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Burnt sienna versus Burnt umber?

Does anyone prefer using Mark's color palette with burnt sienna replacing burnt umber?  

My flesh tones seems to look a little "dirty" with umber.  They seem "cleaner" with sienna.


  • Burnt umber is a warm black creating agent. Since it is a very dark orange it can be very useful. Sienna can be used for this purpose too but Mark's palette has warm-cool light colors as well as warm-cool dark colors with an addition of red.
  • I would add BS if you like it but not replace the BU. BS is just shortcut in the mixing process, BU gives you the darker values you need without losing warmth.
  • What the others said :)

    Actually one of the problems with Burnt Umber is it contains magnesium which acts as a dryer and why it dries very quickly without a lot of clove oil.
  • Ah, so it's magnesium that does it. I've often wondered why earth colours dry quicker. :)
  • Thanks!  That's helpful.  I think my problem may be that I don't understand how to use burnt umber.  

    I can mix a nice brown from the primaries.  Should I be thinking in terms of using burnt umber for values darker than the primary brown and the primary brown for lighter values?  

    I find burnt umber to be rather difficult to control.
  • Not all earth colours dry as quickly. The magnesium is an impurity so if you have a synthetic earth such as PR101 it won't have this and so will dry slower as well as being more opaque (and lighter in value).
  • Richard_P

    In modern pigments magnesium is important primarily in the formation of spinel (magnesium aluminum oxide, MgAl2O4), an octahedral crystal lattice in which the atoms of magnesium or aluminum (or both) can be replaced by other metal ions (chiefly titanium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, cobalt, nickel or chromium) to produce a wide range of whitish, highly durable turquoise, green, yellow or red pigments.


  • Duh! Doesn't everybody know that?
  • Interesting about drying time, but that Isn't really my problem.  My problem is that I am having a lot of difficulty using burnt umber.  I've even seen quotes describing burnt umber as "evil"!  When I use burnt umber in my flesh tones, they don't look clean as compared to when I use burnt sienna.  

    I must be doing something wron wrong with my burnt umber, but I can't figure out what it is.
  • Why Burnt Umber is An Essential Pigment for Artists - Mark Carder.     I just received an email today from Mark Carder on just this very subject.  I found it interesting and I watched it twice and in fact I'll watch it again later on. I think I have managed to get into trouble in the past by using black where I should have been using Burnt Umber and so on.  Fascinating really.  Oh, and @Dencal I want to say what @BOB73 said, Duh! etc.   - but I'm sure what he really meant is that your scientific knowledge is just awe-inspiring.  That's right, isn't it, Bob?

  • Burnt Sienna is a more saturated (vivid) colour than Burnt Umber. So if you mix skin tones with Burnt Umber and they will look more greyed out (which is not necessarily a bad thing). If you need more saturation you can add in the Cadmium Yellow and Pyrrol Rubine/Cadmium Red in the Geneva range.
  • @Dianna, "Duh" is something, maybe the only thing I've picked up from popular culture. As such, I wouldn't be surprised to find that I have been using the term incorrectly. In @Dencal's case, I was reacting the way I would to my venerated professor of old who after explaining a difficult scientific event or concept in answer to a student's question would sometimes remark "I thought everyone knew that."  We always knew this wasn't a put-down aimed at the student. It was an acknowledgement that his assumptions that students always knew what he was talking about was sometimes false. That professor had multiple PHDs in math, chemistry and physics and was also a PE professional engineer. He would sometimes speak to us in PHD instead of English. Denis is a fountain of information and gives plain English answers but also includes the technical stuff too. So yes it was a compliment.
  • I don't really agree with Mark about Burnt Umber. I don't use it as it dries too quickly and isn't opaque enough for my needs. If I want a dark brown I mix Mars Black (PBk11) with an Iron Oxide Red (PR101).
  • Hi @BOB73 --- I knew it was a compliment!  I knew it was just your sense of humour!  I feel the same way you do about the level of Denis' knowledge and his kindness in sharing it.  @Richard_P I am deeply committed to following the DMP method for the moment because it is working so well for me.  I understand that in the future I might change certain elements of the Method but I don't want to do so until I am certain.  I used to love working with Burnt Sienna and I would much prefer to mix skin tones with it, but I have to hold myself back for the time being!  Thanks for sharing your preferences. It's good to know.
  • I use them both.  I use them together. It depends on the color match.  Burnt sienna smooths out the umber and umber punches up the sienna.  I love burnt sienna and yellow ochre as a base to which I add BU and some times a touch of blue for the shadows or red for the warms.  I can paint a whole face like that.
  • I've watched Mark's latest video on burnt umber several times and thought over the way I've been mixing and I think I've figured out what I'm doing wrong.  

    I think I'm getting some black mixed into my dark flesh tones so that when I try to lighten them, adding yellow moves them toward green, but they are still dark enough that I wasn't recognizing the green bias.  A touch of red would probably have corrected it, but all I recognized was that it looked "dirty". 

    I'll experiment some this afternoon to confirm this but I think that Mark's video was they key to my problem.  

  • One difference is tha burnt umber is much "darker' than burnt sienna.  In Munsell notation, Williamsburg's burnt umber's value/chroma is 9YR 1.8/1.2, whereas burnt sienna is 2.2YR 2.6/6.1.  Other mfrs' earth tones will vary significantly, Gamblin's are 5YR 2/2 and 10R 3/4.
  • Well if you look at Rembrandts paintings and palette he used both umber and sienna. There is a name of that kind of palette. 
    The way to look at umber is that it’s a orange, that’s what I was told, it’s good for darkening yellow, mix with a red or yellow or blue remembering it’s a orange like colour on your palette. That’s what I was told.
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