Who’s Afraid of Phthalo Blue?

Gardens 01-160321-minekereinders-watercolor

In this post I talk about some of the pigments I use. If that’s not of interest to you, feel free to go straight to the new paintings.

If you’re a painter, you probably know that phthalocyanine blue is a powerful synthetic pigment that really packs a punch. I, for one, have always been a little scared of it. I’ve owned a tube of phthalo blue for ages, and it’s still almost full. The little dab of it that I put into one of the wells on my palette has lasted for a few years without needing replenishment. Its strong personality easily overpowers its neighbors, so I usually opt for the gentler blues: ultramarine, cobalt, or cerulean.

Until now, that is. For the first painting in my new series, Gardens, I wanted a strong, bright green that only a mix of phthalo blue and cadmium yellow light could produce. It proved quite satisfactory – and the rest is history. I’ve not only overcome my fear of phthalo, but I’ve developed quite a friendship with it. It can shine with youthful exuberance, but it can also support the other players in the painting without drawing too much attention to itself. Mix it with a little quinacridone gold and add a touch of red (any red will do), and you’ll be rewarded with a rich, dark green that doesn’t shout at you.

You can see phthalo in action in the first of the Gardens paintings (above). Mixed with a little cadmium yellow light to make the bright green vine leaves at the top, and toned down with a touch of red for the hosta leaves in the lower left corner. I’ve used small amounts of phthalo in other mixes throughout the painting. 

I’m glad I finally warmed up to phthalo after years of neglecting this blue, which I now think of as pretty cool!
Do you have a particular color you’re afraid to use? Let me know in the comments below.

Don’t forget to check out the first six watercolors in my new series, Gardens

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5 thoughts on “Who’s Afraid of Phthalo Blue?

  1. Thea says:

    More posts on colors please, this was fantastic! I love the circles of color you included in the post, almost edible. The garden watercolor is glorious, so vivid and pulsing with life force energy. How did you make the blue of those great arbor shadows that fall on the ground? And I love the backround dark blue notes, it really captures the depth and sanctuary of a green arbor on a hot day.

    • mineke says:

      Thank you, Thea! I could talk about colors, brushes, and paper all day long, so look forward to more about that in the future. Thanks for your compliment on the painting. The shadows were done with cobalt blue, a touch (just a little) of phthalo, and a tiny amount of quinacridone red dropped in – it’s the spot that shows a hint of purple. The background dark is primarily ultramarine, with a tiny amount of phthalo and quin gold added.

  2. Harry says:

    Ik onderschrijf het verzoek van Thea, dat je vaker over kleuren (gebruik, mengingen, etc) zou ‘moeten ‘ schrijven. Erg verhelderend. Ik ben met aquarelleren aan het experimenteren en heb daarvan geen phtaloblauw, maar in olieverf heb ik het wel en durf het ook nooit te gebruiken. Nu misschien ook daar toch eens experimenteren
    Bedankt voor je blog!

    • mineke says:

      Met genoegen, al vrees ik dat dat niet voor al mijn lezers even interessant is, maar ik vind het zelf wel erg leuk om over te vertellen en zal het zeker vaker doen. Ik zou zeker eens met phthalo experimenteren. Met olieverf kun je je er ook geen grote buil aan vallen, want als het niet bevalt kun je het overschilderen, wat bij aquarel niet zo goed gaat. Maar je kunt je kleurenmix altijd even uitproberen op een klein stukje aquarelpapier om te zien of het is wat je in gedachten had. Bedankt voor je reactie en veel plezier met experimenteren!

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