If you’re having trouble mixing purple, it’s probably because you’re mixing red with blue. For reasons explained in this post, mixing red and blue creates brown.
So how do you mix purple? The key to mixing a brilliant purple is using magenta instead of red. You can mix purple from Quinacridone Magenta and Phthalo Blue. Other blues, such as Ultramarine Blue, will also work. In this post, I provide 6 recipes for mixing purple.
I also answer a number of related questions, including how to mix lavender, how to mix Dioxazine Purple, and more. You can use the table of contents to jump to specific sections. Click the “back” button in your browser to return to the table of contents.
6 Recipes for Mixing Purple
Some artists have trouble mixing purple from red and blue. Purple is easy to mix if you use magenta instead of red. Below are my 6 recipes for mixing purple. I mix these purples with acrylics but the formulas will also work with oils, gouache, and watercolor.
1 Phthalo Blue and Quinacridone Magenta
This is my favorite recipe for mixing purple. It creates a vivid purple from the colors that I already have on my palette. If you’re interested in using a limited palette, you’ll want to read my post The 7 Color You Need to Start Painting in Acrylics.
Begin with a pile of Phthalo Blue and gradually start mixing in small amounts of Quinacridone Magenta. At first, it will become a dark blue that’s a close approximation of Ultramarine Blue. Continue adding Quinacridone Magenta until it turns the shade of purple that you prefer.
The resulting purple is a dark and transparent color. If you apply it in thick layers it will look very dark. You can see this in the right side of the photo at the top of the post. It’s so dark it’s almost black.
Since both Phthalo Blue and Quinacridone Magenta are transparent, the purple will also be transparent. Apply it in thin layers to create a vibrant purple. As I describe in my post How to Make Acrylics More Vibrant, working in transparent glazes is one way to achieve vibrant colors in your paintings. It’s the transparent colors that give watercolor painting their vibrancy.
Another option is to add white to make a light purple, although it will look less saturated. In general, adding white to colors will give them a “chalky” appearance. This may be what you’re looking for if you want to use “pastel colors” in your painting.
While this is my favorite recipe for making purple, there are plenty of other options below. These may be useful if you have other blues that you want to mix purple from, or if you want to learn how to mix a variety of purples.
2 Ultramarine Blue and Quinacridone Magenta
This will create a purple that’s very similar to on you can make with Phthalo Blue and Quinacridone Magenta. One difference is the Ultramarine Blue is already biased towards magenta, so you don’t have to add as much of the magenta.
Also, Phthalo Blue has a slight bias towards green, so the Ultramarine Blue may be better suited for mixing purple. That’s because green contains yellow, and adding yellow to purple will make it duller.
3 Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue
You can use Alizarin Crimson to mix purple, but since it’s a warm red it will dull the purple substantially. Above is a mixture of Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue. The result is a dark and muted purple.
This may be what you’re looking for. Aside from flowers, very vibrant purple doesn’t occur very often in natural settings. The purple colors you’ll find in paintings with natural colors are often less saturated.
I prefer Quinacridone Magenta over Alizarin Crimson. As I describe later in this article, magenta is a primary color. You can mix a greater range of colors from it than you can with Alizarin Crimson.
4 Black & Quinacridone Magenta
While Quinacridone Magenta has a bright pink appearance, you may find it surprising that you can mix dark maroon color by simply adding black to it. This is a very simple 2 color recipe that yields a sophisticated color.
If you’re looking for a blueish purple, then this probably isn’t the recipe for you. One way to make it more purple is to add blue to it.
Another tip is that you don’t want to use Medium Magenta for this recipie because it contains white. You wouldn’t be able to achieve a dark maroon if there’s white in the mixture.