Which Red?

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 

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.

Scarlet red, Cadmium Red and Vermilion red are all good reds for fruits like apples and tomatoes
Scarlet red, Cadmium Red and Vermilion red are all good reds for fruits like apples and tomatoes

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.

Scarlet Red
Scarlet Red

Crimson Red

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.

Crimson Red
Crimson Red

Rose

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.

Rose Red
Rose Red

For more advice see my post How can I learn about Colour?

What are Colour Relationships?

Colour relationships are how colours relate to one another and the influence they have on one another.  When two contrasting colours are put next to one another the colours jump out at you, this can make for striking artwork.

To understand how colour works I recommend studying the colour wheel and sticking one into your sketchpad for reference.  The colours that are opposite on the colour wheel are know as contrasting colours, these are the colours that have the most impact when placed next to one another for example red and green.

The Colour Wheel - A useful tool for all artists
The Colour Wheel – A useful tool for all artists

How can I learn about Colour Relationships? 

Try playing with colour by placing colours together in boxes (see below) you will notice how some colours stand out next to others.

colour relationships
Place colours in squares next to one another to learn about colour relationships

The colours next to one another on the colour wheel  (red, orange, yellow) are known as harmonious and they will blend into one another.  Once colours are understood you can start using them to create mood, make your artwork really vibrant and give your work ‘feeling’ like warmth, happiness, stillness, distance etc.

Try painting in just two or three colours and see the difference.  It is interesting to do a few studies like this, it will teach you about colour and colour relationships.

A two colour painting
A two colour painting

See my post How can I learn about Colour? for more advice.