My Palette: Red

August 15, 2007 at 5:34 pm 5 comments

I use two reds on my palette: cadmium red and alizarin crimson.

Red paint

Cadmium Red

I use Golden Paints‘ Cadmium Red (Golden is the brand name, not the paint color). Cadmium colors tend to be very bright, opaque, and warm in tone. “Warm” is artspeak for colors that tend toward the red-orange-yellow hues. A warm red like cadmium, for example, has a slight orange cast to it, almost like a tomato (but not quite that orange).

Cadmium is a heavy metal like mercury, and it is similarly poisonous. So, don’t eat the paint! Actually, I try not to get it on my skin, and if a little gets on me I wash it off quickly. It would be safest to wear latex gloves to avoid all contact, but I hate wearing gloves.

Alizarin Crimson

Alizarin (stress the second syllable) is a very ancient dye color, originally made from madder root. Interestingly madder creates an orange-red color, but alizarin paints are typically a cooler red, that is, red with a slight blue tint. True alizarin is very fugitive (fades quickly). I haven’t seen it used in acrylic paint. Instead, synthetic pigments are used to approximate the color, but without the fading problem.

The alizarin crimson I use is Winsor & Newton‘s Permanent Alizarin Crimson. The word “permanent” indicates that the paint is a synthetic version. I don’t know how good an approximation the Winsor & Newton color is, but I do know that of all the alizarins I’ve tried it’s by far my favorite. It’s a very clean, rich color with no muddiness. I also sometimes use Golden Paints’ Quinacridone Crimson as a pretty close substitute, though it is slightly more blue than I like. Other brands I’ve tried were more muddy. Both the alizarins I use are pretty transparent, which I believe derives from the quinacridone pigments (synthetic pigments like quinacridone tend to be transparent, while natural earth-pigments like cadmium tend to be opaque).

Next time I’ll talk about how I use both reds in my paintings. You can see my paintings on my web site.

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Entry filed under: Color, Painting, Palette.

The Foothills Paper – July 13, 2007 Using Red

5 Comments

  • 1. Using Red « Barbara J Carter  |  August 16, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    […] my previous post for a discussion of the two red colors I use in my paintings: alizarin crimson and cadmium […]

  • 2. My Palette: Yellow « Barbara J Carter  |  September 12, 2007 at 11:17 am

    […] I discussed in my post about my reds, cadmium colors are typically “warm”. In the case of cadmium yellow, that means it […]

  • 3. Painting Prep « Barbara J Carter  |  November 2, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    […] is first toned with my background color, red. For my California landscape paintings, I usually use cadmium red. This toning process takes several days because I paint not just the front surface but all 4 sides […]

  • 4. Inspiration: Stephen Quiller « Barbara J Carter  |  August 26, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    […] my self-education. Armed with this understanding, I pared my palette down to just a few primaries: two reds, two yellows, and two blues (plus white, of course). Each primary color allows me to […]

  • 5. Using White « Barbara J Carter  |  December 17, 2012 at 11:34 am

    […] with other colors. It lends opacity in mixes with transparent colors like ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson. A little white can tone down a saturated color. White can also make mixed colors a little cooler, […]


Barbara J Carter

I'm an artist. I make paintings with dots.

I work in acrylic paint, in a couple of distinct styles: landscapes and abstracts.

Native to California, I've lived elsewhere and only recently returned to my home state. I now live in Los Angeles.

I mostly show my art in outdoor festivals in California. I also occasionally show my work in art galleries or open studio events. You can see an up-to-date list of upcoming shows on my website (click here).

I invite you to sign up to receive my free email newsletter, in which I list my upcoming shows and talk about my latest work. I send it irregularly, a few times a year.

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Why I call my landscapes neo-Pointillist landscape paintings

A bunch of my abstract dot paintings

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