Cerulean (PB 35 or PB 36) Information: Semi-Opaque to Opaque depending on the manufacturer’s pigment Handling Characteristics: a beautiful, lower strength pigment that mixes well alone with white, and with most every pigment on my palette.
Cerulean blue is one of my favorite oil colors and I always have it out and use it often.
Each manufacturer mills their cerulean blue differently, so for one manufacturer cerulean may be an opaque paint, and where another may be semi-opaque. Even with this difference from manufacturer to manufacturer, I love incorporating this pigment into my paint mixtures.
What I value most about this oil color is its soft blue that leans towards green. It is a granular pigment that mixes in a muted way with other more fine-grained pigments, such as quinacridone rose or viridian. And when cerulean is mixed with earth pigments, it will make lustrous and soft grays (mixed with umbers) or muted greens (mixed with ochres). I think an afternoon spent exploring and fiddling with different mixtures that cerulean can create is time well spent. (I wrote a blog post four plus years ago all about my cerulean favorite paint mixtures)
Because of the diversity and how manufacturers produce cerulean, I have found at times that I squeeze out as many as three different cerulean’s on my palette, this happened when I was working on the blue quilt in the double portrait of my daughter and her friend.
At other times, when I begin a painting, I think about what I want to achieve color-wise and decide before I start the painting which cerulean will best meet my painting goals. Currently I am working on a painting with a muted but lush background and only the semi-opaque, large grained quality of the Blue Ridge Cerulean will do because of its enabling properties to create the visual vibrations of broken color so well.
It is my belief that an artist must become intimately acquainted with each pigment used on their palette, this means you need to understand its physical and mixing properties, along with knowing if the pigment “plays well” with other pigments utilized on your palette. If a pigment is “bullying” in its staining and mixing traits I will shy away from using them regularly because it is so easy to go overboard and then my painting begins to be visually dominated with that specific color.
Cerulean is a color that “plays well” with all pigments. You can mix fantastic grays, purples, and greens on your palette with this pigment, and visually it also mixes well on the canvas when you lay a pure cerulean tint over a color saturated underlayer.
All in all, I just love working with cerulean.
Row 1: Name: Cerulean (PB 36) Manufacturer: Vasari Classic Artists’ Oil Colors My Thoughts: The Vasari cerulean is made with PB 36, where all other manufacturers use PB 35. Because of this slight pigment difference the Vasari cerulean is a deeper more richly blue-green. It is one of the more finely grained cerulean’s, with an opaque covering effect. The colors straight from the tube is more reminiscent to me as the blue-green of a piquant feather--almost cobalt turquoise--that is just a smudge off from a purely saturated color, when comparing it to the other cerulean’s manufactured.
Even with its pure form being slightly desaturated, Vasari cerulean is a fantastic color to have at your disposal. I love how it is a bit more green than the other manufacturer’s cerulean blues and at times I will choose to use this cerulean just because it is such a stunning color and I just want to revel in its beauty and share it in the painting.
Row 2: Name: Cerulean (PB 35) Manufacturer: Williamsburg Handmade Oil Colors My Thoughts: The Williamsburg cerulean is made with PB 35, same to the other manufacturer examples except for Vasari. This cerulean is a fine-grained pigmently dense oil color that is a pure saturated middle-of-the-road blue-green cerulean. It is creamy and texture and mixes on the opaque site because it is so dense in pigments. I choose to use this in my painting when I want a slightly stronger effect and mixing power with other pigments.
It is a joy to use and I have so much fun when it is squeeze out on my palette.
Row 3: Name: Cerulean (PB 35) Manufacturer: Blue Ridge Oil Colors My Thoughts: The Blue Ridge Cerulean is also made with PB 35, and for the past five years it has been my predominant cerulean squeezed out on my palette. I discussed it exclusively in the blog post Favorite Paint Mixtures: Cerulean.
The reason why I like using this specific version of cerulean is because of its semi opaque characteristic and it’s somewhat larger grained granular texture. It is the closest version of cerulean in oil colors that handles like cerulean watercolor pigments handle. Because it is a bit more large grained than other manufacturers when you skim a layer of this cerulean over under layers of different colors you get the visual vibrations of broken color, the same visual effects the Impressionist strived for in their work, and something I personally also strive for in my paintings.
Due to its semi-opaques characteristic it is slightly weaker in mixing power with other pigments than the other cerulean manufacturers listed. However in this situation I like using it to my benefit in the visual effects I’m striving for.
Row 4: Name: Cerulean (PB 35) Manufacturer: Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors My Thoughts: the Gamblin cerulean is a very bright almost a royal blue. It mixes well and has good workability. I don’t often use the Gamblin cerulean because straight from the tube it is a bit lighter in value than the other manufacturers and I prefer starting with a slightly deeper in value cerulean when I need to use it straight.
Row 5: Name: Cerulean (PB 35) Manufacturer: Winsor and Newton Artists’ Oil Colors My Thoughts: The Winsor and Newton cerulean is another excellent cerulean choice, especially if you are seeking the semi-opaque mixing attributes. I used to use it exclusively prior to discovering the Blue Ridge cerulean. This cerulean is creamy and fine-grained and handles well.
In summary, I do not have an absolute favorite cerulean, but use them as I need for my painting goals.
……………………………… These articles about my color palette and the oil colors I use are the result of my experience and continued exploration. I have purchased all oil colors on my own and I have not received any reimbursement from the mentioned paint manufacturers or art supply stores. The usefulness and perceived attributes expressed here in these articles are my personal opinions. The oil color manufacturers that I will discuss in this series are: Williamsburg Handmade Oil Colors, Winsor and Newton Artists’ Oil Colors, Michael Harding Artists Oil Colours, Vasari Classic Artists’ Oil Colors, Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors, Blue Ridge Oil Colors, Old Holland Classic Oil Colors and Rublev Colours-Natural Pigments.