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PRIMARY BLUE

    • Chemical Description: Phthalocyanine blue, trace Titanium dioxide

    • Pigment Numbers: PB15.3 PW6

    • Lightfastness Rating: ASTM I

    • Pigment Opacity: Semi-Transparent

    • Paint Opacity: Semi-Transparent

    • Series 2

    Primary Blue is a surprise package for the artist. Primary Yellow and Primary Red are designed to work with it in 3, 4, and 5 color mixing methods and Primary Blue works perfectly for that as expected, but while Primary Yellow and Primary Red work in conventional color mixing scenarios in a way very similar to the pigments near to them on the color chart and so cannot be considered as unique independent colors, Primary Blue is a unique color that is valued by artists using a wide variety of techniques.

    Its role as one of the 3 basic primary colors should be examined first since this is the reason for its existence in the first place. While artists often use the term loosely to indicate any kind of yellow, red or blue it is not true that all pigments in those color ranges is equally good at mixing colors. Ultramarine Blue, for example cannot make bright greens since it is too reddish of a blue to do that, although it is well suited to making violets. A golden yellow similarly is not so good for making bright greens but is good for making orange. When a color, however, is exactly in the center of the spectrum hue, a yellow for example that is neither greenish or reddish, it is able to create the widest range of colors. A center of the yellow spectrum yellow can therefore make good greens as well as good oranges. The spectrum centered red makes both orange and violet, and the spectrum centered blue makes both greens and violets. This is the basis of the 4 color printing process in which black is added to the 3 spectrum centered primaries and white is contributed by the white of the paper. For an acrylic painting to follow a similar methodology, white needs to be provided by adding white paint to the mixes since paint is usually applied more thickly than printing ink and covers the white of the ground too efficiently to not use the tube white. For many years printing inks have used a particular shade of Phthalo Blue mixed with a lot of extender to lighten it to the color they call cyan. Matisse has avoided the extenders as they would make the color too transparent to be useful as a paint and have blended the correct shade of Phthalo Blue pigment with white to get this lovely cyan-like color.

    Mixing colors with the other two primary colors shows the powerful potential of these colors - it really is possible to reduce your palette down to five colors and yet paint full color pictures. Mixing the Primary Blue with Primary Yellow results in a bright green of great beauty. Mixing Primary Blue with Primary red in front of students often gets comments like “Oh, wow” because the resulting violet is so clean and beautiful. Using these 3 primaries plus black and white is the perfect way for teachers to demonstrate the basic theories of color mixing. It is very simple, but a class can be entranced for hours as they learn how much they can do with so little.

    Primary Blue doesn’t need its primary cousins to shine, however. The landscape artist soon discovers that Primary Blue mixed with Australian Sky Blue makes fabulous sky colors. Ocean can also benefit from this color. Tropical seas, especially on the Great Barrier Reef or in the Coral Sea of North Queensland or the Indian Ocean in places like Monkey Mia where the dolphins come to the shore to play with the humans, or in the Timor Sea, or in the Caribbean - all have beautiful turquoise colors in the water. This is seen to great effect in watercolors by Winslow Homer in places like Bermuda. Those turquoise colors can be made by mixing Primary Blue with Cobalt Teal. Even greener turquoises can be made by mixing with Aqua Green Light. These colors are exquisite and closely resemble the sorts of colors in the turquoise gemstone itself.

    Mixing Primary Blue with earth colors is another surprise. Transparent Yellow Oxide and Primary Blue make a wide range of greens from bottle green to transparent earthy olives and leaf greens. Transparent Red Oxide with Primary Blue makes a rich warm but greenish black with an ochre undertone. Primary Blue is full of surprises and rewards experimentation with gorgeous colors.

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