Used Masking Tape attached to paper

Since I covered patterns, a type of pure form, last week, I thought I’d just go with a color this week.

Last Friday was payday, so I decided to splurge on a pint of Quinacridone Red. Here is Utrecht.com’s representation of Quinacridone Red:

Its a bright red. Of course, your computer monitor works by shining beams of light outward, so bright, luminous colors are common on here. Pigments are an entirely different breed.

In paint, brightness is determined by 2 things:
1- The natural brightness of the pigment. Dioxazine Purple is very dark. Cadmiums are usually very bright.
2- The amount of pigment particles per volume. If you dilute a very bright pigment, it loses brightness. If you just add more medium to change viscocity it doesn’t matter much, but ultimately if the same number of particle have to cover a larger amount of volume, they are going to have less effect.

So because Dioxazine is a dark color if you want it to stand out you have to lighten its Value with white, which effectively makes it brighter. However, because you are diluting it with the neutral white pigments, you’re also technically decreasing its brightness, or Chroma. Given the number of pigments that start dark, or dry darker than they appear in liquid form (hello, Alizarin Crimson), this can get frustrating.

The same action both increases and decreases a color’s brightness. With Alizarin Crimson, or Dioxazine it’s almost always necessary to add white for the color to register, but if add too much you’re diluting it. Given that some of the surface texture effects I use work best when I don’t fully mix the colors, it can be even more of a hassle.

Which brings us back to Quinacridone. While the red you see above may not be overly impressive through your screen, if you catch it on canvas it’s luminosity is striking.

Cadmiums are also bright. And they cause cancer. But they don’t necessarily infect other colors with their brightness. Mix it into something else and it gets diluted. Quinacridone can be diluted, but its brightness shines with an edge to it, whether alone or mixed. It comes in more hues than red, with its purple form possibly being the single prettiest pigment available. But if you mix your own colors, you always prefer to get the primary color because it increases your options. What’s remakable about Quinacridone is if I mix it with the dull Dioxazine and some white, the resulting color is nearly as vibrant as the store bought Quinacridone purple. This is what you see on the flat sheet of color at the top of this post.

In my mind red-purple or purple-red combinations are the “prettiest” color on the color wheel. I can’t even think of another candidate. Its not my favorite color at all. I don’t use it that much (this is the only example I can think of off hand that I featured it in). It’s hard for me to specify the exact definition of “pretty” in this context. A field of orange may engage me, it may feel active, or blue may be meditative, but red-purple just sits there like a beautiful girl with absolutely nothing going on behind the eyes. It is just pretty. But very very much so.

Quinacridone Red-Purple is by far the prettiest girl at the ball.

Because of the volume of paint I use to get texture and volume of different canvases, I usually stick to an Alizarin Crimson-Dioxazine Purple. It’s cheaper. I can buy a pint of each for less than the 25$ Quinacridone. And it’s still very pretty. The Squid piece I linked to above is Alizarin-Dioxazine.

After the jump I will post some more sheets of used masking tape with the Alizarin v. Quinacridone side by side for direct comparison.

tape491 This is the regular Alizarin-Dioxazine combo.

This is more purple, so there is a smaller amount of each type of red involved. The chumky color is Alizarin-Dioxazine, the flat color is Quinacridone-Dioxazine.


To me, this is the clearest case of Quinacridone blowing Alizarin away. It may not seem like it initially, but I think that’s because the Quinacridone actually make the adjacent Alizarin bits appear brighter. cover up the Flat quinacridone parts at the bottom to only see the alizarin, then look at just the bottom. The Quinacridone just radiates.

Maybe this has something to do with it being 3 times more expensive.

Some caveats:
Crimson is a naturally darker pigment than Quinacridone. There are other bright reds I could have used in its place, such as Napthol or Cadmium. However, their red-purples don’t tend to work as well. I tend to believe this is because they each have some orange in them which ends up acting complementary to the purple, thus diluting its impact and/or looking kind of “off.”

25$ for a pint may not sound exorbitant, but consider that when painting a series of canvases I can use 10 pints of a color. I can use a third of a pint on a single setting of a single canvas if I’m going for the right texture effect. The cost piles up quickly. This is also why in each of the examples above the Alizarins have more texture while the Quinacridones are all flat. I am conserving the more expensive pigment.

Anyways, with this and last week’s post I hoped to give a glimpse into some of the thought process that can go into relatively simple considerations of the most basic, single aspects of a painting. I don’t know if anyone will actually read them, but if you ever hear a cd or watch an athlete and wished the artist would go into technical detail about their craft instead of covering the surface cliches you always hear, hopefully this will provide that.



9 Responses to “Quinacridoning”

  1. wait, you don’t use lots of medium mixed in with the paint to build those textures?
    oy! i’m distracted because my house is functioning as the local teen center at the moment, so i just skimmed this, but i will prolly be back later with more comments/questions/exclamations.

  2. Some textures can be overlaid on medium, or you can overlay a uniform coat over a layer of medium, but when you have the streaks of component colors showing through, then drag the safety pin through it, it has to be all pigment.

    • why not extend the paint by mixing as much clear gel medium into the color as you can before it starts to really get translucent? it’s like how you described the making of purple on twitter a while back only sub gel med for red and paint for blue and translucent for purple. start adding gel medium to the paint and there’s a point at which the paint becomes translucent, but up until that point, it just reads as paint.

      mixing lots of clear medium into the paint–enough to make it translucent–is often how I bring luminosity to colors like alizarin crimson or ultramarine blue if i want to avoid the sort of desaturation that can come with adding white. light reflects through glazes over white or lighter colors and makes those colors appear to glow.

  3. I now remember the integrity principle being applied against the profit motive in school. “If you are going to sell a painting for $10,000, shouldn’t you spend money on the best?”

    (*thought to self at the time “Hmmm…$10,000 a painting. That would sure buy a lot more Bologna on Mayo sangwiches. Maybe I could even start eating Pastrami on Rye with that French mustard they been advertising. Just one masterpiece and I could afford Orville Redenbacher popcorn!*)

  4. i should mention that I posted a link to this article on FB and one of the commenters mentioned that she sometimes (being careful not to make everything look peed on) brightens certain colors like alizarin with cadmium yellow rather than white. i thought that was interesting and could be nice in some cases when you wanted to keep the saturation high and bring in some warmth.

  5. Another point of course is a color’s intensity reads variously always in relation to the color it sits next to. Its all about relationships. This is why I’m divorced.

    • That’s very true and I feel like writing about a single color this way pretends as though 90% of color considerations exist (those being the combinations). But I thought it would be a funny challenge to write as much as I could about a single flat field of color without getting into the greater world.

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