How to make a purple color with watercolours

Purple color with watercolor

How to make purple colour with watercolours

History of purple colour

Brief history of purple colour

Tyrian purple color is a dye extracted from a murex shellfish. Purple was first innovated during the bronze age in Tyre. Royal families in that era reserved this color for the upper crust.

Here’s a story from Phoenician mythology,

Guess who got all the credits for discovering the purple color? A dog! Yeah, even I had the same reaction that you are having. Tyros, the mistress of Tyre’s patron god Melqart. 

A couple and their dog were taking a walk on the beach. It came to the couple’s notice that after biting on a washed-up mollusk, the dog had stains of purple color on its mouth. 

The reason for the purple color’s reputation is because purple color dyes were expensive in ancient times. It was valuable because the production process of the purple colour was difficult.

According to a historian, “Ten thousand shellfish (mollusk) would produce 1 gram of dyestuff.

The color didn’t become more widely available until the 1850s, after which the first synthetic dyes were produced.

The most common confusion – Violets and Purples? Are they the same?

NO it’s not. Here is a small excerpt (not too boring) from physics on the reason. “Violet is a light spectral color whereas purple is a combination of red/blue and violet light – That the humans perceive.”

Technical difference between purple and violet


  • Intensity: Bright and saturated
  • Colour: Purple color is mixtures of red light and blue or violet light.
  • Wave length: It does not have its wavelength of light.


  • Intensity:  De-saturated color
  • Colour:  Violet is the colour of light at the short-wavelength end of the visible spectrum, between blue and invisible ultraviolet.
  • Wave length: It has a short wavelength and found at the end of the visible spectrum.

You seem to be interested in creating the perfect purple color.

-here’s the trick

How to make purple color

There’s no learning without trial and error. So Red’s and blue’s give purple. Having that in mind, let’s pick a warm red, cool red, warm blue, and cool blue and combine them in various probabilities to see the results.

Supplies that I’ve used for doing the swatches.

What colours make purple color

Here are the results of mixing the combinations for red and blue! The third one gives a beautiful bright purple.

Here are the colour and its codes.

Now that we know that cool reds and warm blues give a beautiful purple, let us pick various shades of them and test. But, there is a word of warning.

Codes of colour which create purple colour

MUD – Warning! & narrowing down to further options with Cool reds and Warm blues.

To avoid creating a muddy colour avoid mixing green or yellow with red/blue.

Here is the reason!

• Green being the complementary color of Red, will neutralize it and create mud.

• Yellow will react with the blue part and create green. This green will again neutralize red and create mud.

Having said this, let’s carefully pick reds and blues that don’t have undertones of yellow or green.

I’m picking up the below colors. – 

Cool Red – Carmine, Quin. rose and Rose madder, Warm blue – French ultramarine and a primary blue – Cobalt blue. Here are their combinations.

Cool Red’s

  1. Carmine
  2. Quin Rose
  3. Rose madder
  4. Carmine

Warm/ primary blue

  1.  Cobalt blue
  2. French Ultramarine
  3. Cobalt blue
  4. French Ultramarine

Practical applications of this color swatch mix:

Here are the shades of purple that we can consider for various areas of a painting.

I’m using Carmine + French Ultramarine to create these swatches.

  • Shadow purple can replace shadow violet. 
  • For the sky, a mid-tone of this mix would be apt.
  • The darkest shade for the darkest tone in a painting.

These choices are personal preferences and depend on the mood of the painting.

How to create purple colour in watercolour

A list of colour that will help you create purple colour

They don’t have undertones of yellow or green.

Frequently thought questions

How to make purple color with watercolors.

Cool reds mixed with warm blues that have no undertones of yellow and green will give purple.

What two colors make?

Cool reds mixed with warm blues that have no undertones of yellow and green will give purple.

How to create purple color using watercolour for beginners

 For any beginner who is just starting with watercolors, here are some best practices.

  • Always try to start with a warm primary triad and the cool primary triad and later broaden your horizon for more possibilities and favorites.
  • Minimal colors will help fasten the learning process and resolve most of the “why” that we might get in a later stage.
  • Knowledge of fresh washes and complementary colors help in the creation of a vibrant painting.

Let’s create Purple colour using watercolour tubes.

We hope you are able to create a perfect purple colour using watercolours.

Comment and let us know how many shades of purple do you know! 

Blog post by Artist: Nahid

Water color

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3 thoughts on “How to make a purple color with watercolours

  1. Dhivya says:

    Very interesting!!

  2. Sapthami says:

    It was a good read. Very informative ?

  3. Wow, very informative❤️

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