding its tone. A more murky purple mist can be suggested by adding a little burnt umber to the purple mixture, adding more white with distance.

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As for the red counterpart, the following oil pigments would produce clean purple mixes: permanent rose, carmine red, rose madder and quinacridone. Of course, the artist may bolster the purple color by the addition of a violet pigment, which might be ultramarine-violet, permanent mauve, cobalt violet or Winsor violet (dioxazine). However, these purple colors can easily be reproduced by mixing the true primary red and blue in varying degrees. For this reason, I include only the following pigments for all my purple mixes: ultramarine, pthalo blue and permanent rose.