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View Full Version : Cerulean and Ultra Blue- Who is the coolest?


impressionist2
04-09-2002, 06:51 AM
It is with trepidation that I dredge up the muddied waters of a topic that cause a war on another list a couple of years ago. This time I will quietly observe instead of throwing my two cents in.

Charles Sovek clearly states ( and perhaps incorrectly so) in his book, "Oil Painting, Develop Your Natural Ability" ( which btw, is, along with All his books, going into reprinting) that ultramarine blue is the cooler blue, because it has violet in it. Well, we all know the violet he refers to is from the red in the ultra blue, which one could argue, is the stronger warm over the yellow in cerulean blue.

He also states, accurately so, that it All depends on which color each blue is placed next to that determines it's temperature. However, that when placed side by side, ultra is the cooler. Personally, I think ultra looks warmer ( and can certainly accept that red is warmer than yellow) but there is something mucky about cerulean that makes me favor ultra over it under certain circumstances. Ultra seems to be a cleaner blue.

What think you?

Renee

NorahT
04-09-2002, 11:05 AM
IMHO Ultramarine is warmer than Cerulean. The cerulean is somewhat opaque, which may account for the "mucky" look to it :)

Einion
04-09-2002, 07:38 PM
Renee there is no one right or wrong answer here. The determination of colour temperature in the way we mean it is based on how we feel about colour, not the actual temperature of the light reflected from it (where for example violet is the hottest colour and red the coolest). So as long as we're agreed we are talking completely subjectively here goes...

Just to correct something, although Ultramarine does reflect red light and Cerulean does reflect some yellow it is the leaning of a colour that is important visually. You cannot for example see that Ultramarine reflects yellow light or that Cerulean reflects some violet, right? And while a blue does technically lean towards red it cannot be said to be red-biased as violet is the next hue around the wheel, any more than a yellow would be called blueish because it leans towards green. It's possible to go into a lot more detail about the actual reflectance of colours as has been discussed here at great length previously but the main concern really is apparent colour bias.

Back to temperature, most people agree that red, orange and yellow are warm, while blue, green and violet are cool. Value can also play a strong part with certain hues, in blues lower value is generally seen as cooler, this is certainly true for myself. Since both green and violet are cool colours, which is cooler depends on the specific hue in question and personal determination but greens are usually seen as warmer than violets. So even bearing in mind the big differences in a given pigment from maker to maker in this case for me there is no question, Cerulean Blues are all far warmer than Ultramarines to me. Ultramarine is typically a deep, intense (saturated) violet-biased blue that looks very cold in masstone while Cerulean is a medium-valued, slightly unsaturated green-blue that looks quite warm.

Now aside from all this philosophical talk, I think thinking of this kind can get in the way of really seeing colour so is there any reason this is actually important in practice?

Einion

Patrick1
04-09-2002, 09:41 PM
Okay...here's a question that might help here. Kindof a survey.

Which color or hue do you consider the coolest-looking to you, regardless of what you're read or heard?

Although I often hear turquoise or a greenish blue like cyan, to my eyes, a middle blue looks coolest (phthalo blue RS).

Patrick1
04-09-2002, 10:02 PM
Looking at actual pigments, I got to admit ultramarine does look the coolest to me...even cooler than either phthalo blue GR or RS. Almost certainly because of its higher saturation to my eyes.

So you can't just consider hue alone.

walden
04-09-2002, 10:40 PM
Warm and cool aren't like east and west-- no matter how far east you go, you can still go east, right? Those are directions, while warm and cool are comparative qualities. So, from the standpoint of the absolute coolest color on the wheel (whatever one might consider that to be), the colors on both sides of it are relatively warmer-- which means, both directions are warm.

impressionist2
04-11-2002, 09:28 AM
Einion wrote:
"Now aside from all this philosophical talk, I think thinking of this kind can get in
the way of really seeing colour so is there any reason this is actually important
in practice?"

Einion, No, there's no reason. It's all intuitive in the field ( studio, etc.)- at least it should be.

The main reason I brought it up, is the last round-we-go I got involved in became a battle of the authors. The watercolorist/author who argued the "cerulean is cooler" and rejected Sovek and Wilcoxs' "ultra is cooler" theory, left me wondering how these published artists could be so dichotomous in their viewpoints. I guess it really is "don't believe everything you read" and find out for yourself.

Renee

John H
04-15-2002, 09:48 PM
In a landscape context, if the sun (yellow) is the warmest thing in the picture then cerulean would probably be seen as the warmer blue.

DanaT
04-15-2002, 11:21 PM
Originally posted by John H
In a landscape context, if the sun (yellow) is the warmest thing in the picture then cerulean would probably be seen as the warmer blue.

JohnH, this is how I was taught to distinguish between warm and cool colors.
Blue being the absolute coolest and yellow being the absolute warmest.

As colors go towards yellow on the color wheel they get warmer; as they go towards blue they get cooler. Since cerulean is closer to yellow on the color wheel it is warmer than ultramarine.

Now I have heard of theories which say that red is the warmest not yellow, but this isn't how I was taught.

walden
04-15-2002, 11:56 PM
This discussion got me to thinking about the physics of visible light, and wondering if there was any relationship between artists' perceptions and definitions of warm & cool and the actual physical wavelengths of the colors, so I looked it up. The visible portion of the spectrum starts with red (longest wavelenth) and continues, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet (shortest wavelength.) (Actually, it's ROYGBIV with the I standing for indigo, but I left that out because what the heck is it? Just dark blue, I think. ) Anyway, for what it's worth, that seems to me to be an argument for red as the warmest and violet as the coldest. Not that it really matters, of course-- just interesting to think about. :)

bruin70
04-16-2002, 06:22 AM
ultramarine is cooler.

