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Prussian Blue as primary blue for landscape painting

edited May 2018 in Color Mixing
Sorry for the unedited photo.

Here is a paragraph in Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting by John F. Carlson. He suggested to use Prussian Blue as the primary blue. Did anyone use this as a primary blue ever as Carlson suggested?

I have used both ultramarine and cobalt blue for my outdoor landscape painting. I found that cobalt is a better option rather than ultramarine as it is not overpowering, darks are not unnatural (photographic) and both purples and greens are good.

Yesterday, I used Prussian in a painting just because I ran out of all the blues. I used less, just a tinge of it and mixes were excellent, it can still make reasonably good purples with alizarine and extraordinary greens (at least for blazing summer). Amazing for sky color. That leads me to these findings:
  1. It takes less paint; This is where ultramarine fails I guess. Needs practice though in handling this blue
  2. All the four colors are powerful
  3. Carlson's finding, which I don't dare to rule out
  4. Amazing blacks. Cobalt blue fails here



  • @Kaustav  The only thing I worry about is that when your paintings are finally hung in museums in the future under their lighting, which is what we should be preparing for, the Prussian blue will look wrong because it had been manipulated to look right under artificial lighting.  Mark mentions this in one of his videos.  I guess it comes down to selecting our audience as we paint.  But even when we only paint for our friends and families, and museums are the furthest thing from our minds, our paintings still end up in museums generations later as donations from family members trying to avoid estate taxes.  I'd use Prussian blue if I could get it to look right in daylight.  Summer   
  • @Kaustav Also, I've read that Alizarin Crimson is a fugitive color.  Have you found that--since I notice that you use it?  And, I'm wondering if that is true for Permanent Alizarin Crimson.  I will have to look further into that.  Summer
  • @Summer Thanks. Well, I am not so worried about medium etc. I am more interested to know if anyone has used it as a primary blue at least for two-three paintings. Only problem areas is that it is too powerful and needs some skill in handling; in a way it could save money on blues. A single small squeeze may just do the whole work just like Alizarin perhaps.
    Alizarine that I use may not be an original pigment but it behaves like that. I used it 22 years ago when I first started and the colors are still there. So, I guess it is ok.
  • @Kaustav I'm beginning to think that fake news has entered our realm of painters and the paints we use.  I only believe what I have experienced to be true.  I will keep your experience with Alizarin Crimson in mind because I've read that changes in color are noticeable after only a few years.  My husband has advised me to get a good photograph immediately after a painting is done and in the highest quality to ensure that what I intended is preserved--in a TIFF format.  Not bad advice.   Summer
  • Alizarine that I use may not be an original pigment but it behaves like that. I used it 22 years ago when I first started and the colors are still there. So, I guess it is ok.
    Agreed @Summer Actually I am not sure what the manufacturer is using. probably another pigments that behaves like Alizarine. It could even be PR264, a direct replacement.
    I only can tell what I observed for such a long time. My paintings are hung in my flat in Calcutta. They haven't changed much. I even made a copy of Tuner's temeraire in 1997 which involves uses of pure violets (used cobalt + alizarin). They are still the same. Also, there are many paintings that needed violets. They are still pretty good.
  • SummerSummer -
    edited May 2018
    Good to know these things from you @Kaustav, about your personal experiences with these colors.  I will keep them in mind for the future.  I trust what you are saying more than some of the things I read.  

  • For some reason, this link goes nowhere.  Thought you would want to know.

    And Alizarin Crimson:
  • edited May 2018
    Richard_P said:
    Could be right @Richard_P But the thing is that I am probably using Pthalo Blue variant and some other pigment for Alizarin. So I am not that badly placed.  B)

    Colors are still bright without cleaning and varnishing. I took the photos about three years ago. I feel that they are still in good shape.
    Alizarin for pinks and violets. Done in 1998. First painting that I did within a few hours.

    A copy. Sky is Prussian (Pthalo mixed I guess) Blue shadows in the water are cobalt blue. 1997.

