View Full Version : Sky Blue Cerulean Blue

06-17-2002, 03:52 PM
What is good for various sky blues. I have used Winsor and Newton Finity Acrylics colour Cerulean Blue for skys and water. I have since bought a tube of Golden cerulean blue and found it to be a very different colour. I like it but it is very different. The W&N paint is very expensive, but the art store owner tells me that the golden cerulean blue is a true cerulean blue.

Any comments on this would be appreciated. Also what do you guys and gals use for a true sky blue.

thanks for your help


06-17-2002, 08:37 PM
It depends on what part of the sky you're painting, what time of day, etc.

Cerulean (or any other greenish blue/cyan) is generally good for the lower part of the sky. Up higher, I like the hue of cobalt blue, and near the zenith, ultramarine, or even more purplish than that. I amlost always add quite a bit of white to lighten the value of whichever blue(s) I'm using in the sky. As a beginner, I almost always made the mistake of making it too dark...now I know better.

In the afternoon, and closer to sunrise & sunset, you need to start throwing in white, oranges, pinks and purples too.

06-19-2002, 12:40 AM
Golden's cerulean sure is different from the Winsor & Newton colour which illustrates the variety of hues this colour can be. The name cerulean is actually used for a small group of related pigments, which, with minor variations in chemistry, can be anything from a mid-blue to deep blue-green. You mention the W&N colour is very expensive, isn't the Golden colour around the same price?

I like W&N's Cerulean Blue for summer skies, lightened with white for near the horizon. It's decent opacity makes it nice to work with; try brushing it loosely over a pale salmon colour, makes for some lovely effects. Further up from the horizon I have used Cobalt Blue but these days I would probably simply use various mixes of Phthalo Blue, Titanium White and Ultramarine (much cheaper too!) For the deep vault of the sky on a clear day glazes of Phthalo Blue and a touch of something like Quinacridone Rose are hard to beat, mixes just can't capture the same look. For dull winter skies try Ultramarine with a little of a red earth (this is basically Payne's Grey but more interesting and you can vary the hue at will) lightened with Titanium White. You can make anything from a light, cool overcast to warm brooding clouds with just these three colours.

Experiment and see what looks accurate to you; given the fairly small number of blues painters generally use study the work of people you like and try to guess which they used for a particular effect. And as Patrick says above, you can throw in a lot of other colours that make for some very interesting colour relationships, remember the sky's not always blue!


06-19-2002, 01:53 AM
Here's some elaboration about what I meant about throwing in colors other than blue around sunset. This is what I've found by observation. As the day progresses, more bold colors come into play in the lowest part of the sky. Around noon, it's often whitish near the horizon. Later on, it becomes more orangy. Then around sunset you get dusky pinks and purples. I found that around sunset, some of the nicest sky colors are away from where the sun is.

Here's my 'formula' I devised for sunset/twilight sky, looking away from the sun. Any corrections or comments are appreciated.


At the top, you have the deepest blue, although it's kindof greyish. Way down lower, you have orange. In between, you have a near-white (often very slightly greenish). This is the lightest value color here. Below the orange, you have pink, lower still, greyish purple. From the orange down it gets progressively darker. You'll often have clouds whose base color is similar to the color of the lowest, darkest purple.

Using airbrush on the computer painting program, this gradation in sky colors is easy. With actual paint and brushes, I could never get such smoothness and cleanliness of colors, especially in the mixes.

Now I'm trying to figure out how the sky color progresses throughout the day. When I have time, I'll take pictures at various times of the day to try to 'formulize' how the colors change as the day progresses.

Einion, I'll try glazing to get that deep sky look you describe. I haven't yet tried any glazing on any paintings, but I want to see if it really does give the depth it's supposed to.

06-19-2002, 09:13 AM
Thank you very much for the help. I find all the comments invaluable as I have only been painting for one year.

Since I paint only landscapes with lots of different skies, I think I will invest in a few different blues. Cost is not really a concern, and I am more interested in which blues are best for skies. If different companies paint is that different for the same colour, then I will have to buy paint from different companies. This will require going to different stores, but so be it.

Any comments on Manganese Blue for skies. Someone in the art store told be it's all they use.

I have uderpainted skys with cadmium orange and burnt sienna, which worked out nicely. I will try a salmon colour as Enion suggests. will also try glazing, which I have never really done before.

I also like the sky demonstration Domer has posted. I will try this one day, building up a sky at different levels with different colours.

06-19-2002, 09:19 PM
Ivan, Manganese Blue is a nice colour but it's very transparent and weak in mixes, and it's expensive to boot. You'd also be hard-pressed to find it in acrylics. Frankly IMO there are much better colours to spend one's money on unless you want it for a specific effect.

Patrick, that sky looks just fine to me, I have a couple of photos that look almost exactly like it. If you want to do a simple glazing test try this, mix a tint of Phthalo Blue or Ultramarine, say value 5, and paint a small square, 5cm or so. Paint another square white and glaze over it with light glazes of whichever blue with a lot of medium until the value is the same. There should be a huge difference in the chroma and in the depth that reproductions don't capture adequately.


cobalt fingers
06-27-2002, 08:47 PM
heres a thought...the lovely colors in the store are tempting and I really like those pretty blues, but most times you'll want to knock down the tube colors if you want the sky to recede. It is very often, the most distant thing in your painting.

06-28-2002, 10:06 AM
Ivan, It also depends on which part of the country you are in.

Here in New York, on the island, the sky is a cerulean base with streemy clouds in muted peaches and rose. the sea is an ultra blue base. I say base because nothing is what comes out of the tube.

Stand in front of the scene and say to yourself, "What color is that?" Nine times out of ten you'll hit it ( it'll be a mix) right on the head.