Tuesday, July 22, 2008

art stuff - why Thalo Blue?

Hello all:

On my pallette I only have one blue - Thalo Blue (also spelled Pthalocyanine and Pthalo). It is a very intense and extremely bright blue. Why would I have that blue on my pallette you might ask? The answer is - if I ever need to make a bright blue - Thalo blue is the blue for the job. AND, most importantly, I can make all other blues from it. I can make Ultramarine, Cerrulean, Prussian - all blues.

I could never make anything "bright" with plain ol' tubes of Cerrulean, Prussian, etc. It really makes life so simple to just have one tube of blue. I used to own every tube that there was and paint can be really heavy to carry around.

Also, Thalo Blue mixes really well with the other colors of my pallette. It is transparent and doesn't obliterate the color that its mixed with. And, you don't need a lot! Just a bitty dab will do the trick.

Thalo Blue is a cool color - as opposed to a warm color. Did you know that sky is a "warm" blue? Anything in our world is warm colored because it is hit by the sun. So, if you are going to do sky - make sure that your blue is warmed up. You can put a tiny bit of Cadmium Orange into it (don't use too much because it will become green when mixed with the Thalo Blue).

Any time that you want to dull down a color - always use its opposite. Cadmium Orange is the opposite/complimentary color of Thalo Blue - so it takes the intensity out of the Thalo and makes it more appealing. Warm colors draw people in, cool colors push them away.
In the little painting that I did above, called "Lake Champlain Winter 3," I used Thalo Blue and its complimentary oranges: Cadmium Orange, Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna. I just loved doing this painting. Lake Champlain is always a symphony of color any time of the year. It was really cold and everything was frozen solid.
Let's see what my art student's come up with tonight. You'll be reading about it! - Kathy


  1. Hi Kathleen
    I am a new blogger, so am learning and finding things all the time. Your Pthalo blue painting is superb and your advice on colours is another thing I've learned blogging around. Thanks

  2. Hey Kathleen,
    I find Phtalo to be a bit on the "green" side of blue where ultramarine in on the "purple" side. I like placing the two next to each other. Phtalo can sometimes be too intense but they are interesting when they interact.

  3. I can make Ultramarine Blue using Thalo Blue and Alizarin Crimson (the violet on my palette). Also, the other colors on my palette can dull the blue down. A good way to dull down Thalo blue is to use its opposite/complimentary color - which is orange (a dark orange). My dark orange is Burnt Sienna. Burnt Umber is also a nice combo with Thalo Blue.

  4. You have such great advice on your blog. I love reading all the comments. Being a self taught painter, I have learned a lot from your writings. Thanks for sharing. I am a constant visitor.

  5. you cannot make ultramarine blue from pthalo blue-they are pre-mixed 'pure' pigments, nor can you make cereulean blue or cobalt from ultramarine or pthalo.
    you have to buy 'pure pigments' ultramarine,cobalt, (blues with red in them to make purples),
    pthalo and cerulean (blues with green in them)- you learn this when constructing a basic colour wheel, colour theory. it would be worth checking out colour wheels on the net if you are interested in mixing colours-because you need to know what blues, for instance, will make the green or purple you are after.

  6. You can think what you like but you can make all those blues from thalo blue. There is absolutely no reason to buy all those tubes of paint. - Kathy

  7. Hello Kathleen, I am a professional artist in Peterborough New Hampshire and ran across your blog which I enjoyed. I would clear up a salient point however Anonymous and you are both correct in part about the use of Thalo. Although you can use Thalo to create what to the eye is a number of other colors they will not be as pure or more importantly react chemically the same when used with other color compounds. The Pthalocyanine is a modern replacement for what was once a compund that used cyanide as a color enhancer to the pigment. Cyanine is not nearly as toxic for use and much like Prussian Blue it was reformulated for safety. But the chemical properties are much the same. When used with ANY copper based sulfates it can produce an Acid green which will encrease in power over the years as it reacts to the cyanine until it is either day glo green or black. Many artist have not studied the basic properties of the chemicals which are the structure of oil paints. Other properties to study up on are the basic molecular shape of the particles making up the pigment as they will decide how much light is reflected, refracted or absorbed into the ground as much by the shape as the color. ( The molocules that make up Acrylics are Flat ellipsoids much like blood cells. They overlap and tighten as they dry giving a flatter and drier look than oils with out any light refraction from spaces of clear oil between particles that you get from oils.
    A Most important book to read written in the late 1800's by Max Doerner is "The Materials of the Artist". This is and has been for over a hundred years the Bible of painting in oils. Although some things are dated, the basic knowledge in color, and pigments bought or made remains the same. Tempura, water, and pastel are also discussed. I would highly recommend the chapter on "Techniques of the Masters."
    Good fortune! Peterborough, NH

  8. Hi again Kathy. My mind has continued to think about your color comments and I had a few other thoughts to share. Another great inexpensive book to consider is "The Oil Painters Pocket Pallette). Which contains a graphical swatch chart of over 600 oil color mixes.
    Some colors to avoid are any (Lakes) as they are organic pigments that being made of things like crushed Geraniums or Mussels will fade drastically under light. Also any Green paint with copper, cyamide, or cyanine as an additive. Oxides are very stable paints but care must be taken when mixing them with a metallic pigment as the oxide increases oxidization of the metal and creates a tarnish or patina to develop. Sulfides can cause paint to dry faster and create early brittleness and cracking so a use of a good oil helps balance its effect. Here are two good pages that may help people to start thinking of how paints work with time, and each other.
    An interesting bit of History is that up until the mid 1970's many oil paint producers made paints with additives that caused paints from competing companies that you might mix with to darken or dull. This made the consumer believe that only paints bought from the same company gave the best results. Sometimes these paints still surface when buying or receiving an old or outdated supply of unused paint tubes. So avoid old free paint that you cannot date. Peterborough NH

  9. Dear Anonymous from Peterborough, NH:
    Thank-you so much for this information!!! I had never learned this when I went to school (too many decades ago) and, when I found my last teacher, Helen Van Wyk, she was the first teacher to teach anything about colors and how they interacted with each other. Her method worked for me and opened a whole new world of painting that, until I studied with Helen, I was unable to enter. I will save and print up your information to pass on to my students. I so appreciate you taking the time to share this with all of us. There is so much more to painting than just dipping our brushes into paint. Thank-you, again, for this extremely useful information. And, thank-you for visiting my blog!!