What color is Caesar purple? By just looking at the swatch of paint on the tube, you can venture a guess, but without having used the paint before, it is difficult to be sure of its color, texture, opacity, drying time, and many other characteristics that influence how you might use it in a painting.
For example, the color of some paints leans towards the warm side, while others lean towards the cool side. Some have a pasty texture, while others are more fluid. Some paints are a little transparent, while others are opaque, easily covering any background. And some paints take a few days to dry, while others take more than twice as long. All these factors need to be taken into account when deciding which paints will help you achieve your desired result.
In art, developing a visual memory of different colors and their characteristics is one of the fundamental necessities to being able to accurately transfer images from your mind onto the canvas. Because a standard palette is commonly used and sold (usually in sets of 6, 12, 18, or 24), with practice, these colors become ingrained in your mind after repeated use.
However, while these colors mixed together can create many new colors, they cannot create all colors. As a result, at times you may find yourself limited by the size of your palette. For example, a landscape painter may find that he would like a greater range of yellows, greens, and blues, while a portrait painter may want to add more reds, oranges, and browns to her palette.
When purchasing paints that you have not used before, you may run into the problem I had with Caesar purple. Just what color is this? What properties does it have?
A simple and easy solution is to create a color chart and swatch all of your new colors. I show this 3-step process below.
- Canvas panel (any size)
- Various oil paints
- Paper towels
- Black Sharpie
Step 1 – Creating grids on the canvas panel: I first draw a grid onto a 30 in. x 18 in. canvas panel. Any sized canvas panel will do. A canvas panel is a piece of heavy cardboard covered with primed cotton fabric, and I use it because it’s a cheap option, typically costing just a couple dollars.
Using a pencil and ruler, I draw gridlines spaced 2 in. apart. This spacing is small enough to fit a good number of paint swatches on the canvas, and large enough to fit the paint swatch and any descriptions.
Step 2 – Labeling the colors: Within each 2 in. x 2 in. box, I jot down the paint’s manufacturer and name (e.g., Gamblin cobalt teal). Writing down the manufacturer is helpful because the same paint name, e.g. cobalt teal, can vary slightly across different manufacturers.
Does color order matter? Ordering your color swatches by hue (e.g., light yellow, medium yellow, dark yellow, etc.) can help in more easily differentiating similar colors. Placing these colors side-by-side allows for quick comparison by highlighting the nuances. However, there’s no need in fastidiously trying to optimize the color order, since it is very likely that additional paints that will disrupt the original order will be purchased in the near future.
Including additional description: While I only note the paint’s manufacturer and name, you can also leave some room to jot down other characteristics of the paint, such as drying time, etc.
Step 3 – Swatching the paint: After the grid is labeled, it is time to start swatching the paints. Be careful that the color being swatched matches its label on the grid…
The method I use to swatch paints is relatively easy and requires very little clean-up. I squeeze a thumbnail amount of paint directly from the tube onto the canvas and use the tip of the tube to smear the paint around, covering approximately one-fourth of the paint’s designated square.
Smearing the paint: Next, I use a piece of paper towel to smear half of the paint. As a result, one half is left untouched, while the other half is smudged out. This “draws out” the paint, allowing for an accurate understanding of the paint’s hue. This is particularly helpful with darker colors such as indigo. As seen below, the paint out of the tube appears very dark and almost black, making it difficult to gauge the paint’s actual color. Only by looking at a very thin layer of it, achieved through smearing, can the true color be seen.
Swatching whites: In oil painting, there are a variety of whites to choose from, including zinc white, titanium white, transparent white, and more. These whites differ in their color, texture, opacity, finish, tinting strength, drying time, and more.
When swatching whites, one of its key properties we want to determine is its opacity. This can be achieved by smearing the white paint across a dark background and seeing how well it covers. I have used a black Sharpie pen to draw a thick line, over which I swatch two white paints. As seen below, Winsor & Newton’s transparent white truly is transparent compared to Mussini’s zinc white. Even a fairly thick dollop reveals the black line underneath.
It is difficult to see in the photograph above, but transparent white is also more fluid than zinc white, and it is slightly warmer in color as well.
Finished! These are all the steps to creating your own color board! Here is mine:
So what color is Caesar purple?