Paint Color Names

Every brand has its own paint color names, even for (almost) the same colors. Some names indicate a pigment, and others a hue. First, I'll give the lists of names for the colors from the color mixing guide, the best color set to learn color mixing. Check here for more advanced info on oil paint color names, and an economy-quality pick of oil colors.

Oil paint

Here are the paint color names for oil paints of Blick's, Rembrandt and Winsor & Newton - for the basic starter's color mixing set. I didn't mention black and white, but you need those as well - titanium white and mars black.

"R" means: Rembrandt
"W&N" means: Winsor and Newton
"Bl" means: Blick's house brand.

Vermillion red

R: Permanent Yellow Lemon
W&N: Cadmium- or Winsor lemon
BL: cadmium yellow hue

R: Permanent Red Light
W&N: Bright- or Cadmium Red
BL: Cadmium red hue

R: Permanent Red Violet
W&N: Alizarine Crimson
BL: Crimson Alizarine

prussian blue

R: Prussian Blue
W&N: Phtalo Turquoise
BL: Prussian Blue

R: Ultramarine Deep
W&N: French Ultramarine
BL: Ultramarine

Acrylic paint color names

These are the paint color names for Golden Acrylics
(the basic color mixing list, like above). Best take the "heavy body"-version, it's great for creating structure.

  • Titanium white
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Cobalt Teal (this is Turquoise)
  • Primary- or Hansa yellow
  • Cadmium red light (or, cheaper: naphtol red light)
  • Alizarine Crimson historic hue
  • Carbon black

The reason for picking Golden as a brand here is: their Alizarine Crimson - it's hard to find a good acrylic carmine. You can order them here at blick's. Click here for more on acrylic painting techniques

Paint color names for watercolors

In watercolor paints, you only have very refined pigments and hardly any filler or binder. Here are the Winsor & Newton paint color names of the basic color mixing list (without the white), for watercolor-techniques. Check here for info on other colors of watercolor paint

  • Cobalt turquoise Light (turquoise)Cobalt blue deep or French Ultramarine (dark blue)
  • Rose Madder Genuine (magenta) - this paint actually smells like roses!
  • New Gamboge (Yellow)
  • Cadmium red (light red)
  • Alizarine Crimson (carmine)
  • Mars black

General info on paint color names

  • If you really want to know what's behind the paint color names, check the pigment number on the tube and look it up in the painting bible - Ralph Meyer's "Artist's handbook of materials" - to find out more about it. >
  • If the term "hue" is added to the color name, it's an imitation (more hiding, more lightfast, or just cheaper).
  • These color names indicate a specific pigment material: Mars (iron), Titanium, Cadmium, Quinacridone, Dioxazine, Ultramarine, Permanent, Hansa, Iron oxyde, Cobalt, Manganese, Nickel titane, Zinc, Cremser.
  • Other paint color names indicate a "hue", a specific useful shade, like: Cyan (an almost turquoise blue), Turquoise (greenish light blue), Purple, Violet, Magenta (pure pink). Check out the pigment number to see what they're made of. Magenta's are most beautiful in quinacridone.
  • Earth colors are literally ground earth, usually named after the place they were found. But the synthetic ones, made of iron oxyde, are chemically very close to the natural product. Check here for more on earth colors.

Pigment characters

Every pigment has it's own character. If the pigment name is in the paint color name, you can trust that paint to be made of that pigment - except when there's the word "hue" added to it.

  • Cadmiums (reds, oranges and yellows) have a strong hide, and they're relatively light by themselves. Cadmium yellow is the strongest cold yellow around. Indian yellow is a much warmer and more transparant yellow.
  • Some pigments make very transparant paints (although, sometimes that's blocked by fillers etc). These transparant paints can look dark to almost black, when coming right out of the tube: Alizarine Crimson, Viridian green, Ultramarine blue. To make them actually red, green or blue, you need to add a little white to them, or paint them half-transparant on white. If you paint them pure on a dark or contrasting background, they'll can look black.
  • Viridian green is good to have, because it's a very pure and cold green - it's a unique shade and difficult to mix. But you can mix it into dozens of greens and turquoise
  • Quinacridones are lustrous, semi-transparant and stable pigments - great for magenta's. Permanent pigments can be very transparant too, especially if you make your own paint - and don't manipulate them with fillers.
  • Whites all have their own very specific features - click here to read more on whites.

Here you can read more on oil paints and oil paint colors

Paint brand features

For earth colors, just take a house brand version (like Blick Oil Colors from Blick Art Materials), because they're simple paints and pigments. In this case, cheaper is better. For other specific colors, sometimes it's better to buy a good brand. The best authentic (and expensive) paints are from Old Holland paints, but Winsor and Newton has very good paints too. It seems as if they keep colors like ultramarine or alizarine crimson more dark and transparant, which makes the colors very versatile. Winsor and Newton also has very good watercolor paints.

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