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How to Mix Watercolors – Purple

posted by Misfit November 9, 2016

“I’m not sure quite why, but mixing colors has always come quite naturally to me.  I guess in some strange way I was blessed with an eye for color.   That is – except for the color purple.    Purple early on became my arch nemesis – it seemed that no matter how hard I tried I could never come up with the perfect purple color mixture that I imagined in my head. 

Question: I mean why was this particular color so hard to achieve?  I’d been taught is a young child red + blue mixed together made purple.   

Um, obviously the person who had invented that combo had never mixed paint with me.   After many failed attempts – I finally resorted to using purple paint directly from the tube.   Now, while there is nothing wrong with doing this – it really limited my purple palettes. 

So I started is wonder – why was it that my blue and red paint combos would turn into muddy purples or even deep tone grays?

purple-tube-paints

COLOR WHEEL THEORY 

Well the answer actually begins with a short overview of the color wheel.  we all know there are warmer and color colors on the color wheel, right?  Warmer colors referring to yellows, oranges, and reds.   Meanwhile, cooler colors refer to blues, greens, and purples.  Another tip you may or may not know is that when you mix a warmer color with a cooler color – they may produce a muddy color – such as mixing a Red with a Green, or a Purple with a Yellow. 

So, now you may be wondering – What does this have to do with mixing Purple?   Well, the reason is because each individual color on your color wheel has a warm tone and a cool tone.  A good example of this is Red. 

Warmer reds would appear more orange in tone – yet cooler red would appear more purple rose pink.  Now, here’s where everything will start to make sense – if I mix a warm red tone – such as cadmium red with a cooler blue such as cobalt blue – the two will produce that strange muddy gray.  This is because you are mixing a warm and cool color together. 

color-wheel-theory

SOLUTION

Okay, so now you probably had an Eureka moment – but how do we actually apply what we have just learned?  For me I actually love to use those muddy purple gray colors for shadows.  They appear so realistic and give a hint of color without being a dull boring black or gray.  My favorite color combos.   My favorite color combos for these type of colors are warm (Ketchup) Red colors mixed with a cool deep blue color hue. 

Gray Hue Purples:

  • Cadmium Red + Cobalt Blue
  • Scarlet Lake + Payne’s Gray 

For any other Purple Colors I like to stay in the Cooler Red/Purple Tones.  If you want a Warmer tone of purple make sure to add more pink paint to your mixture.  If you desire more of a cool purple hue add more blue. 

Warm Purple Hue Mixtures:

  • More Alizarin Crimson + Cobalt Blue
  • More Permane nt Carmine + Antwerp Blue
  • More Rose Madder + Cobalt Blue

  Cooler Purple Hue Mixtures:

  • More Cobalt Blue + Rose Madder
  • More Antwerp Blue + Permanent Carmine
  • More Cobalt Blue + Alizarin Crimson

purple-mixtures

And finally, if you prefer a bright vibrant purple I recommend mixing Mauve with Cobalt Turquoise.  Yep you heard me right you are mixing a green with a deep pink. 

That is something they didn’t teach you in elementary school – mixing a green color and pink color together will give you a bright royal purple.   The reason this works is because turquoise is still considered a blue tone (just a warmer tone of blue on our color wheel).  By mixing it with mauve (which has a warmer tone of pink) you will get this bright vibrant royal  purple. 

Below I’ve included an example of an illustration I painted only using purples and gold ink 🙂

purple-watercolor-bear

And that’s how I solved my purple problem. 

Carrie Luc - Watercolor Misfit

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5 Comments

Margi November 10, 2016 at 7:19 am

Hi Carrie

Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge on watercolor. Really appreciated. As a beginner painter (from years ago) you have given me inspiration to try watercolors and also paint again.

Take care
Margi
Australia

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Lorraine December 12, 2016 at 6:39 am

You inspire me. With your drawings to the color choices you use. It’s fresh, it’s modern, it’s just fun. Thank you

Reply
Misfit December 12, 2016 at 11:43 pm

Thank you so much! Been working on my style for a while and finally think I’ve nailed it! 😀 Glad you like it too!

Reply
Karen Coyle October 5, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Hi Carrie
As a new artist you have explained so nicely, the techniques of watercolor. It has made it fun for me to learn n enjoy painting. Love your fun,fresh style. Thank you

Reply
Misfit October 9, 2017 at 8:15 pm

Thanks Karen:)

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