When you have a tube of paint with a generic sort of name like “Speedball Red”, it’s difficult to know what it will do when mixed with your other pigments.  Will it behave more like a cadmium red or like an Alizarin Crimson?  Can a purple be created when mixed with a blue?

Color Mix comparisons

Comparing the results of these color wheels, Speedball Red is a cooler red than I had imagined it would be.  It’s much closer to Alizarin Crimson than to Cadmium Red Light.  I will make another sample mix using a Cadmium Red Medium and a Vermillion.

Notice that using Cadmium Red Light and Joe’s blue (Phthalo) the mix is more of a brown than any sort of purple.  Good to know!  There is far too much yellow in the Cadmium Red Light, preventing a purple from appearing.

Color Wheels created using watercolor paints.


While exploring the woods with my father on Thursday, I put to use the re-discovery of beautiful grays and browns possible when mixing cadmium red light with different blues.

subtle grays of sunlit tree branches

The original intent was to find a blue that would produce a purple when mixed with cadmium red light. Only Ultramarine Blue came close to succeeding. I had forgotten what beautiful neutrals are possible using cadmium red light. I mixed a lovely brown with Cad Red and Ultramarine Blue for dried leaves fallen on the ground in another sketch I posted this morning on Third Time Around. I mixed a miniscule touch of cad red into cobalt for the subtle gray of the branch in the sketch above.

Sketchbook drawing: drawn first with fountain pen filled with black ink, followed by watercolor.

Knowing what limited palette to chose when traveling is important.  Making a new, twelve hue color wheel from a random choice of yellow, red and blue to play the color scheme game is both time consuming and rewarding.  the color wheels provide both answers as well as questions.

Reds and Blues that don't mix to produce purples

While making sample wheels for the Color Scheme Game I ran into trouble trying to achieve purple, red-purple and blue-purple when I used Cadmium Red Light.    The mix went immediately to brown or gray.  I decided to do linear test strips showing gradual mixes of cadmium red with an assortment of blues.

Over the years I have skirted around the issue of choosing between cobalt blue and ultramarine blue, often thinking they are interchangeable.  They aren’t.  There is debate over the warm/cool nature of blues.  I have read that French Ultramarine Blue is the coldest of blues.  I don’t find that true at all.  In my mind, the blues closer to green are cooler than the blues closer to purple.  Purple is a warmer color than green.  Ultramarine blue is definitely closer to purple than any of the other blues.  The chart above, in my mind, proves that point of view.  It is only Ultramarine Blue Light and French Ultramarine Blue that produce a hue close to purple when mixed with Cadmium Red Light.

On the other hand… Ultramarine Blue gives a much muddier green when mixed wit yellow than any of the other blues.  Makes perfect sense to me since Ultramarine has more red in it.  The red neutralizes the green.  All of the other blues are closer to green.  There is no red to neutralize the green.  As a result, the greens are more vibrant.

It is easier for me to see the characteristics of the pigment when I make my color wheels with watercolor.