Color Curriculum

Saturating Red 

by Carolyn Payzant

Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist - Volume 17, Issue 4


Sometimes an artist needs a more saturated red then comes out of the tube. I believe most artists’ first reaction would be to add a touch of red complimentary color…but all that does is neutralize the red. I would like to suggest the follow alternatives. 

To get the general idea, let’s review the reds that I am most familiar with and are on my palette. 

Winsor & Newton’s PR188 Scarlet Lake is a perfect red with an orange bias. It is ST to SO. In mass tone it is fully saturated but in my opinion very opaque, making it velvety and rich. 

M. Graham’s PR209 Quinacrines Red is beautiful with equal bias between blue and orange. The orange is more of an undertone. In mass tone the pigment is transparent. I have owned the same tube for at least 8 years and the pigment is not giving as nice of a wash as it originally did; it’s a bit sticky and does not dilute as well as it did even a year ago. I need to order a new tube – everything ages! 

Daniel Smith’s PR178 Carmine is one of those have-to-have pigments. It is a rich red with a blue bias that is SO to Opaque. The appearance is like the royal velvets of the 18th century. 

To get the optimum range from these pigments I suggest the following: 

Winsor & Newton’s PR188 Scarlet Lake (a red with an orange bias) add one of three pigments. 

  • To draw out the orange side of Scarlet Lake add PO73 (I use Daniel Smith’s Pyrrol Orange) in various amounts. 
  • It goes without saying the more Pyrrol Orange the more orange the mixture. Pyrrol Orange is an extremely rich orange and is semi-transparent; one of the few oranges that is not opaque. 
  • Mix with Daniel Smith’s PR176 Carmine to create a red with orange undertones while creating a rich – slightly pink – velvety appearance. 
  • If you really want to intensify Scarlet Lake add M. Graham’s PV19 Quinacrines Violet. Again, it goes without saying the more QUO the richer the violet hue. But small amount of QUO still lets the orange in Scarlet Lake shine. 

M. Graham’s PR209 Quinacrines Red (my primary red) add one of two pigments. 

  • To draw out the orange side of this duel biased pigment add Winy PR188 Scarlet Lake. 
  • To draw out the blue side add various amounts of Daniel Smith’s PR 178 Carmine. 

To charge Daniel Smith’s PR178 Carmine (my red with a blue bias) go crazy. 

  • Add any of the multitudes of reds you own and you won’t be disappointed. This is why Dots Carmine is an indispensable pigment. You will love the black it makes with PG7 Phthalo Green with a blue bias)