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Why not (cad) red instead of alizarin crimson and why burnt umber instead of burnt siena?

Hello, I am not a native english speaker, so sorry for my grammar.

Why does Mark recommend permanent alizarin crimson instead of a warmer red? This confuses me a bit because he uses ultramarine blue (a tertiary color). It would be more consistent if he uses a cerulean blue like phtalo. A limited palette should be a triad like (ultramarine, yellow and red) or (cyan, yellow and magenta). Of course you can mix a wide color range with alizarin but you can also mix more colors with cerulean instead of ultramarine. At the moment I am trying out some mixtures (Cad Red light, Ultramarine and Cad Yellow light) and (Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Cad Yellow light and Ultramarine). I can mix bright oranges and violets with both ones. Perhaps the question is only why ultramarine? Cerulean would perfect for a clean primary palette.

I also feel unclear about burnt umber. You can mix it easily by burnt siena and ultramarine. Is it right, that umber is used by mark because it is just more neutral and easier to handle?

Sincerely yours,


  • I don't know Mark's reasons CLoen...welcome to the forum by the way...but I do know we get many othr colours using this red whereas the cad red gives a very particularly bright range of colours...

    I imagine it is for the same reason Mark chose and we use the ultramarine blue
  • I'd say experiment and find out what works best for you. I look at Mark's work and figure he must know what he is doing to achieve his results, so I don't see a reason to deviate. To each his own though.
  • I think alizarin crimson and cadmium yellow is a perfect balance one is”cool” hue and other is a warm , can add life and vibrancy and have good permanence .If you work with cad red and cad yellow for instance you will not have where to go higher then that .In order to keep the colors natural we need to resist the temptation to make the colors more vibrant and vivid then when we really need them we can use them .
  • Of course natural but if you surround it with bright and vivid color you will make the
    colors weaker not stronger .That's just my opinion .
  • Just checked, in fact they are wonderful paintings but is that look natural to you ?
    Personally I would like to discipline my self to work with reduced color and use the bright colors when I really need .
  • Currently I am learning to paint representing nature in the best possible way .I am not against paintings with bright color .I am just learning .
  • tjstjs -
    edited June 2013
    HI Peter and welcome to the forum! Why umber you ask? If you watch the mixing videos you'll notice he starts out mixing a pile of umber+ultramarine which gives him a pretty good black. I add a touch of that into almost all the colors I mix.

    It helps to unify the painting and knock down the intense chroma of tubed color to help you get more of a natural color. I have found this palette I can get just about every color there is. The intensity of the color is up to you.

    Use any palette you want. But I would try this one too. You might be surprised at the beautiful overall look to your painting :)
  • cloencloen -
    edited June 2013
    As you can see here I feel very comfortable with this palette. I just want to understand the reasons why a specific color is used. As I wrote, burnt sienna and ultramarine would also create a "burnt umber" and black. But I gave myself the answer: It's because burnt umber straight from the tube is more neutral and therefore easier to handle.
  • My own experience is that burnt umber seems to work well as a complementary to blue, red and yellow to control and darken the hue of those colors, so it can serve well as an all-around adjustment factor.

    As a side comment, doesn't cerulean have a tinge of yellow in it (ultramarine blue has a tinge of red, I believe)? Winsor blue or phthalo blue might be more pure blue.
  • I like ultramarines that are the least purple. The phthalo blues are good as far as color goes, but their tint strength is so strong that they are very difficult to work with.
  • I like Burnt Umbers that are very dark and red. A good burnt umber will show its red when mixed with white, a poor burnt umber (for my purposes) will show its grey - and yet both will look the same in pure form.
  • For many years, printers have used the CYMK method for color reproductions in pint. I'm sure you know what this mean, but for those who don't know, C stands for cyan, Y for yellow, M for magenta, and K for black.

    The closest I have been able to come to this in oil paint is Prussian blue for C; cad yellow medium for Y; permanent alizarin for magenta, and of course, black for K.

    When tinted out, Prussian blue comes close to representing the coldness of cyan.

    When mixed together in various proportions, cad yellow and alizarin can make orange reds, such as cad red light, or other reds and oranges.

    The problem with starting with cad red light is that it is already orange which makes it difficult to work with in many mixtures, while alizarin can be pushed to orange on one side, a quite blue (purple) on the other side.

    Try making combinations with these four colors, and then with Mark's colors, and you will find that they are very close together. Personally, I feel I have a tiny bit more flexibility with the CYMK system (when I'm using a restricted palette), but Mark's system works equally well. No need to prove it . . . just look at his paintings.
  • @closen....good question, if you don 't ask you will never know....better to understand the why's and how's then you will understand and remember....glad you I know .. :-/
  • edited February 2014
    Alizarine crimson is a blue red or violet red. It looks v. different when mixed with white than does cad red. Also, you can mix Alizarine with Sap Green & get a nice brown or mix it with veridian green, add a bunch of white and get a nice flesh tone.
    It all depends on what color you need when the mixing is done. Which colors can you get the most variations from with the least amount of combos? The more you mix, the muddier your paint can become so you want to pick colors that will give you the most variety. Here is an exercise you can do to help understand the different color combinations. Take one tube of paint (in this exercise, sap green was chosen) and mix it with various colors to see what changes occur.

    The above link will take you to a person's blog who did this exercise. You can see how they laid out the colors and labeled everything.
    Remember, if at the end of the day you prefer to mix with cad red and you like the results, then you should mix with cad red. The only way to become familiar, and comfortable, with color is to play around with it and see what you get.
  • But, remember, its Art -No Rules! :)
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