Get to Know your Colors: Purple

Hi friends! We’re nearing the end of this color psychology series, just one more color after this to go!  Today let’s focus on the rich, fantasy-like colour, purple!

The Color Purple

Purple, as you probably already know (but maybe you don’t!) is the result of the mixture of red with blue.  Often considered simultaneous as violet, there is a slight difference between these two colours, as violet appears in our visible light spectrum, while purple does not. Violet is a less intense colour than purple, but it has the highest vibration in the visible spectrum, so it has energy in its own right.

Indigo is another colour associated with purple, but it’s in fact much more blue than it is purple.  Indigo is a combination of a deep blue with violet, and is also in our visible colour spectrum (remember when we learned as kids the colours of the rainbow? And every kid was like, “What the heck is indigo?!”).  So now next time you’re at a party and people argue over the colours of purple, you can set them straight and look really smart! I also just like saying indigo.  It sounds cool.  Indigo.

how to mix purple with acrylic paint

Color Wheel Location

Purple is, you guessed it, located between red and blue on the colour wheel.  It is traditionally in the bottom-left corner, starting cool as it transitions from blue-purples and tuning warm as it becomes purple-reds, before becoming fiery hot as it recedes back to pure red. It is another transitional colour, much like green, and can be read as a cool or a warm colour depending on the amounts of red or blue within it.

Mixing Purple

Purple is probably the hardest colour for newcomers to colour theory to mix. It’s premise is simple: mix red with blue, but it’s never that simple, is it?  Most people get a mud colour on their first try mixing purple, and this is because colour bias has the strongest effect on the colour purple.  Purple turns muddy very easily, in fact, many greys and mud colours have a touch of purple to them if you look hard enough. The trick to mixing a vibrant purple is to mix a very purple-biased red with a very purple-biased blue.  If either of these colours have a bias towards their other secondary colour, your purple will turn out muted (not always a bad thing!) and won’t reach it’s true vibrancy.

Lately I’ve been mixing Quinocridone Red (a bright, pinky-blue, cool red) with Cerulean Blue ( a cyan blue, argumentatively a true primary colour) to make some pretty purples.  You can use Pthalo Blue Red in place of Cerulean to get a richer, deeper purple, or Alizarin Crimson in place of Quinocridone for a much warmer, darker purple. Experiment with the colours you have and find out which combinations give you bright vibrant purples, cool purples, deep, rich, warm purples, or mud.

Of course, you can always just buy purple, which in fact is what a lot of artists do (shhhhh don’t tell anyone). Dioxinene Purple is the most commonly purchased purple paint colour because it simply cannot be mixed by any other paint colours.  It is made in a lab and is truly incredibly vibrant – there is literally no hint of mud or tones or any impurities whatsoever in it.  It is unadulterated, uninhibited, pure vibrant colour.  Now, this intense colour is almost never found in nature, so it’s use as an actual paint colour in most paintings is quite limited (you’ll never use it in a realistic landscape painting for example!) but it’s true use is in colour mixing itself.  It can be mixed into other reds and other blues to create other purples that are  gorgeous rich gem tones.  It can then be toned down by adding some neutral grey to it, or by incorporating a small amount of it’s complimentary colour, yellow (just be careful with this…yellow turns purple to mud in a hurry). An alternate approach is to use the compliment of what you’ve mixed your true purple into. So use a touch of green to tone down a red-purple, and a touch of orange to tone down a blue-purple.

purple color theory
Purple represents tranquility and creativity

The Psychology of Purple

Purple contains the passion and power of red, with the integrity and calmness of blue.  This makes purple a unique, balanced colour that represents both fantasy and staying grounded. Purple represents imaginations and dreaming, while also stabilizing our emotions and giving us a sense of peace.  It lets us enter the creative side of ourselves while still keeping us grounded in reality.

Purple is the union between what we think (blue) and what we feel (red). It’s also associated with royalty, so it gives us a feeling of luxury and wealth. It’s individual, intuitive, and mysterious.  At the same time, however, purple can evoke feelings of grandeur and impracticality.

The key to using purple is to understand the harmonies behind it, and to use it sparingly, especially in it’s vibrant state. A touch of purple here and there can make your paintings and your home feel expensive, and sitting around purple things can spark your creativity, just don’t use too much.  The secret to every colour is balance.

Further Reading

If you’d like to read more, here are some other resources about the colour purple:

How to Mix Purple

How to Mix Common Paint Colors

Color Bias

Radiant Orchid

Thanks so much for stopping by, and till next time, keep creating!

-Ashley <3

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