Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Watercolour Comparisons 1 Ultramarine Blue PB29.

Ultramarine Blue

In the large Moleskine watercolour sketchbook I did a comparison of every Daniel Smith watercolour, with pigment notes, reviews from other sources, mixing charts, colour wheels and so on. I also added comparisons with other brands of the same colour or the same pigment.

Here's my page on Ultramarine blue - my favourite blue. There is more information on my website here. You can also see a huge range of different blues painted out here.

Watercolour Notebook page on Ultramarine Blue showing Daniel Smith, M. Graham, Old Holland, Da Vinci and Schmincke finest.
Ultramarine Blue is my fist choice for a blue in any medium. It is a warm blue, i.e. it has a purple bias rather than a green bias, so will mix to make lovely purples. It will also make great greens, though not as bright as a cool blue would produce. It works as a single blue in a limited palette as it can be cooled with a touch of a cool yellow or phthalo green to create a cool blue.

In watercolour it will generally granulate which can be disconcerting to the beginner. The least granulating version I tested was Schmincke Ultramarine Finest. Here are my test samples, painted first as a graduated wash to see how the colour behaves in water and then as a 'juicy' wash.
French Ultramarine W&N, Ultramarine Da Vinci, Ultramarine M.Graham, Ultramarine Blue Deep Old Holland, Ultramarine Finest Schmincke, Ultramarine Daniel Smith, Permanent Blue Daler Rowney, French Ultramarine Daniel Smith.



Update 2015 - since writing this post I have updated my website with hundreds of watercolour swatches but I'll also include them here. My colour reproduction is not even close to perfect and these samples have been scanned at different times and with different scanners, but you can see that there is some range of hue within the PB29 pigment. Some brands have a 'light' and 'deep', some a Red Shade and a Green Shade, some a regular and a French version. The subtle differences in hue will have an effect in the sorts of greys and greens the colour mixes. In some brands there may be enough difference to want both versions but I have used D.S. Ultramarine rather than D.S. French Ultramarine and don't see any point in having both in this brand.

PB29 is such a reliable pigment that you really can't go wrong with it whatever brand you use. For me, working with watercolour that I squeeze out of a tube into a palette and allow to dry, the best options are Da Vinci and Daniel Smith as they both dry solid but rewet readily, they also mix the exact shade of grey I love with Burnt Sienna. I also have the Schmincke version in case I want a less granulating colour for sky effects.







Ultramarine mixes with a cool red to produce purples. Try it with Quinacridone Rose, Quinacridone Violet or Quinacridone Magenta for the most gorgeous bright purples.
Quinacridone Rose mixed with Ultramarine Blue and other bright purple mixes.

Ultramarine mixed with Quinacridone Violet and other purples.
 With a warm red it produces reduced or dull purples and even Indigo, brick red and Indian red hues.
Cadmium Red mixed with Ultramarine Blue and other neutralised purple mixes.


Mixed with a warm yellow it produces a range of useful olive or neutralised greens.
Ultramarine with warm yellows - Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Deep Gold and Cadmium Yellow Deep

Mixed with an orange or burnt orange or neutralised orange such as Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine creates a huge range of browns and greys. I love this combination!
Burnt Sienna mixed with Ultramarine Blue as well as Phthalo Blue and Cerulean
Ultramarine mixed with Quinacridone Sienna, Quinacridone Deep Gold, Quinacridone Gold and Burnt Umber.


It is also great mixed with Umbers and earth pigments.
Ultramarine mixed with Burnt Umber, Raw Umber and Indian Red


...So a really fabulous blue in your palette.

Coming up - mid yellows.

For more colour charts with Ultramarine and many other colours, see my website here.

Watercolour Comparisons 1 - Ultramarine Blue here
Watercolour Comparisons 2 - mid yellows here
Watercolour Comparisons 3 - Primary Red here
Watercolour Comparisons 4 - Burnt Sienna here
Watercolour Comparisons 5 - Greens (Single Pigment, convenience mixes and special effect) here
Watercolour Comparisons 6 - Reds (Cool, mid and warm) here
Watercolour Comparisons 7 - Yellows (cool mid and warm) here
Watercolour Comparisons 8 - Blues here