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How to Mix Purple Paint with Acrylics

Most of us know what colors make purple paint but mixing red and blue doesn’t always give us the desired result. Getting a bright, vibrant purple can be a little complicated.

Purple is a color that is frequently on my painting palette. I love the color and all of its various tints and shades, but it is also a very useful paint color even if you are not a fan of purple.

Purple can be used to darken blues and reds without using black. It also lends a depth and richness to black paint, which tends to be flat and dull on its own.

A tiny bit of purple can also be used to mute or tone down yellows and oranges when you find they are too bright.

In my opinion, Dioxazine Purple is a must have in your paint box.

But what if Dioxazine Purple is not the right purple for your painting? How do you mix various tints and shades of purple if you don’t have Dioxazine? And why does your mix of blue and red give you a dull muddy color instead of the vibrant purple you want?

All of these questions are answered below and I give you a whole range of purples to use. I work mostly in acrylics, but these mixes will work for any medium.

At the end of this post I have also included a printable color mixing chart for purples.

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Why Red and Blue Don’t Always Make Purple Paint

We all learned at a young age that blue and red make purple. Primary Blue and Primary Red mixed in equal amounts will make purple.

squares of blue, red and purple showing how to mix primary colors
Primary Red plus Primary Blue make Purple

But what about all of those other blues and reds in your paint box that don’t quite give you the purple you imagined when mixed together?

The answer is color bias. Color bias means that some colors also have hints of other colors in them.

So, for example, some blues have hints of red and some blues have hints of yellow.

Some reds have hints of blue and some reds have hints of yellow.

Primary color theory tells us that if we mix the three primary colors together, red, blue and yellow, we get brown.

If you mix a blue with a red that has hints of yellow you are actually mixing all three primary colors, so you get a muddy, brownish purple.

Blue + Red + Yellow = Brown

squares of blue, red, yellow and brown showing how to mix brown paint
Blue plus Red plus Yellow equal Brown

Here is a list of the more common blues and reds and their color bias.

red and blue squares showing color bias
Color Bias Chart

So, your tubes of blues and reds must have no yellow (or green since blue + yellow = green) in order to make a true purple. For more information on color theory, check out my post on the basics of color theory for beginners.

How to Check for Color Bias

You can check the color bias of your paint by mixing them with a little white.

Red paint mixed with white should turn pink. If you get a peachy color, then there is a yellow bias.

red, white and pink squares
Red and white make pink
red, white and peach squares
Red and white make peach

Blue paint mixed with white should turn light sky blue. If you get a greenish blue or a turquoise blue, then there is a yellow bias.

blue and white squares
Ultramarine Blue and white make sky blue
blue and white squares
Cerulean Blue and white make a green blue

Now that you understand color bias, let’s make purple!

How to Make Bright Purple Paint

To get a bright, vibrant purple the best colors to mix are a warm blue and a cool red.

Ultramarine Blue (warm) and Quinacridone Magenta (cool) is my favorite mix for a bright purple. You can also use Alizarin Crimson (cool) and Ultramarine Blue or Permanent Rose (cool) and Ultramarine Blue, but the Quinacridone Magenta will give you the brightest purple. (see chart below)

Mix these colors in equal parts to get the brightest purple. ( colors on the computer screen are not always accurate)

blue, red and purple squares showing how to mix purple
Ultramarine Blue plus Quinacridone Magenta
blue, permanent rose and purple squares showing how to mix purple
Ultramarine Blue plus Permanent Rose
blue, crimson and purple squares showing how to mix purple
Ultramarine Blue plus Alizarin Crimson

How to Mix Dark Purple Acrylic Paint

To make a dark purple you can use the same mixes as above but use more blue than red. The more blue you use, the darker your purple will be.

You can also add very tiny amounts of black paint to the bright purple mixes to darken them. Black can quickly overwhelm your purple paint so start with tiny amounts of black and keep adding it until you get the color you want.

Alternatively, you can start with a premixed tube of purple, such as Dioxazine purple and add blue or black paint to it gradually until you achieve the desired result.

purple and black squares showing how to make dark purple
Purple plus Black

Mixing Light Purple Paint

Again, take your bright purple mix and this time add a little white. The more white you add, the more pastel the color will be.

You can also try adding a tiny amount of Cadmium Lemon Yellow to lighten the purple paint. This will give you a less pastel look. Make sure to use the Lemon Yellow as other yellows will give you a dull, muted greyish purple.

Adding white to Dioxazine Purple will also work to give you a light purple paint.

purple and white squares showing how to mix light purple
Purple plus White
purple and yellow squares showing how to make medium purple
Purple plus Lemon Yellow

Muted Purple

To get muted purples, you need to mix the complement of purple, opposite on the color wheel, which is yellow. For more information on this, see my post on complementary colors.

color wheel showing red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple
Purple is opposite yellow on the color wheel. They are therefore complementary colors.

Adding a little Cadmium Yellow, Hansa Yellow, Yellow Ochre or any yellow you have in your paint box will give you a muted shade of purple.

squares of purple and yellow showing how to mute the color of purple paint
Purple plus Cadmium Yellow
purple and yellow ochre squares showing how to mix a dark, muted purple paint
Purple and Yellow Ochre
purple and Hansa yellow squares showing how to mix muted purple paint
Purple plus Hansa Yellow

You can also add a yellow to any premixed tube of purple that you have to get a muted shade of purple.

If the result is too dark you can add a little white to lighten it or more yellow depending on how deep the purple was to start with.

To darken the muted purple, again add a tiny bit of black or more blue to get the darker muted shade.

Purple Color Mixing Chart

Click on the chart to download it and save it to your computer or print it for future reference.

various squares of blue, red, yellow, white and black showing how to mix purple paint
Purple color mixing chart

You need to play around a bit with the colors you have to see what you can come up with. There are many combinations of paint colors to give you many variations of purple. Each manufacturer has a slightly different formula for their paint, so you may get slightly different results depending upon which brand you use.

Making Purple “Pop

If your purple doesn’t “pop” on your painting, try surrounding it with a dull color like I have done in this painting. The duller greenish/yellow makes the purple of the flower look more vibrant.

acrylic painting of a purple flower on a greenish yellow background
Acrylic painting of a purple flower.

Surrounding your purple with say a vibrant blue will make your purple seem to fade back into the picture. Contrast is the key to making your subject stand out in any painting.

Points to Remember

Red (with a blue bias) + Blue (with a red bias) will give you purple.

Yellow (opposite on the color wheel) will tone down or grey out the purple color.

Colors are influenced by what is around them. To make your purple look more intense, surround it with dull colors.

I hope these tips work for you and you enjoy playing around with color mixes. Remember to save swatches of the colors you mixed so you will remember how you mixed them when you need to use them.

splashes of purple paint on a white background
How to Mix Purple Acrylic Paint

I would love to see what you have painted with your color mixes and how you used the various tints and tones of purple. Join my private Facebook group, Trembeling Art Creative Corner where you can post your paintings and other artwork. It is a great place to get feedback, ask questions and connect with other artists.

Thanks for reading.

Digital signature Marilyn with butterfly

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