BLUE Art Supply Pigment Database Watercolor Acrylic Ink Pencil Color Chart Swatch
Artist reference guide to Blue pigments in art supplies. Color chart swatch cards of common pigments in watercolor, acrylic paint, inks and pencils. Includes lightfast or fugitive information, index by pigment number code, brand, manufacturer color name, how the color appears in masstone (full strength) or diluted (with water). Each image displays opacity, lifting (erasing with a damp brush), and layering (glazing a second coat after the first has dried).
PB15 , PB15:1 , PB15:3 , PB15:4 , PB15:6 , PB16 , PB17 , PB27 , PB28 , PB29 , PB35 , PB36 , PB60 , PB66 , PB72 , PB74
PB15 Phthalocyanine Blue:
PB15:1 Phthalocyanine Blue RS:
PB15:3 Phthalocyanine Blue BGS:
PB15:4 Phthalocyanine Blue NCF:
PB15:6 Phthalocyanine Blue:
PB16 Phthalocyanine Turquoise:
PB17 Phthalocyanine Cyan:
PB27 PRUSSIAN BLUE. Fugitive pigment often mislabeled as lightfast in watercolors. Unfortunately PB27 always fades in sun, but recovers in shade
. Manufacturers who are aware of the issue may mark it as stable (LF I /BW8/max star lightfastness depending on the country) due to it's ability to regain color after
being removed from light. In my opinion, paint should not need to be taken off the wall for a nap in a dark corner for it to be considered lightfast. I avoid this pigment if planning to sell a painting or display it in a gallery, as a buyer is likely to hang it in a well-lit room. It is stable in indoor artificial light or museum low-light conditions. Artwork made with Prussian Blue will fade from nearby window lighting, which can become noticeable in rooms with large windows or in locations closer to the equator.
"BUT Kim, --- brand of Prussian Blue is lightfast!"
I'm sorry for the bad news, but it's chemically impossible for PB27 to be totally stable. It is produced by oxidation of ferrous ferrocyanide salts. Sun bleaches the FeIII
(Iron) which requires time to re-oxidize away from light. Prussian has a reaction to UV light on a chemical level, which is only reversible over time in darkness. You don't have to take my word for it though, feel free to do your own testing. For a quick test just cut a swatch card in half and tape one side to the window facing outward (be sure it's not UV-blocking glass, and it's a direction that gets the most sunlight) for 1 month. Compare the two sides of your swatch immediately upon removal from the window. You can also do some "Prussian Lightfast?" research on Google search, Dick Blick has a pigment info tab for each tube of paint
, and Handprint mentions that because this pigment can range anywhere from nearly stable to totally fugitive that you should always run lightfast tests for it. (I assure you, that I am not
the only one to come to this conclusion.) Winsor and Newton is one of the only major manufacturers to politely include a note about this on their color charts:
I advise caution about trusting company or ASTM lightfast ratings, for more than just Prussian Blue, because some testing methods offer limited information. They do not always correctly distinguish between masstone and diluted (some pigments have been proven to fade in lower % tints). They may test mixes with white paint, which is not the same as just diluting with water as in watercolor painting. It's also important to note that sometimes a larger company who supplies pigment powder to the paint manufacturer supplies them with a lightfast rating which the paint maker may not double check for accuracy.
Each Prussian Blue watercolor I've tested faded with sunlight exposure within 1-3 months. In comparison, extremely fugitive paints (such as opera neon pink) fade at about the same rate, with some brands of Opera outlasting Prussian. Totally lightfast colors can stay in direct sunlight for several years without signs of fading. PB27 is an interesting and unique pigment though, if you put it in a shady drawer for a while the color will almost regain full strength. The only variance between brands is how MUCH it will recover AFTER fading. Prussian Blue takes time to become darker again in the shade. Some brands can make a nearly-full recovery in several weeks to months. The variance may be due to the differences in pigment source, how long the UV exposure lasted, and any protection from binder additives. It is likely that the original rating came from some one who collected results and let them sit in the shade before comparing them, or decided that since it was able to recover it was OK. To me this defies the definition of a "lightfast" rating.
PB29 Ultramarine Blue: Also known as French Ultramarine, Lapis Lazuli (genuine or hue), Cobalt Blue (hue) or Permanent Blue. Non-hazardous (low to no toxicity in humans). Typically lightfast (LFI / BW8) but care must be taken to use acid-free paper, as sulfur-based pigments will discolor when exposed to acids. Ultramarine Blue is a replacement for the chemically identical Lapis Lazuli (a semi-precious stone). Daniel Smith still offers Lapis Lazuli genuine, the naturally occurring version of this pigment used in many famous paintings throughout history. It used to be reserved for the very wealthy, until chemist Jean Baptiste Guimet came up with a formula to make it synthetically in France during the 1820s. This took a surprising number of ingredients including sulfur, kaolin clay, silica, charcoal, sodium carbonate and sulfate. The ratio and heat used to create the material, and the exposure to oxygen, results in a variety of deep blue colors.