Einion
04-16-2002, 10:56 PM
Originally posted by DanaT
Now I have heard of theories which say that red is the warmest not yellow, but this isn't how I was taught.
Judge for yourself, which colour do you see as warmer? People generally agree that a red-orange/orange-red is the hottest (something around Cadmium Red Light) and I certainly agree with this.

Originally posted by walden
This discussion got me to thinking about the physics of visible light... so I looked it up. The visible portion of the spectrum starts with red (longest wavelenth) and continues, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet (shortest wavelength.)... Anyway, for what it's worth, that seems to me to be an argument for red as the warmest and violet as the coldest.
Lisa, in terms of actual temperature violet is the hot end, red the cool end as stated above. Regardless of the direction the electromagnetic spectrum is displayed (left to right or vice-versa) longer wavelengths = less energetic, shorter wavelengths = more energetic. What makes this most interesting (red being coolest but seen as hottest) I feel is that it is nearly the exact opposite of reality.

Just as an interesting aside, long wavelengths are given out at lower temperatures so, as we all know, humans radiate infrared, right? But we also give out energy below this level so we're all radio sources too! This is also why washing machines radiate microwaves (radio waves of a certain wavelength, hence their name) in case you had ever heard this.

Originally posted by walden
Actually, it's ROYGBIV with the I standing for indigo, but I left that out because what the heck is it? Just dark blue, I think.
It's good that you left it out. Indigo, as part of the visible spectrum, is a figment of Newton's imagination (I could have said pigment of Newton's imagination but I wouldn't do that to you guys!) Anyway, what he saw as indigo is now regarded as just the blue/violet boundary. So the schoolroom mnemonic Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain is now Richard Of <font color="#FFFF02">York</font color="#FFFF02"> Gave Battle Vainly.

Einion

DanaT
04-17-2002, 06:25 PM
Originally posted by Einion

People generally agree that a red-orange/orange-red is the hottest.
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If people generally agreed that a red-orange is the hottest, we wouldn't have a controversy.

But you bring up a good point, what do I see as warmer? I see yellow because, as I said, that is what I was taught, and I didn't have a point of reference for color temperature before then.

Since then, I've noticed I have a better color sense with cool colors than warm ones, and ultramarine blue was the first blue I could get a handle on using. Actually blues in general were easiesr for me to use effectively, followed by reds, and lastly yellows.

So my own experience has reinforced what I was taught. If I had been taught differently, would I have seen things differently? I don't know.

Einion
04-19-2002, 08:04 PM
Originally posted by DanaT
If people generally agreed that a red-orange is the hottest, we wouldn't have a controversy.
Hehe, good point. Not my opinion though, most sources state as much. You might like to have a look at <A HREF=http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/color3.html#warmcool>this page</A> of the Handprint site for more on this.

Einion

Scott Methvin
04-22-2002, 11:01 AM
Thalo blue is a cyan blue if you get the right one. Cyan is THE primary blue. The bluest blue. You can make a french ultramarine from cyan. but you can't make a cyan with french ultramarine. Cerelean blue is made with cobalt blue.

I vote for thalo over all three.

Hottest combination, in my opinion, is an orange red.

All these cool-warm distinctions are influences by the colors they sit next to.

Yellow is a powerful color that can quickly take over a painting.

walden
04-22-2002, 01:13 PM
Scott, can you recommend a brand for pthalo blue in oils that you would consider "the right one"? I used it in watercolor, but haven't yet in oils. The W&N line lists 2 pthalo blues, one towards green, one towards red, both PB15, so I wouldn't know which to choose-- I really hate it when they do that.

Scott Methvin
04-22-2002, 01:59 PM
Hi Lisa,

The best and most perfect cyan I have found is Grumbacher Pre-Tested thalo blue. Maimeri makes a nice primary blue also. (Puro)
There are a lot of varieties. Why someone would want a reddish blue or a greenish blue, when they can mix their own to taste, is beyond me.

Thalo is so strong, it takes some practice use it. The pigment particles are extremely small, which can be used to good effect. Hard to clean up though.

Einion
04-22-2002, 07:57 PM
Hey Scott, we were just comparing Cerulean and Ultramarine, no fair bringing in another colour! :D If you buy orange-reds/red-oranges being the hottest colour Scott is right, cyan blues are the appropriate counterpart.

BTW although I appreciate the underlying theory, you can mix close to Ultramarine using cyan, but you can't match it perfectly especially since we have nothing as close to true magenta as we have for cyan (sorry, it's the pedant in me, hehe)


Lisa, if it's a choice between one or the other the green shade is probably the more versatile and if you already have Ultramarine you have probably the best violet-biased blue out there anyway so you don't need anything else close to it.

Phthalo Blue Green Shade (PB15:3) is the cyan type of PB15 the Grumbacher colour Scott uses is very likely this colour, although it might be Phthalocyanine Cyan (PB17). The blue shade (PB15:1 or PB15:6) leans in the opposite direction, although if you want a blue of this type I would choose Ultramarine or deep versions of Cobalt Blue any day but neither is nearly as transparent as phthalo blue if you want a glazing colour.

Einion

Einion
04-22-2002, 08:10 PM
P.S. Nice to see you Lisa!

walden
04-22-2002, 11:15 PM
Thanks! :)

cobalt fingers
06-07-2002, 06:09 PM
This is a widely agreed (except herein) add white to each. Neither are such matters personal opinions unless that involves some color blindness which more men have that women as we know too. Milt and Charles are right!

Einion
06-09-2002, 05:23 AM
Hey Tim, are you saying Ultramarine is the coolest blue period? If so what colour do you think is the warmest?

Einion