Tuesday 25 June 2013

Watercolour Comparisons 3 - primary red

Primary Red (and excellent Cool Red option)

I use four reds in my regular palette - a warm, a cool, an earth and a crimson for convenience. You can see all these colours and many other reds in my website here.

In a limited palette what you need is a red that will make oranges mixed with yellow AND purples mixed with blue. It's rather hard to find but the best options I have come across are either Quinacridone Rose (PV19, also called Permanent Rose and available in most brands), Quinacridone Red (also made with PV19), Quinacridone Magenta (PR122 available in a range of brands) or some of the crimsons, though they tend to make slightly more neutralised purples and oranges than the quinacridones. 

I'm going to focus on the Quinacridones first. To be really useful, you want to be able to wash the colour out to a pink, and both PV19 and PR122 will do that. Both will mix to make stunning purples, and both will mix to make lovely oranges and reds and even crimsons. So if you are looking for a primary triad, either Quin rose or Quin magenta will work fine along with the previously posted ultramarine and mid yellow. They will both also act as a cool red in an expanded palette, so a great starting colour if you are building up a palette of Artist grade colours.
One of my quinacridones pages - Rose, Pink and Magenta in a range of brands, painted in a Moleskine Watercolour book.
Rose Colours painted in a Stillman & Birn Beta book.
I tested a number of brands of PV19 and PR122 paints, as well as a couple of other cool red quinacridones. Quinacridone Red (DS) paints out beautifully, Schmincke Purple Magenta was my favourite of the PR122 version. Quinacridone Rose is lovely in most brands. Da Vinci also makes two versions - a Red Rose Deep (Quinacridone) and Permanent Rose (Quinacridone) using PV19 that are both very nice. (See left)
Quinacridone Rose, Red, Pink, Fuchsia and Magenta pigment swatches.
My favourite of the PR122 range was Purple Magenta, Schmincke, as it was nice and strong and painted out well. Below is the same pigment in Winsor and Newton. It's a great colour. The only downside for me is that I find the magenta colour less useful unmixed than a rose, which is why I ended up using Quin rose in my palette.

Notice how PR122 it makes lovely purples, strong crimsons and reds as well as gorgeous oranges. PV19 is very similar in use, the only difference being its strength making a crimson. If you have a crimson in your palette as well, as I do in an expanded palette, you can use either. Notice that the range of purples and oranges created are rather similar, so in a limited palette you only need the mid yellow and the Ultramarine, or you might go with a CYM palette and use a mid yellow, Quinacridone Magenta PR122 and Phthalo Blue GS.
Quinacridone Magenta PR122 mixed with Hansa Yellow Medium, New Gamboge, Quinacridone Gold, Ultramarine, Phthalo blue RS and Cerulean, painted in a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook.

Finally I would like to look at some Crimsons that can be used as a primary Red. I think of crimson as a convenience colour since it can be created by mixing a warm red or yellow with magenta, but it is a useful colour as well and as stated above, some versions are useful as a single red in a limited palette. Of all the ones I tested the best of these were Carmine by DS, Alizarin Crimson (Quinacridone) by Da Vinci and Permanent Alizarin by Winsor and Newton. I like these colours as they all wash out to a pink so will make clear purples. Not as clear as the PV19 or PR122, but pretty good! If you want a powerful crimson that is not used for making bright purples Pyrrol Crimson (DS) and Anthraquinoid Red (DS) are lovely. And for a mixed pigment version of a permanent Alizarin, the DS version is also lovely.

Crimson watercolour swatches.

And here is Carmine in a limited palette paint-out compared with Quinacridone Magenta.
Daniel Smith Hansa Yellow Light, Carmine and Ultramarine 
Notice the strength of the crimson colour in the top version, and the very strong reds and oranges. In the Schmincke triad with PR122 the purples are even more beautiful.

If you start with a mid yellow, Ultramarine Blue and a Quinacridone Rose/magenta/crimson, you can mix an amazing array of colours.

Add to these a warm red, a warm yellow and a cool blue and you expand the range tremendously, though I'd add Burnt Sienna first! That will be my next watercolour comparisons post...
Schmincke Pure Yellow, Purple Magenta and Ultramarine Finest

Next up - Burnt Sienna options

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


  1. Hello. One of my favorites is Holbein's Bright Violet ... a brilliant transparent magenta!
    You do not use a warm red, like cadmium or pyrrol? I ask because I can never find one I'm really happy with ...