Ultramarine comes in multiple shades such as "deep" and "GS" (green shade) and when further exposed to heat and ammonium chloride (Salammoniac) it turns slightly violet. It is then renamed Ultramarine Violet PV15. Winsor and Newton have made a color called "Smalt" without the word hue. Smalt is incredibly misleading to those seeking historical pigments, as it is actually made from Ultramarine Violet PV15 and NOT genuine Smalt PB32. When you add hydrochloric acid, Ultramarine turns into a delicate pale pink called Ultramarine Pink PR259. Be aware that all Ultramarines are generally regarded as lightfast. However, "Ultramarine Green" PG24
which may be found as a raw material pigment powder, handmade watercolor or from the company "Kremer Pigment" is not lightfast.
Mixes: An incredibly useful color for mixing and often included in both beginner and professional watercolor sets. Ultramarine Blue can be mixed with PBr7 to create an ideal neutral gray. Another popular mix is with PV19, where it makes deep royal purples. Daniel Smith's mixes have reliable texture effects in wet washes, as the PB29 granulates and separates from the PV19.
PB35 Cerulean Blue:
PB36 Cobalt Chromite:
PB60 Indanthrone Blue:
PB72 Cobalt Zin Aluminate Blue:
PB74 Cobalt Zinc Silicate Blue:
Lapis Lazuli (genuine):
This natural blue mineral is often a mixture of lazurite, calcite, and pyrite. The deeper blue the mineral, the more Lazurite, and more expensive it tends to be. This is offered by a few watercolor manufacturers including Daniel Smith, Paul Rubens and Roman Szmal. It is a weak pale pigment easily replicated by diluting ultramarine blue. Historically this pigment was very expensive, as one of the only natural blues available to artists before the synthetic version was created. Ultramarine Blue is the synthetically manufactured version of natural Lapis Lazuli.
This pigment is Phthalo based, developed by Sun Chemical company for the automotive industry. Winsor and Newton has used this ingredient for their watercolor paint named "Aqua Green". It is similar in blue-green hue to Phthalo Turquoise PB16, but due to larger particle size this color also has a subtle green granulation particularly apparent in wet washes.
Vivianite (Blue Ochre): WARNING - FUGITIVE (color changing) ***
This natural hydrated iron phosphate mineral is often sold as pigment powder for those who make their own paint. DIY handmade watercolor sellers often have this, Malachite and Azurite which are extremely uncommon in professional paints. The major problem with all of these pigments is that they are chemically unstable. Daniel Smith used to offer them years ago before they were discontinued. Paul Rubens and Roman Szmal have recently added Malachite to their catalogs, and Roman Szmal also has Vivianite show below. *** These colors are not fugitive regarding UV light, so they are marketed as LFI / BW8 despite changing color over time due to chemical changes. The color turns yellow, changing blues and pale greens into warm yellow-greens due to interactions with air pollution, humidity, the chemicals used during the manufacturing process. You can cause this color change from exposure to your other paints (such as nickel from your nearby half-pan of PY150 Nickel Azo Yellow or mixing it with sulfur in your PB29 Ultramarine Blue). Not ideal for professional art.
Swatch card template
available for download here
, or get the rubber stamp here
. Swatch cards were painted on Legion Black or Arches Cold Press 100% cotton watercolor paper. Paper and brushes are available at Jackson's or Amazon here:
Where to buy art supplies shown on this page:
The following affiliate links are to places I have purchased my art materials. When available I'll include multiple reputable stores so you can compare and decide where you'd like to shop. Dick Blick ("DB" links below) is a large art supply chain store here in the USA that ships worldwide. Jackson's ("Jack" links below) is a great UK based art supply store which also ships worldwide, but carries some harder to find European products with quick low cost shipping to the USA. Amazon USA ("Ama" links below) often offers unique brands, including small business and Chinese off brand watercolor sets, that can not be found anywhere else. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Arches 100% cotton cold press 140# watercolor paper is one of the most durable surfaces for technical pen, scrubbing and lifting. It's surface sizing (coating) and texture is a good middle ground compared to the extremes of different brands. Due to these traits, and it being around for long enough to be the most commonly recommended paper for professionals, all of my swatches are done on this paper for consistency. Only white (and mica paints that do not show up on white) use the Legion Black paper instead. I buy my arches paper at Blick, and if you are in the USA this is likely the most affordable place to buy it: https://shrsl.com/2765w
Alpha by brand shopping directory:
Daniel Smith watercolors -- available on DB
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