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How do you make the colour Purple?

by Ellie Jakeman October 17, 2022

How do you make the colour Purple?

"The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most." 
John Ruskin. The stones of Venice (1851-3)

How do you make colour Purple?

This question has been asked a million times over! let us start by saying don't panic, there are many shades of purple paint on the market already premixed, and at the end of this article we will list all the options available to buy from our website if you need a quick fix.

However, knowing how to make the perfect shade of purple paint which complements your palette is invaluable, especially if you already own a number of Blue and Red pigments. But contrary to common belief, not every Blue and Red pigment will work together to create a vibrant Purple colour! Nor would you want to make the same vibrant Purple every time. There are different shades of purple, for many different functions within a painting, bright purples for floral scenes in bright sunlight, muted purple and dark shades of purple for cast shadow or deep shadows and so on. Various shades of purple bring interesting conversations and transitions of colours to a painting and can make their complimentary colours sing!

In our last two blogs we talked about warm Red paint colours with a yellow/orange bias and cool Red paints with a Blue Bias and identified many of the common Red paint names on the market. In this article, we will expand on choosing the correct Blue pigments and why. Using the correct warm or cool Red and Blue paint will inevitably save you time and money.

How to determine a colour bias in your Blue and Red paints/pigments.

Firstly what does colour bias mean? When you buy paint, not all of them contain a single pure pigment, actually most paints are a mix of pigments, especially if it has the word 'Hue'on the label. The word Hue describes a mix of alternative synthetic pigments which are used to create either, a historical colour which is no longer manufactured for reasons of toxicity or the 'Hue pigment' replaces a more expensive natural mineral ingredient pigment. For example traditionally made Ultramarine is made by crushing Lapis Lazuli, a semi precious stone which is very expensive, whilst French Ultramarine pigment was developed as a cheaper alternative.

This results in pigments having a colour bias and the way to find this out is by mixing the pigment with a small amount of white paint. If a Red paint has a blue bias it will naturally look cooler than a Red paint that has a yellow/orange bias. A Blue pigment with a greener appearance will have a warm Bias, again once mixed with a white pigment will allow you to distinguish the pigment's characteristic. A cool Blue pigment would have a Red bias.

There are naturally two schools of thought to this 'Temperature' of a colour debate! And for those who are searching for answers on the World Wide Web it can get rather confusing, so because this subject is not black and white we suggest you use your own subjective judgment and your own perception of the colours, as no two people will see colour the same. The thing to remember is that there are no absolutes in colour; everything is relative to what it is next to on the canvas, so we have to see colour in context when making colour choices in painting.

Colours that are muted and cooler usually recede in a painting, creating atmospheric perspective, or distant horizons, mountains, trees etc. Whilst colours that are bright and warm are usually painted in the foreground and advance. Our lists below are suggestions of warm and cool colours to be tested!

Warm Reds;

with a Yellow/Orange bias; (Different Brands may provide a slightly different shades)

  • Cadmium Red, Cadmium Red light, Cadmium Red deep, Indian Red, Orange Red, Primary Red, Perylene Red, Pyrrole Red, Red Oxide, Spectrum Red, Winsor Red, Vermillion, Venetian Red, Vivid Red Orange, PR 9 – Naphthol Red.

Cool Reds;

with a Blue bias; (Different Brands may provide a slightly different shades)

  • Quinacridone Violet, Quinacridone Magenta, Alizarin Crimson, Carmine, Quinacridone Red, NR5 Naphthol Red, Pyrrole Red deep, Permanent Rose, Spectrum Crimson, Permanent Carmine, Pyrrol Crimson, Rose madder.

Warm Blues;

with a Green pigment base, Bias; (Different Brands may provide a slightly different shades)

  • Phthalo Blue Green, Cerulean blue, Primary Cyan, Manganese blue, Turquoise blue, Ultramarine Blue PB29, Indanthrone Blue PB60, Monestial Blue Phthalo.

Cool Blues;

with a Red Bias; (Different Brands may provide a slightly different shades)

  • Prussian Blue, Cobalt blue, French Ultramarine blue, Indigo blue, Phthalo Blue (Red shade)

Mixing a warm Red pigment (with a yellow bias) with a warm Blue (with a green bias) would not make a clean or bright Purple/Violet colour. The Green undertone in the Blue will mute or neutralise the red pigment. Muted purple paint is also a valuable colour.

Mixing a Red with a blue Bias, and a Blue with a Red bias would make a bright and vivid Purple/Violet colour.

It is worth remembering if you mix paints that carry a pair of complementary colours within them, then you will mix a muddier more muted colour than you might have intended.

How to Make purple.

Suggested Recipes for different shades of Bright Purple shades;

If you want to create different shades of purple, alter the percentage of red and blue pigments in the mix. Cool reds with cool blues.....however do come up with your own recipes, creating charts is both fun and will develop your colour skills enormously!

  • Alizarin Crimson with Prussian Blue

  • Quinacridone Magenta with Prussian Blue

  • Alizarin Crimson with Ultramarine Blue

  • Quinacridone Magenta with Ultramarine blue

  • Quinacridone Red mixed with Ultramarine blue

Recipes for different shades of Muted Purple;

To create a muted shades of purple you can either, mix a warm red and cool blue or when using a commercial ready-made purple, you can add its complementary colour yellow; such as Yellow Ochre, Lemon Yellow, Hansa Yellow, or Cadmium lemon yellow.

  • Cadmium Red with Ultramarine

  • Cadmium Red with Prussian Blue

  • Dioxide Purple with Yellow ochre

  • Cadmium Red with French Ultramarine blue

Recipes for lighter shades of Purple; tints of Lavender, Lilac, Mauve;

To create light shades of purple, mix your Secondary purple shade or commercial ready-made Purple with Titanium White, or Zinc white. For different shades of light purple, alter the amount of white pigment used in your recipe.

Recipes for different shades of dark Purple;

For darker shades of purple paint, mix more blue pigment, this will give you a blue purple shade, or add very small amounts of Black paint, or add Burnt Umber or we even tried Phthalo Green, you could also try Hookers Green?

  • Phthalo Blue (with a green bias) mixed with Quinacridone Red (with a blue Bias) = Dark purple color.

  • Dioxazine Purple mixed with Burnt Umber = Dark purple color.

  • Dioxazine Purple mixed with Mars Black = Dark purple color.

  • Dioxazine Purple mixed with Phthalo Green = Dark purple paint.

Commercial, Quick-fix, Purple Paint


Acrylic Purple paint


Purple Oil Paint

Purple Watercolour and Gouache Paints

Purple Inks

To conclude this article, we hope you have been inspired to use your own mix of Purple pigment in your work. Mixing purple is fun and we hope that you have come up with your own recipes and are a little clearer on what is available to you if you wish to purchase a ready-mixed Purple. Do share your work with us and follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Youtube for further information and inspiration on all things Art and Design related.


Ellie Jakeman
Ellie Jakeman

I have had a strong interest in the visual and creative arts since a very early age. After completing an Art and Design Degree and Post graduate studies I have taught Art and Design, Fashion and Textiles, Textile design , Fine Art print and Illustration for over 20 years. Before teaching I was a freelance artist and illustrator and decided 4 years ago I would return to freelance and commissioned work. I have created many domestic and commercial murals for hospitals and hospices. I work part time for ARTdiscount as a content creator and product tester.

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