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