One day when I was working on acrylic pours I ran out of my purple paint. So naturally, I decided I would make my own by mixing my blue and red paint thinking that blue and red make purple.
This was when I learned the hard way that blue and red don’t always make purple! I mixed, and I mixed, and I mixed thinking…” oh, I just added too much blue” until 3 bottles later I finally got frustrated and started searching.
If you’re having this problem too that’s because your paint has a color bias. A color bias is when your paint has pigments of another color in it. Red and blue paints can both have a color bias that will prevent you from making a great purple.
With so many reds and blues to choose from out there it is simple to fall into this trap. Especially since before now you’ve heard your whole life that red and blue make purple.
This is indeed true, you just have to know some of the finer nuances about paint pigments and how to tell if your paint has any sort of color bias.
The simplest way to figure out if your paints have a color bias is to mix them with white.
To understand color bias better and how it affects our ability to get purple let’s gather up all of our reds, blues, and white to try this ourselves!
Testing Our Reds We Want to Use to Make Purple
The first thing we need to do before we try to mix purple is to test our paints by mixing them all with white and seeing what we get.
When we do this we are ultimately trying to determine if our reds are warm or cool. For mixing purple, we want to avoid warm reds that contain a yellow bias.
While we are going to use white paint for this example another way to determine if your paint has a color bias is to spread it in a thin glaze. Both methods are a way to determine what color your paint is leaning towards.
So when we mix our colors with white we are looking to see if they turn a peach or a salmon color indicating that they have a slight bit of yellow pigment in them.
For my red paints, I currently have all Liquitex Basics Acrylic Paints. From left to right I have Naphthol Crimson, Primary Red, and Cadmium Red Medium Hue.
As you can see, the Cadmium Red has turned a shade of salmon color leaning more towards orange. This is an indication of a yellow bias.
Since yellow is the complementary color of purple, when they get mixed together they become brown. For me, this was my problem.
Well one of them. We will see what happens when we mix our blues.
This is the only warm red that I currently have. While not great for mixing purple this color would be the best option if I wanted to mix orange.
Orange is another color I have had trouble mixing probably because I didn’t know any of this about color bias.
The other two reds you can see are different shades of pink. These are the reds we would want to use for mixing our purple. These are what we refer to as our “cool reds” that have a color bias towards blue.
This is exactly what we want for purple!
So when we go to mix our purple in the final step we will want to use our Naphathol Crimson and our Primary Red to get a good purple.
Now lets test our blues!
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Testing Our Blues We Want to Use to Make Purple
Next up, lets test our blues with white too. We’re basically doing the same thing with our blues too.
We need to figure out which of our blues are “warm” and which are “cool”.
A warm blue is biased towards red while a cool blue is biased towards green. We want to find which of our blues are the warm blues with a red bias.
For me, the blues I currently have are Ultramarine Blue, Primary Blue, and Light Blue Permanant. Let’s take a look and see what happens when we mix them with white.
As we can see, by mixing just a bit of white with our Ultramarine Blue we get a slight hint of violet showing up. This is our warm blue with a red bias and the one we want to use to make our purple.
The Primary Blue and Light Blue Permanant paint both are our cool blues. While you don’t really see green tint in the way you do with the purple in our Ultramarine mixture, the fact that they don’t look purple tells us that they are our more green biased blues.
In fact, it looks like cool blues turn light blue or aqua while cool reds turn light red or pink. So neither really show clearly their color bias like the warm colors do.
While our green biased blues are not great for making purple they would be perfect for when you need to make a green mix.
Now that we have tested our blue colors with white we know we will need to use our Ultramarine Blue to get the color we want.
The Shades Of Purple We Can Make
Alright, now that we figured out that I have two reds of the right bias and one blue of the right bias lets see what sort of purple we get when we mix our blue with the two reds.
If our understanding of color bias and our analysis of our colors is correct then we should get some good purple mixes.
For this test we are using our warm blue, Ultramarine Blue, to see what happens when we mix it with our cool reds of Naphthol Crimson and Primary Red.
Here are the results I got. Our analysis was indeed correct. These are both great shades of purple!
While I wasn’t able to get a bright vibrant purple with these particular colors we have proven the concept and approach works!
Now that we have overcome this issue with purple and have learned a little bit about color bias, this is clearly something that we need to know a lot more about to mix all of our colors in the way that we want.
We definitely will be exploring color bias further to get a deeper grasp on this concept.
Did you follow along with me? How did your results turn out?
If you’re still having trouble here is a table of warm blues and cool reds that you can use as a reference guide when you go to buy your paints.
|Warm Blues||Cool Reds|
|Ultramarine Blue||Naphthol Crimson|
|Winsor Blue||Primary Red|
|Cobalt Blue||Permanent Rose|
|Indanthrene Blue||Carmine Red|
Now that I’m aware of this I will do my best to refine and update this table as I find more colors and test them myself.
The only colors on this list that I tested myself are the ones you saw featured in this article. The rest of the colors I found using a resource I found called The Science of Color found here.
If you’re interested in learning more about mixing colors and color theory they seem like they have some pretty great info.
If you stick around with me on this site though we will explore it all here in due time! Now go follow these steps to figure out which of your blues and reds will make purple!