  2. Hi Laura. I have not tried Holbein's Bright Violet. I haven't tried many Holbein watercolours actaully as many have mixed pigments (I prefer single pigment colours) and many contain fugitive pigments. Bright Violet used to contain PV7, which will fade, along with PV15 (which is fine). I don't know if that is still the case.

    I do use a warm red - I have posted the information about other reds here - http://janeblundellart.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/watercolour-comparisons-6-reds.html - though in my palette I tend to use Transparent Pyrrol Orange by Daniel Smith as my warm red. For teaching I use the lovely Pyrrol Scarlet by Daniel Smith. It is bright and clear and neutralises with Phthalo Blue GS to make wonderful red earth (Indian red) hues.
    Happy painting!

  3. Hi there I am trying to find any information about Windsor Newton permanent carmine, and or a great alternative? I just can't find anything specific to that color and no information regarding pigment information (I guess because it's organic?)

    1. W&N Permanent Carmine contains the un-numbered Quinacridone pyrrolidone, which I understand to be rated II for lightfastness. I haven't tested it myself but have seen it being used in one of my student's palette. It is a very pink carmine so mixes purples nicely but I don't think it made black with phthalo green. Personally, I use Quinacridone rose and Pyrrol crimson to get the best mixing range but in a limited palette I'd suggest DS Carmine if you are looking for a single primary red which will actually give a crimson, as well as mixing well with other palette colours.

  4. Hi Jane! I've been combing through your blog for quite a few days now, but there's something that I need some advice on: as a crimson color, would you suggest carmine, anthraquinone red, or pyroll crimson? this is assuming I already have quincridone red (there seems to be no real difference with the rose variance) pv19 as a cool red (but no scarlet color bc I want to keep the palette smaller). Which do you think would mix the richest, darkest black w phthalo green?

    1. I agree there is very little difference in hue between Quin rose and Quin red by DS, except that the Quin Red is perhaps a 'richer' paint. It will mix lovely purples but also great oranges so you can create a range of warm red hues.
      Carmine has too much pink in it to mix rich blacks so would be too much like the Quin Red. It is another slightly more crimson single red alternative. You'd be better off with Anthraquinoid Red or Pyrrol Crimson for your purposes. They are very similar but from my research the Pyrrol Crimson is a slightly better (more lightfast) pigment. Either create a gorgeous rich black (Jane's black R/G!) when mixed with phthalo green BS. Interestingly, I prefer Anthraquinoid red as a paint - it is slightly thicker, though I use Pyrrol Crimson. Pyrrol Crimson cracks a bit as it dries so if you are putting it into a palette do it in small stages so you get less obvious shrinkage. You can see the mixed black here - http://www.janeblundellart.com/watercolour-mixing-charts.html - it's the third chart. With Pyrrol Crimson it will look the same.

  5. Hi, I am a chemistry professor at Texas A&M university, who does research on molecules derived from quinacridone, I hope you don't mind if I use some of the nice colors you posted here to educate students about the beauty of this molecule. If you agree, I will cite your blog url in my powerpoint slides. Many thanks!

    1. thank you for contacting me. Yes that is fine. You can find more quinacridone watercolours on my website here http://www.janeblundellart.com/quinacridone-colours.html

  6. Hi,

    I need Quinacridone Rose pigment in powder form, but it does not seem to be available on the market.

    Can Quinacridone Rose be attained by mixing Quinacridone Red with a small amount of Quinacridone Magenta (PR 122)?

    1. Schmincke make a powdered pigment called Carmine that is PV19 Quin Rose. That would be much easier!

  7. Hi,
    I was wondering if these comparison charts are also in your book?
    Thank you,

  8. Jane, I am going through all these colors in the effort to have a limited palette. Are these posts current in your choices now?

  9. What do you think of Holbein Carmine. It isn't as dark and rich as I had hoped.

  10. thank you so much for sharing this and making this available :D i might not be your student in the traditional sense of buying classes but i have learnt and am still learning so much from you through your blog and website. thank you!! *sends a big virtual hug* :D