Color Spotlight: Quinacridone Gold

Daniel Smith Quinacridone Gold: graded wash, opacity/glazing/bloom tests, and color mixes.

One thing you’ll always read about Quinacridone Gold is that it used to be a single pigment, PO49, until 2017, when the supply of that pigment ran out altogether. Artists bemoan the loss of this pigment which, in retrospect, they imbue with almost magical properties. I’m too young in watercolor years to have tried it, but personally, I love the mixed Quin Gold hues that you can find now, so I’m happy!


I made these observations based on the Daniel Smith version, pictured above, which is a mix of Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150) and Quinacridone Burnt Orange (PO48).

Graded Wash: I easily got a lovely smooth graded wash here. It just grades so beautifully. In dark tones, it’s a deep ochre, and in light tones it’s a pale warm yellow. In between it goes through these lovely golds. The entire effect is glowing.

Opacity/Glazing/Blooming: Very transparent. In a glaze with itself, it turns an even darker rich ochre. I didn’t do a very good job of blooming it, and waited too long, but you can see that it would bloom if handled skillfully.

Comparison to Other Brands

Every brand has its own formulation of a quin gold hue, usually using PY150 (Nickel Azo Yellow), though the orange/sienna side of the formulation varies. Some use Transparent Red Oxide (PR101), and some use Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet (PR206).

Holbein – Quinacridone Gold

[Updated April 22, 2022 to add this section.]

Holbein Quin Gold (left) vs Daniel Smith Quin Gold (right)

Made with the same ingredients as the DS Quin Gold – PY150 + PO48 – the Holbein version looks a bit more yellowy to me, suggesting a mix with more Nickel Azo Yellow and less Quin Burnt Orange. The Holbein is a yellow-gold, while the DS has more of a caramel color. Both are granulating toward the masstone end of the range, diluting more smooth.

I wrote “runny” on the paper there as a note to myself about the consistency of the paint; this to me also smacks of a Nickel-forward mix, since Nickel Azo Yellow tends to be quite dispersive.

Schmincke Horadam – Quinacridone Gold Hue

[Updated February 27, 2022 to add this section.]

Schmincke Horadam Quinacridone Gold Hue

Again, more yellowy than Daniel Smith’s version. This one is also quite a bit less granulating. Like most Schmincke colors, I found it water dosage difficult; it’s easy to over-dilute. That may be why I didn’t get some of the lower range of the color. To me, this looks mainly like Nickel Azo Yellow; I don’t see a lot of evidence of the PR101 earth orange.

Color Mixes

Quin Coral (PR209)

DS Quin Coral (PR209) + DS Quin Gold on Canson XL

Very bold and intense, yet slightly earthy, granulating oranges. I can see this as being a great mix for alpenglow or sunset, glowing canyons. This mix is what Daniel Smith uses for Quin Sienna.

Quin Rose (PV19)

DV Red Rose Deep (PV19) + DS Quin Gold on Canson XL

Fiery yet slightly muted, grapefruit-juice coral.

Ultramarine Blue (PB29)

Holbein Ultramarine Deep (PB29) + DS Quin Gold on Canson XL

A muted set of olive greens with color separation. This combo is what DS uses to mix its Undersea Green color.

Phthalo Blue Green Shade (PB15:3)

WN Winsor Blue Green Shade (PB15:3) + DS Quin Gold on Canson XL

Bold yet muted greens. These aren’t the “greeniest” greens (use Phthalo Green for that), but you can get nice blue or yellowy greens.

Phthalo Green Blue Shade (PG7)

Winsor Green (PG7) + DS Quin Gold on Canson XL

Bolder than the Phthalo Blue mixes. The Nickel Azo Yellow mixes with the Phthalo Green to make bold yellow-greens while the Quin Burnt Orange mutes it, resulting in a bold yet naturalistic sap green. (In fact, this is the formula Daniel Smith uses for Sap Green.)

What Others Say

One of the first ten tubes I ever bought, this color is beautiful. Ideal for the first layers of color in glowing sandstone illuminated by sunrise or sunset. Forgiving and luminous when mixed with reds and pinks while retaining some earthiness, too. Unbeatable for glazing. But, when it interacts with blue it will get green-ish really fast, even in glazes. [In the desert] I used this color the most for early layers in sandstone, and in some white gouache mixtures.

Claire Giordano, Fall in the Southwest: Favorite Colors

My Review

Quinacridone Gold is my key to cheating. It lets me use earth tones, like Yellow Ochre and Raw Sienna, without actually using any earth tones. Because Quin Gold is more exciting, vibrant, and glowing than any typical earth tone, and many artists don’t count it as one at all. Still, it substitutes nicely as a yellow ochre in most use cases*, and also mixes up fabulous greens!

* Warning: if your use case for yellow ochre is creating gold touches in skies, Quin Gold will do a lovely job, BUT it may form green when it touches blue. That’s the downside of its ability to make great greens. You can’t turn it off. If it’s important to you to use a yellow ochre equivalent that doesn’t mix greens, you will want a more traditions PBr7 formulation.

What I love most about Quin Gold is its capacity to paint light. It’s perfect for golden hour, sunset skies, and warm, inviting interiors.

On my palette? A Showstopping Earth Tone that’s useful on its own and makes wonderful mixes; this is a resounding palette Hell Yes.

Favorite version: Daniel Smith

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