Identifying Light Colors of Purple (and How to Mix Them)

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Light colors of purple

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Color is absolutely vital when it comes to painting. As artists, when we familiarize ourselves with recognizing the different color schemes that exist around us in nature (and in other paintings), it can better serve us as we apply colors in our own art. Now when it comes to one of the most versatile and useful colors in painting, purple and (specifically what we’ll be looking at closer here) light colors of purple are on the top of that list.

In this article, we’ll explore this form of purple that often gets overlooked and take a deeper look into different variations of light purple colors. As well as, demonstrate where you might see light colors of purple in nature, and how to mix all the different variations of light purple you may come across. Let’s get started by looking at where you will find light purple most often!

How to Recognize (Where You’ll Find) Light Purple

The more you look the more you will notice the color light purple showing up everywhere. It is an incredibly important color to understand how to mix well so that you can create a wide range of different shades of the color.

As you look closer, you’ll notice light purple colors everywhere. In the landscape, you’ll find it in the shadows of trees or distant hilltops. Where as in a still life, it can be in the color of a vase or even in the texture of a fruit’s skin. And then in portraits, it can show up on cheeks or in highlight areas. The key is to observe your surroundings and identify the variations of light purple colors that exist.

Muted shades are much more prevalent than bright purple colors. You will notice this quite readily when observing your environment. The more you observe, the more aware you will become of the subtle changes and differences between different shades and colors.

How to Sensitize Yourself to Color

Painting is all about subtlety and capturing subtle transitions in color and value. This is what differentiates fine art from illustration. Therefore, it is very important to sensitize yourself to being able to see and notice the different variations of light shades of purple. You need to first be aware and be able to see before being able to mix up light shades of purple and use them in your own work.

Examples of Light Colors of Purple in Art

This watercolor by John Singer Sargent (Simplon Pass; The Tease 1911) is a wonderful example of the use of light purple to convey shadows on the women’s dresses. Notice how our eye does not read the dresses as purple even though the shadows are.

It is very helpful to study how high caliber artists use light purple colors in their work. This helps you to understand the possibilities and how to use light purple in your own work. For instance, in the watercolor painting above by John Singer Sargent we can see how he used light purple to convey shadows across the white dresses the two women are wearing. Shadow colors can often show up as light purple.

Light purple in landscape and portrait painting

In the landscape painting below can see purple shadows from the reflection of the rock cliffs. In addition, we often see faraway areas such as mountain ranges in a light purplish color.

One of the most common areas of light purple will be in shadow areas of landscapes. Once you start observing, you will notice a great variation of different shades of the color everywhere! It is incredibly powerful here as we have complementary color relationships happening here with yellow and purple together.

However, light purple is also just as relevant for portrait/ figure painting. Notice the light purple that shows up in the portrait painting below by Edouard Manet. The more you observe flesh tones, the more you will realize how vital light purple colors are.

This portrait painting by Edouard Manet (George Moore) has a wonderful range of subtle colors including light shades of purple. This color is instrumental in providing cooler skin tone colors to a portrait painting. If you study portrait paintings closely you will notice a wide range of different shades of the color everywhere.

How to Mix Light Purple Colors

Mixing up a regular light purple is fairly straight forward as it just requires the addition of white to a purple. The complexity lies in creating all of the different variations of light purple you might come across.

To create a basic light purple, you can either mix a purple straight from the tube with white or use your own blue/red purple mixture and mix that with white. However, white isn’t the only way to lighten purple. You can also use light yellow to create a light purple color. Just keep in mind that mixing yellow with purple will also mute it – so you will end up with a lighter but also more muted purple. You can see these mixtures in the diagram below.

This is a basic overview of how to mix light purple colors. It is very good to experiment with mixing different shades by using different colors of blue and red. You can get creative by mixing in small amounts of all sorts of different colors such as green, brown, orange, red etc.

You can also experiment with mixing different kinds of light purples by mixing together different reds and blues. For example, you could use magenta instead of cadmium red or Alizarin Crimson.

The importance of muted light purple

When it comes to light purple colors it is extremely important to pay attention to muted light purple colors. You will used muted light purple colors much more than a non muted light purple. The vast majority of light purples that exist in our world are muted colors.

Muted shades are absolutely vital and important. They are by far the most prevalent color you will see in your environment. Practice mixing different shades of the color.

In the chart above you can see how mixing a little bit of yellow with purple will mute it slightly. The more yellow you mix into light purple the more muted (and less purple) it will become. You can experiment by mixing in different amounts. As well, you can use different kinds of yellows such as a cadmium lemon yellow which is a light yellow, or cadmium yellow medium. Or you can mix up a darker yellow color if you need a slightly darker light muted purple color.

You can mix up an enormous range of different light purple colors – you just need to understand how color works.

How to Move Forward and Enhance Your Own Art

Take out your palette and start mixing up different shades of the color! It is important to have a strong understanding of how color works – when you do then you will have the ability to mix up any type of color you need for whatever situation you might find yourself in. Also, work on simply observing your environment and noticing the different shades of the color that you see around you.

Now that you know how to recognize light purple colors, explore how you can use them in your own artwork. Light purples can be instrumental for creating depth and dimension in a painting. Pay attention to light purple colors that show up far back in space. For instance, you can use light purple colors in the background of your landscape paintings to create a sense of distance.

Also, notice the light purple colors that show up in shadows in a landscape, still life or on skin tones of a portrait. The more you look, the more you will start to notice how prevalent light purple is everywhere. Once you understand how color works, then you can mix up any kind of purple color you may need.

Want to remember this? Save How to Create a Painting with 4 Values to your favorite Pinterest board!

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    Hello! I'm Elisabeth Larson Koehler

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    10 thoughts on “Identifying Light Colors of Purple (and How to Mix Them)”

    1. Hi Elisabeth
      Thank you for all the posts this year. For now I am having to use my phone to read them as my computer has had to go for repair’ it is taking a while to read for now
      I hope you have a great Christmas. I look forward to your posts in the new year.
      My very best wishes.
      Mike d 😁

      1. Thank you Mike! I appreciate your well wishes and kind words. Am very glad that you have enjoyed the posts this year! Hope you were able to enjoy a wonderful christmas and happy new year! We will be back very soon with new content and tutorials.

    2. Thanks so much Elisabeth, I have been using browns and greys for shadows and always wondered why its just not working well. Now I know!! Appreciate you sharing so much of your knowledge.

    3. This is great. I am working on a snow scene where light purples should abound. I will apply your lesson and hopefully get some subtle light purples for the scene.

    4. Carolyn Le Grand

      Oh wow! I am thrilled to have come across the variations of purple. I have been limiting myself to creating more tone values. Time to get with it!!

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