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Colour mixing with pyrrole red

Posted on Fri 21 Jan 2011

Although red, orange and yellow are usually thought of as warm colours, there are cool and warm versions of all the primary colours. In this series of articles I will be introducing two warm and two cool reds. Pyrrole red is a beautiful, warm, orange bias red from the pyrrole family. This small but highly important group of red and orange pigments is one of the more recent synthetic organic pigments and was first introduced in the 1980s.


Many artists may not be aware that the automotive industry is a major driving force behind the production of superior quality pigments. The industry invests a great deal of money into the research and development of highly lightfast pigments that can withstand all weather conditions. Pyrrole red is used on expensive red sports cars and is also known as Ferrari red.
The pyrroles are becoming increasingly popular with many paint manufacturers for their reliability – they are more permanent than their fugitive counterparts, napthals and perylenes, and less toxic than the cadmiums. What I absolutely love about pyrrole red is its intensity, brilliance and clarity. Like most synthetic organics it has great staining power and makes clean mixtures without the heaviness and dull appearance sometimes associated with other reds with a similar hue.


Pyrrole red is a semi-opaque colour, and it is not only lightfast in its mass tone but has excellent permanency in tints and thin washes of colour. The pigment is suitable for many paining media, such as watercolours, acrylics, oils and alkyds; the saturation and hue seem pretty consistent across various art materials manufacturers’ ranges. Its brightness makes it ideal for applying a luminous underpainting for predominantly green paintings. It is also great for the colour of red poppies.
You can find pyrrole red across many brands of paint in different media. Golden Artist Colours offer pyrrole red, pyrrole red light, pyrrole red dark, pyrrole orange and transparent pyrrole orange.

Autumn woodland painted in mixed media

Autumn Woodland, mixed media, 16x16in (40.5x40.5cm).

On an underpainting of hansa yellow medium, I added pyrrole red light to make bright orange.
When the painting was dry I made the rich brown of the trees with pyrrole red and phthalo blue.
More strokes of pyrrole red and pyrrole orange were applied to suggest the colours of autumn

Mixing pyrrole red

  • Mix with hansa yellow medium or cadmium yellow deep to create the most beautiful intense orange.
  • Mix with ultramarine blue to produce a wonderfully dark but muted and very useful purple.
  • Mix with titanium white to create a beautiful salmon pink tint.
  • Mix with a medium green to achieve a beautiful rich velvet brown.
  • Mix with phthalo blue to achieve a very useful and gorgeous near black. This mixture can be used as a base for a whole series of beautiful greys when mixed with white and by changing the proportions of each colour and adding a variety of yellows to the mix.

Colouring mixing chart using pyrrole red

Soraya commenced her look at colour in the January issue of The Artist with a look at Naples yellow. The series will continue through all 13 issues in 2011 with a new colour in each issue. If you don't want to miss any of these and all the other great features in The Artist, why not look at our money saving subscriptions to guarantee delivery to your door every 4 weeks.


Soraya has also contributed some bonus information to accompany this article on pyrrole red, exclusively for readers of our February 2011 e-newsletter. Email if you missed your copy and would like to read more.

You can also purchase Soraya's books at discounted prices in our bookshop

Dynamic Acrylics by Soraya French

Colour mixing with pyrrole red


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