Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mixing blues

Got a request from Ash Aravind to either make a Youtube clip or write an article on my blog about mixing blues. Thanks for the tip, Ash. I'm a bit busy at the moment, so the clip will have to wait.

As you may have noticed, blue is a pretty important color in my work, so I have quite a few different shades of it, ranging from cold greenish to warm purple-like blues. I practically never use it straight from the tube, I always mix it with other blues, sometimes even with yellows or reds. And of course with titanium white, always titanium white. The only one I sometimes apply straight from the tube is kings blue light.

I also mix them by using transparent layers. Usually my colors are thinned down, so I need multiple layers to get the color intensity I'm looking for. I use this transparency to create very deep, intense blues. Not necessarily dark blues, but the transparency creates an interaction between the different layers that adds to the intensity.

For example: in the bottom layer I sometimes paint a smooth surface of ultramarine. When this layer is dry I paint a mix of cobalt and Caribbean blue on top of it. The Caribbean blue gives the cobalt  a greenish hue, which tones down the much warmer ultramarine. I sort of accidentally stumbled across this combination and I was struck by its intensity, even when mixed with white.

These are the blues I use in order of appearance:
1. kings blue light
2. kings blue dark
3. cobalt blue
4. ultramarine blue
5. ceruleum blue
6. indigo
7. Prussian blue
8 Caribbean blue
9. Old Holland blue-violet
10. Old Holland violet-grey

There are of course many more blues on the market. This is just my personal selection. Next time I'll tell a bit more about what I use each color for. If you like to receive my complete color list (including the reds & yellows), please send an email to and I'll send you the list asap.


  1. Excellent; Thank you so much!

    I'm still chicken about attempting my first realistic seascape but I do paint a lot of birds and other outdoor images where it's required to paint sky with a degree of realism to complement the detail on the main subjects.. This helps!

    As you mentioned,Titanium white is a staple when it comes to sky. I do wonder what will happen if I use whites like flake white

    The point about Caribbean blue was interesting ( I think you meant the one by Ol' Holland) I have one by another brand Charvin but the color is a lot different. This one you've shown looks really rich.

    I'll look forward to hearing more on this!

    1. The term 'flake white' can mean different things for different brands. Possibly it's a mix of different whites. It is when you're using Old Holland and then it's mainly used for glazing, it's not as opaque as titanium white. So if you want to mix an opaque blue, I'd use titanium. If you need a blue to glaze with, I'd use flake white. Or in my case Talens transparent white.
      Yes, I meant the Old Holland Caribbean blue. You only need a little bit of it to change the character of for example cobalt blue. I think I bought this tube 10 years ago and it's still not empty...