How to Mix Purple

Hi friends!  I hope you had an awesome week…I’ve enjoyed the nice warm weather we’ve been FINALLY having here in Ontario over the past couple days.  My week has been pretty crazy with my work schedule and trying to make progress with my website and shop, but it’s all good, and I’m really excited about the things I’ll be adding to the store really soon!

But enough about my blabbing…let’s get down to business!  You’re here ( I hope!) to learn more about colour mixing! Hooray!  I really hope you’ve enjoyed my YouTube videos on Colour theory, and even though those are finished for now, I’m still going to continue a bit more with blog posts…because we’ve still got more colours to learn how to mix!!  Starting with today’s colour…Purple!

Now I hope you’ve read my post here on mixing common paint colours…and in that post I told you that Dioxazine Purple was impossible to mix with our colours, and that it had to be purchased in a tube because it was too crisp and clear to be mixed manually…but that doesn’t mean that we can’t mix some awesome purples on our own!  Let’s get into it!

A Vibrant Purple

Beautiful purples right next to complimentary yellow
Beautiful purples right next to complimentary yellow

The first thing we thing of when trying to mix purple is how to achieve that vibrant purple.  The one that makes you stare and appreciate the beauty of the colour.  A good way to mix this vibrant purple is to use Ultramarine Blue and Quinocridone Red.  They’re both quite transparent, so the resulting purple is a transparent, luminous purple.  By altering the ratio of Ultramine to Quin Red, you can control how blue-ish or red-ish the purple looks.  Adding a touch of Titanium White to this turns the purple a bit brighter and opaque, but the depth of the colour is lost to the chalkiness of the white.

Mixing a Darker Purple

Keeping with Ultramarine Blue, mixing it with Alizarin Crimson will give you a much darker purple than Quin Red.  The purple will still be vibrant, as Alizarin has a cool undertone just like Quin Red, but it is much darker.  The purple you get from Alizarin is almost black-looking, yet it remains transparent.  It`s great for making cool shadowed ares, and for darkening off a purple that`s too vibrant without dulling down it`s colour.

Another option would be replacing Ultramarine Blue with Payne`s Grey in either the mix with Quin Red or Alizarin (or consequently adding a touch of black to your mixes if you don`t have Payne`s Grey…just don`t add too much!).  Payne`s Grey has a blue-purple tone to it, and looks great when mixed with a cool red.

You could also take the Payne`s Grey as-is, and use it in a glaze over top of a mixed purple or Dioxazine Purple out of the tube if it`s too bright and you want to darken it without losing the vivid colour or the transparency of what you already have on canvas.  This looks amazing in sunset paintings when you want to transition to the darker areas of the sky, or even darkening the purple in a night sky without losing that luminous feeling.

Muted Purple

A beginner`s experience with mixing purple always labels the `muddy purples` as the enemy, mainly because mixing clean colours can be difficult and frustrating when you`re new to colour theory.  But muted purples have their place: they can make shadows underneath fruit look cool and give them contrast again the warm tones of a tabletop in a still life painting.  They can also add a mysterious mood to any landscape painting, and are great for the shadows of rocks.

A nice muted purple can be made by mixing Alizarin Crimson (or Quin Red for a brighter effect) with something like Pthalo Blue(Green Shade).  The Pthalo Blue is cool-toned, and leans towards making greens and vivid turquoise colours, so when it`s paired with a cool red, it makes a slightly muted purple, as the Blue is bringing it`s yellow undertones to the mix and is toning down the purple that is forming.  This saves you a step with your vivid purples – the complimentary colour is already in there working for you!

Above all else…the key to mixing the purples you want is practicing with the colours you have and learning how they interact with each other.  I hope this little article gives you some ideas of how to go about mixing purples, and if you have your own recipe for purple, I`d love to hear about it!

Until next time, have fun and never stop creating!


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