Eight Reds and How to Use Them

‘Tis the season to be…mixing reds! Following on from an exploration into the blues and yellows found in Jackson’s Artist Acrylics, here is a summary of eight reds found in the range and how you might utilise some of them in a restricted palette of just five colours. Although I have used Jackson’s Artist Acrylics for this article, pigment characteristics are very similar across all brands, and so the information here is not brand specific. Read on to learn what pigments are used in each of these distinct shades, and take a look at suggested palettes that you might incorporate these reds into, as well as a look at what happens to the mood of your mixes when you use two reds together.

The Jackson’s Artist Acrylic range has nine Reds in it. They are:

Orange/Red

Pigment: PO5 (Beta Napthol Scarlet)

Also often named Hansa Orange. A semi-opaque staining orange with medium tinting strength. From the tube, Orange/Red is a fiery, deep orange. When diluted with more and more quantities of water the hue becomes slightly pinky. When mixed with white it creates a pale peachy hue that could be useful in painting caucasian white skin. For this article I used Orange/Red with Opaque Oxide of Chromium, Ivory Black, Raw Sienna and Titanium White.

Cadmium Red Genuine

Pigment: PR108

Cadmium Red is a bright orangey red that is opaque, staining, moderately dark valued, very intense red/orange with good tinting strength. It is described on Jacksonsart.com as strong and fiery. Adding white to it creates bright pinks, while diluting it with water makes a very slightly earthy brick red. Rich and deep browns are made when mixed with black.

Fot this post I used Cadmium Red Genuine in a palette with Napthol Red, Yellow Ochre and Hookers Green. I also did a comparison with Cadmium Red Hue.

Cadmium Red Hue

Pigment: PR112

From Jacksonsart.com : Jackson’s Cadmium Red Hue looks similar to Cadmium Red but is made with a less expensive pigment. Useful if a lot of red is needed.

Made with Napthol Red pigment, this is a lightfast, transparent, heavily staining, moderately dark valued, intense orange red pigment, although it is a little more pink and more transparent than the genuine version. For this post I did I direct comparison with Cadmium Red Genuine.

Cadmium Red Deep Genuine

Pigment: PR108

A darker shade of the same Cadmium red pigment used for Cadmium Red Genuine. A strong, deep red that can sometimes appear slightly dull when put next to vibrant transparent greens such as Phthalo, but works beautifully in the context of a harmonious palette. It is very opaque, matte, and when diluted has the appearance of a faded burgundy colour. When mixed with white it become a very dusty rose hue that would be useful for portraiture or flower painting. Fot his post I incorporated Cadmium Red Deep Genuine in a palette comprising Primrose Yellow, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue Genuine.

Crimson

Pigment: PR112, PR122 – a blend of Napthol and Quinacridone Magenta

From Jacksonsart.com: A deep rich crimson with warm, subtle undertones. 

From the tube, Crimson is slightly lighter in tone than Alizarin Crimson, and appears more red/pink than Alizarin too (which moves closer to violet). When mixed with white it makes a beautiful, sweet candy-pink colour. When diluted with water it maintains its strong crimson hue, demonstrating its high staining power. For this post I mixed Crimson with French Ultramarine, Lemon Yellow and Paynes Grey.

Alizarin Crimson Hue

Pigment:PR112 PR12 – a blend of Napthol and Permanent Bordeaux

From Jacksonsart.com: This earthy red-brown provides a richness that compliments landscapes and natural scenes perfectly.

Alizarin Crimson is often found in starter sets of paints, and is that rich, cool, bluey-red that contrasts orange reds such as Vermilion or Bright Red. When mixed with white it takes on a dusty pink colour, less bright than pinks mixed with Crimson, and slightly more violet than the pinks mixed with Rose Madder Quinacridone. When diluted with increasing amounts of water the Alizarin becomes a classic rose hue. For this post I contrasted the deep decandence of Alizarin Crimson with the bright freshness of Cadmium Yellow Deep, the warm earthiness of Mars Brown and Ultramarine Violet Hue, which could be seens as a rival to Alizarin as it shares a similar staining capacity and rich, deep, lustrous hue.

Napthol Red

Pigment: PR12 (Napthol, also often called Permanent Bordeaux)

From Jacksonsart.com: This red is extremely deep and rich – it is excellent for shadows and could be used to replace black when it is too overpowering in mixes.

