I got asked just this week by a learner what was the difference between Ultramarine Blue paint and French Ultramarine Blue?
The short answers is not a great deal. In the early 19th century the cost of ultramarine made from lapis lazuli was much higher than any of the other pigments, so much so that some artists did not use much blue in their work if any.
Two French chemists discovered some blue residue in a soda furnace one day and wondered if this could be developed into a blue paint to replace the costly ultramarine pigment. After lots of development work an alternative was developed which was cheaper and soon came into production.In order to differentiate it from the lapis lazuli it was called ‘French’ Ultramarine.
I wrote a blog post called Which White? which aimed to demystify the area of white paint and help you choose the right white paint. This post is along similar lines and I decided to write a post about reds because I feel that red is an important colour for colour mixing.
You might think that any red will do, but no, the type of red will have a big impact on the colours you try to mix from it. There are too many shades of red to go into every one but I will explain the differences and characteristics of the common types of red available.
The other thing to consider is that one ‘scarlet red’ may not be the same as another ‘scarlet red’ in a different brand. Having said that they usually are quite similar so let me explain the types:
Scarlet red is a deep red on the orange-bias side of red. It is a good red for mixing because it has a warmth to it and doesn’t produce too purple-like tones. When mixed with a strong mid yellow like Indian Yellow it can create a rich orangey red. Typically scarlet red is the colour of unripe tomatoes and is described as a ‘mid red’. It is very similar to Cadmium Red and Vermillion, all popular reds for artists.
Cadmium Red is the typical ‘mid red’ to look out for, it is very similar to Scarlet Red. There is not a great deal of difference between the two so most artists have one or the other.
This red is slightly darker than the mid-reds of Cadmium Red, Scarlet Red or Vermilion. It has a slightly violet-bias, giving the colour of velvet roses or red wine.
Rose reds are my favourites they have a pinky hue with a violet-bias and you can achieve a very vibrant pinky red. Rose red is great for flower painters when you are have a really bright pinky red to capture. Be careful not to mix it with too many darker reds like Crimson or with Ultramarine Blue as the Rose Red will lose it’s vibrancy.