Thursday, 23 June 2016

Looking for the right reds

Two days ago I started a small painting of a red carnation. At the beginning I was quite sure I would use mostly Winsor Red PR254 to paint it but then I realized that I got stuck in a trap of coming back to the same red every time. Whenever I had to paint something red, the first red that came to my mind was always Winsor Red. This time it turned out that the red I needed was completely different from Winsor Red. And what's worse - I didn't have the right one on my palette. 

At firt, I started to mix colors which I had on my palette. I thought maybe this time I would try the optical mixing method. I decided to test Arches HP paper (this will be the subject of another post). I painted spots of different colors: Permanent Rose, Translucent Orange, Quinacridone Red, Winsor Red, Perylene Maroon and Quinacridone Magenta. Once they dried, I applied the second layer of Winsor Red and I checked out what I got:

I got various reds, but none of them was even close to the one I was looking for. So I opened my box with paints and I took my color swatches. It turned out that among my tubes of watercolors I had Pyrrole Red Light which I had opened only once when I painted a swatch. I looked at the swatch and... it was exactly what I was looking for!

I had my tubes on the desk so I took this opportunity and decided to fill my pans. I also added more colors to my watercolor box including Pyrrole Red Light of course. I also did a new color chart to know what's where.

My thoughts on reds

When I choose colors to my palette, the first thing I do is that I look at the pigments. I try to use only paints with one pigment. Currently on my palette I have only Permanent Sap Green with two pigments (PG36, PY110). Usually when we look at the pigment number we can say whether the colors made by different manufacturers are the same or not despite their different names. For instance, Perylene Maroon PR179 by Winsor&Newton and Deep Red PR179 by Schmincke Horadam are the same colors - they have pigment PR179.  

When you look at the swatches above you can see I divided them into several groups. This is another way of selecting a color: when the colors are very similar I choose only one from the group. 

I also pay attention to transparency (I prefer transparent or semi-transparent paints) and lightfstness.

When I did that color chart I noticed that Permanent Alizarin Crimson PR177 and Perylene Maroon PR179 were quite similar. It was a surprise to me. They are even similar to Winsor Red Deep PR264, although the later is more red, while the first ones are more brown when dry.

Here is the list of reds that I think are the most helpful and they are not really similar to each other (*I don't really pay attention to the particular brand but I will mention them. All professional paints are great, for me the most important is the pigment):

Pyrrole Red Light PR255 by QoR - orange-red. This is the color that I should have had a long time ago. I always thought that Winsor Red is warm, but it's not. Pyrole Red Light is a wonderful warm red. It is very bright, semi-transparent and has excellent lightfastness. In the warm red family which I have (Scarlet Lake PR188, Cadmium Scarlet PR108, Cadmium Red Medium Hue PY53, PR254 and Cadmium Red Scarlet Hue PY53, PR254, PY83) the Pyrole Red Light is similar to Scarlet Lake by Winsor Newton. I did a little research and Winsor&Newton doesn't have a paint with the PR255 pigment. But Daniel Smith has - Pyrrol Scarlet is made with PR255 pigment so it's the same and I'll have to buy it because it's cheaper than QoR's (I was given it).

Winsor Red PR254 by Winsor&Newton - red-red. Now when I lie down two swatches side by side (of Winsor Red and Pyrole Red Light) I can clearly see that Winsor Red is cooler. It is a wonderful red which I really like and it's been my main red for a long time. Pyrrol Red by Daniel Smith and Scarlet Red by Schmincke Horadam are the same colors. 

Quinacridone Red PR209 by Winsor&Newton - pinkish-red. Very different from the two above. When diluted is more like pink than red. Also helpful in many cases. Quinacridone Coral by Daniel Smith is the same color. Note: Quinacridone Red by Daniel Smith is very different, it has PV19 pigment.

Winsor Red Deep PR264 by Winsor&Newton - dark-red. This is my favourite dark red which reminds me the color of blood. I use it very often to darken Winsor Red or to paint shadows. I also mix it with Perylene Green to make black. Pyrrol Crimson by Daniel Smith is the same color. Note: Alizarin Crimson PR83 and Permanent Alizarin Crimson PR177 are very similar (Alizarin Crimson more) but they have much worse lightfastness.

Perylene Maroon PR179 by Winsor&Newton - brown-red. Very nice, dark red, actually more like a dark brown (depending on what is next to it: if there are reds it looks like red, if there are browns it looks more like dark brown). Very nice in mixes. Deep Red by Schmincke Horadam is the same color. 

These are the reds that I've found the most useful. I didn't include magentas and pinks here. 

Here you can see why I was looking for the red. It's currently on my easel.

Finally, here is a bee that I painted for Shevaun Doherty. She won an owl card in my latest giveaway contest on my YouTube channelI so admire her artwork and all the information she always share so generously in her posts that I wanted to give her something more. I know she likes bees, so the subject of my painting was obvious.


  1. Thank you for all your generosity to others! I always appreciate and learn from you. That bee is amazing and I saw on FB how much she loved it! I like the carnation...soooo pretty! Can't wait to see it finished.

  2. Thanks for explaining how you choose pigments, and your list of recommended reds--useful to know! The rich, clear colors in your paintings show that your approach is working beautifully for you!

    1. Thank you Janene! It's an honour to read a comment from you. You're one of my favourite artists! I love your art!

    2. Your systematic arrangement of the tube colors is great,Krzysztof. This is very valuable information. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Oh my bee!! I can't tell you how much I love it, or how thrilled I was to receive it! It's even more beautiful in real life, thank you! It's so interesting to read about your reds. I have the W&N Perylene maroon and the Schmincke dark red and they seem quite different, although they have the same pigment. I'm going to have to check them again this week. Thank you also for the beautiful owl card too... this was my lucky week!

    1. You're welcome Shevaun! :) You probably can differentiate more colors than me, that's why you can see the difference :) On my swatches Perylene Maroon and Deep Red look exactly the same. In the photo above with the carnation petals they are on the left side. OR maybe you have in mind a different red by Schmincke? There is Dark Red and there is Deep Red by Schmincke. You wrote about Dark Red - it has PR170. I wrote about Deep Red which has PR179.

  4. Kitty van Houtem ui Voerendaal NL25 June 2016 at 07:04

    Today is my birthday and again: Thanks for all. Nu in het Nederlands.
    Veel heb ik al geleerd van U en telkens weer lees en kijk ik opnieuw naar de kleurenkaarten, Botanische schilderingen en tips.
    Momenteel niet productief want ik ben net geholpen aan een carpaal tunnel syndroom maar hoop snel de draag weer op te pakken. Dank u voor de inspiratie

    1. Thank you very much! Thanks to Google Translate I was able to understand it, althought the translation to Polish is very funny. I hope you will get well soon and be able to paint again. I'm very happy that I inspire you! :)

  5. Hello, I'm a big fan! I also fell in love with Pyrrol Red Light from one of those tiny tube sets of QOR paints, but Sennelier also has this PR255 pigment in its Rose Dore Madder Lake. I like QOR's colors but they are way too expensive for what you get. Sennelier's 21 ml tubes are a bargain. Thanks for your wonderful videos and blog entries.

    1. Hi Julianna! Thank you for letting me know about Sennalier! I didn't know about it. It is a bargain indeed! I'll have to buy it and check. Thank you!

  6. Love your videos and blog. I have Rembrandt's Permanent Red Medium (PR255). I love Rembrandt paints.