Napthol Red from the tube appears very similar to Alizarin Crimson, almost identical but is very slightly darker. When mixed with white it becomes a violet-pink with an earthy quality. When diluted with water it become a purple-pink. For this post I used it in a bright palette comprising Cadmium Red Genuine, Yellow Ochre and Hookers Green.

Rose Madder Quinacridone

Pigment: PV19 Quinacridone Violet

From Jacksonsart.com: This is an intense, semi-transparent cherry red that is extremely lightfast.

Rose Madder Quinacridone is a bright, sweet popping-pink, which when mixed with white, creates beautiful bright pinks. When diluted the brightness slows fades and makes almost fluorescent-looking pinks. For this post I used Rose Madder Quinacridone in a palette with Phthalo Green, Raw Umber and Turquoise.

Magenta

Pigment: PR122

From Jacksonsart.com: Great for blending and glazing.

PR122 is Quinacridone Magenta pigment. This is a semi-transparent, staining, deep red-pink with a slight violet bias.

The value in colour mixing for the sake of it

Before I present the palettes I want to stress how educational spending time mixing colours for the sake of it is. By mixing colours without considering subject matter you will open up possibilities and become more familiar with your pigments. You will create useful charts that can be kept on the wall or in a sketchbook as a quick reference guide. You will soon begin to know what kind of mixes your favourite colours are capable of. If you are a representational painter you may feel that bright colours are not for you, but may still dream of using them! By mixing colours and playing with unfamiliar palettes you will soon see how certain mixes are exocative of certain moods, and may be a step closer to seeing how you might be able to incorporate more exotic colours in your painting in a convincing, harmonious way. The palettes in this post below intentionally stick to 4 colours plus white to show the sheer array of what can be achieved with such a limited palette, and demonstrate that less pigments will inevitably mean less mud-mixing, too.

What’s the Difference between Cadmium Red Genuine and Cadmium Red Hue? – A quick side note

Before I dive into the palettes, here’s a quick note about the difference between Cadmium Red Genuine and Cadmium Red Hue. In the Jackson’s Artist Acrylic range, Cadmium Red Hue is made of a Napthol Red pigment. as a result it is slightly deeper in colour when squeezed from the tube, in comparison to Cadmium Red Genuine. When dragged down a sheet of acrylic painting paper, it’s transparency becomes apparent, in contrast to the genuine cadmium pigment, which maintains its opacity as it is dragged down the page with a palette knife. When I started to thin the paint out further with a wet clean brush, the pinkiness of the colour became more apparent. They are noticeably different colours and will make different colour mixes, and are not interchangeable. My suggestion is to think of them as different colours, rather than Cadmium Red Hue being a straight alternative to Cadmium Red Genuine.

Napthol Red / Cadmium Red Genuine / Yellow Ochre / Hookers Green

Top row: Napthol Red mixed with increasing quantities of white
2nd row: Naptol Red diluted with increasing amounts of water
Below these rows are a chart combining two colours + white, and around this are an array of various mixes using only these four colours plus white.

This is the only palette in this post that uses two shades of red. The Napthol Red has a blue/violet bias, while the Cadmium Red has an orange bias, offering a cool and warm red. I chose to add Hookers Green to this palette as an alternative to a blue, and then added a Yellow Ochre as it looked gold-like, so all in all it’s a rather Christmassy palette!

The chart on the left shows how bright the mixes can be, with the bright red and green being the strongest most vibrant hues. The mixes to the right show that when these colours are combined and mixed with white too, you can make some beautiful soft pinks, earth colours and naturalistic greens. The green mixed with a touch of Napthol allows it to perform the role of the missing blue, showing that there is plenty of range in this palette. I can imagine these colours being used in a portrait or landscape composition.

Orange/Red / Oxide of Chromium / Raw Sienna / Black

Top row: Orange/Red mixed with increasing quantities of white
2nd row: Orange/Red diluted with increasing amounts of water
Below these rows are a chart combining two colours + white, and around this are an array of various mixes using only these four colours plus white.