  • SummerSummer -
    edited May 2018
    @Kaustav These are delightful paintings.  It must have taken courage to abandon colors of this intensity--twenty years  you say.  Is the spark still there?   Maybe your questioning Prussian Blue may be rekindling a fire to paint a few more like this.  I wish I had enough experience to answer your original question(s).  Different countries have different standards when it comes to paint manufacturing and even then those standards are not kept.  So, I can't even venture a guess as to what is going on.  Seems like you have found something better than Cobalt and Ultramarine made in your part of the world--Prussian Blue.  Let's see if anyone here is willing to experiment with what you have explained.  Keep in mind the manufacturing differences for each country will have to be part of the equation.  Is this what they call a rabbit hole???   :/   Summer  
  • It seems to be that Prussian Blue would make a good, (and far more tame) substitute for the pervasive Thalo Blue that makes up every Primary Blue, and every Cobalt or Cerulean substitute. Thalo is the cheapest and most intense blue ever, but that stuff permanently stains anything that touches it!
  • @lad I have been using Prussian since I wrote this post in May. I ran out of all the blues so started using it. So far I have been able to control the blue. I use just a drop. 

    Also since this is a greenish and dark blue, I can apply CMYK theory for color mixing easily.
  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • I will try the original question out and replace ultramarine with Prussian. Sounds a challenge 
  • @Dougie2346 try out but I must tell you that it is very difficult blue to handle. It is on my switches, walls, bedsheets and what not!  :p Calrson wasn't joking. But if they could come up with slightly lesser saturated Prussian then it would have been the best. I guess we are never satisfied!  :)
  • Oh you know cad yellow has the same problem, 
    the prussian challenge shall we call it? I have the Carlson book, really interesting he mentions it. I use both limited and extended limited palette, time to experiment 
  • Is this challenge then, umber, Prussian, cad yellow and red?
  • @Dougie2346 there is not challenge. I use Prussian mostly because it suits my purpose and consumes much lesser paint. But i use other paints on need basis too. My plein air blue is Cobalt Blue. I use a muxed Indigo in my Zorn palette paintings.
  • edited April 2019
    Carlson's book is a great book without a doubt. I use the extended limited palette that begins with the limited palette. I most often use ultramarine for blue, and I found success in mixing certain blues together for color control. My ultra marine blue is rarely pure,  unless I need that. I often use cobalt blue or pthalo blue in the mix, sometimes all 3 are in the mix, many variations on this included. My red is similar alizarine crimson, and cadmium red, cadmium red dark. And I have madder lake and vermillion when I need those. Viridian green, cerulean blue and lemon yellow would be good additions to my palette. I very rarely use burnt umber. BTW viridian mixed with alizarine crimson are "magic colors", and you can mix a good near black with these 2 as well.
  • edited April 2019
    I agree, @Forgivenss. Viridian and alizarin make a wonderful black. I often use it in landscapes to paint a really dark shadow as in the one I'm working on now. For some reason it just looks better than lamp/carbon black or Mars black.
  • Well I’d say it’s a challenge trying something new for me, I’ve been mixing with Prussian blue alizarin and cad yellow for the last hour and have found it very quick to get what I’m trying to mix, you do like you say need only a touch of it which I’m really liking compared to ultramarine. So it’s really nice
  • Kaustav said:
    @lad I have been using Prussian since I wrote this post in May. I ran out of all the blues so started using it. So far I have been able to control the blue. I use just a drop. 

    Also since this is a greenish and dark blue, I can apply CMYK theory for color mixing easily.
    What’s the CMYK theory?
  • @Dougie2346 CMYK is the colors used in printing. The colors (all cool in nature) are Cyan Magenta Yellow and black to create all colors. In the world of pigments you would need orange as well. 

    The palette looks like titanium white cad lemon cad orange quinac magenta and cobalt teal/cerulean blue. I alternate between alzarin and magenta and prussian and cobalt blue
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