For this palette I was keen to keep the colours natural and earthy, so although the Orange/Red is fiery and bright, it is still very naturalistic (think geraniums!). Oxide of Chromium is an opaque, natural green, Raw Sienna is transparent mid-tone brown that is very gentle in mixes, and the Black in the range is similar to an Ivory Black, with a warm grey colour when mixed with white.

The mixes that these four colours can achieve are beautifully harmonious, and I can imagine would work well in a landscape, be it rural or urban, with the potential for lots of brick reds and concrete greys, but also pastoral greens and golds, too. However this palette is not only well suited to landscape – there’s plenty of scope for many different skin tones too.

Rose Madder Quinacridone / Phthalo Green / Raw Umber / Turquoise

Top row: Rose Madder Quinacridone mixed with increasing quantities of white
2nd row: Rose Madder Quinacridone diluted with increasing amounts of water
Below these rows are a chart combining two colours + white, and around this are an array of various mixes using only these four colours plus white.

This evokes some of Matisse’s Fauvist works to me. As with all the palettes, but this one in particular, I feel the mixing and the potential for a wide range of colour could have gone on for several more pages. As it is I seemed to bathe in the greens and blues for a substantial amount of time! But you’ll also see violets and pinks, and then when you bring Raw Umber into the mix, you find scope for some solid browns and greys that anchor the colours, offering a good tonal range and a mix of earthiness and exoticism. This palette would be perfect for a mediterranean garden, or a flower painting, or a seascape.

Cadmium Red Deep Genuine / Primrose Yellow / Burnt Sienna / Cobalt Blue Genuine

Top row: Cadmium Red Deep Genuine mixed with increasing quantities of white
2nd row: Cadmium Red Deep Genuine diluted with increasing amounts of water
Below these rows are a chart combining two colours + white, and around this are an array of various mixes using only these four colours plus white.

Cadmium Red Deep Genuine has a solid richness that is earthy and able to make some beautiful browns by mixing with Burnt Sienna, and when mixed with Cobalt Blue, the resulting purple has a brown tinge. Adding white to these mixes creates some pale ochres and greys. The pale butteriness of Primrose Yellow combines with the blue to create minty greens. When Primrose Yellow is mixed with Cadmium Red Deep, the oranges look peachy and could be used to paint white skin tones. This is another good palette for portrait painting as there’s plenty of scope for all kinds of skin tones, and you can have lots of fun painting colourist shadows using the greens and blues.

Crimson / French Ultramarine / Lemon Yellow / Paynes Grey

Top row: Crimson mixed with increasing quantities of white
2nd row: Crimson diluted with increasing amounts of water
Below these rows are a chart combining two colours + white, and around this are an array of various mixes using only these four colours plus white.

This palette would be the closest to the archetypal ‘Primary’ palette to be found in this post, with a bright red, yellow and blue forming a relatively equally spaced triad on a colour wheel. The result of this of course is the potential to mix almost any colour. I could have made so many more varied mixes if I’d carried on mixing on more and more pages. The vibrancy of these colours on their own or mixed with one other colour is clearly evident on the left of the image; once you start combining three or more colours, and then adding white, there’s potential for softer pinks, beiges and greys. A really versatile palette that could work for literally any subject matter.

Alizarin Crimson / Cadmium Yellow Deep / Mars Brown / Ultramarine Violet Hue

Top row: Alizarin Crimson mixed with increasing quantities of white
2nd row: Alizarin Crimson diluted with increasing amounts of water
Below these rows are a chart combining two colours + white, and around this are an array of various mixes using only these four colours plus white.

For this palette I used three warm colours and then added a very cool violet to counterbalance. The result of this as you can see on the left of the image in particular is a lot of scope for warm browns, green ochres and deep reds. When adding more colour to these mixes, you begin to see more bruise-like colours, dirty pinks, and warm oranges. Mixing the violet and red also makes for the potential for some beautiful warm greys. This is a very serene and warm palette, it feels very dusky, and would be a beautiful palette to use for a portrait in half-light, or a landscape as the sun is setting.

Conclusion

Here are a variety of very limited palettes that immediately evoke moods. It takes confidence to really restrict your palette, but if you take the leap, you’ll be able to create paintings that are harmonious and have a clear mood, while the colours remain vibrant and un-muddy too.

Jackson’s Artist Acrylics on Jacksonsart.com

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