Color Spotlight: Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101)

Daniel Smith Transparent Brown Oxide: gradient, opacity and glazing tests, blooms, and color mixes

Made from PR101, Transparent Brown Oxide is a transparent, lightly granulating brown right down the middle, neither especially red, orange, or gray. A real brown’s brown. Tree bark and other landscape features spring to mind. This is the more brown cousin of Transparent Red Oxide, a burnt sienna/orange shade made from the same pigment.

Experiment Results

Graded Wash: Grades nicely. Dark brown in mass, it dilutes down to transparent ecru. Every gradation along the way is one I’d describe as a shade of brown, not orange/red/any other color. If this brown has any cast, I’d say it’s yellow.

Granulation: This is listed as granulating on the DS website, but I’d say it’s borderline. There’s a bit of texture in the juicy wash, but both the masstone and the dilute tones look pretty non-granulating. The mixes also tend not to look too granulating.

Opacity/Glazing: Fully transparent and extremely glazable, the glaze turning into a deep almost black-brown.

Blooms: Strong blooms! Although I didn’t find this particularly granulating, in the bloom you can see more of the granules grouping together at the edges of the paint lines. Still, the fact that it blooms at all is another indicator that it’s not very granulating.

Comparison to Other Colors

Transparent Red Oxide

Color Spotlight swatches from Transparent Red Oxide and Transparent Brown Oxide next to each other.

Though it uses the same pigment as Transparent Red Oxide, Transparent Brown Oxide lacks the fiery, eye-catching red/orange undertones of its cousin. When I initially swatched out the DS earth colors, I asked myself, “Why would I ever use Transparent Brown Oxide when I could use Transparent Red Oxide?” Well, I’ve answered my question:

  1. They occupy different “earth tone” slots, so you could use both. While I would classify TRO as a Burnt Sienna alternative, TBO is more of a Burnt Umber alternative. This is really the number one reason. They are just doing different things.
  2. TBO has less granulation. TRO is better if you want a lot of texture, but TBO mixes more completely with other colors.

Burnt Umber

Top: DV Burnt Umber (PBr7). Bottom: DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101).

Burnt Umber is the closest match in hue. Both are transparent, granulating, middle browns. TBO is a bit more orange (at least compared to this DV Burnt Umber). I found Burnt Umber easier to get dark/masstone, with TBO I had to work at it more.

Comparison to Other Brands

So many brands use PR101 for so many things (including Transparent Red Oxide but also Indian Red, Venetian Red and others), that it can be difficult to identify the equivalent of Transparent Brown Oxide in other brands. Here are some that I think are equivalent:

  • American Journey – Transparent Oxide Brown
  • Schmincke Horadam – Transparent Umber

Unfortunately, I haven’t tried either one!

Color Mixes

Transparent Brown Oxide is a lovely mixer. It is so transparent that it just chameleons into whatever color you mix it into, making something new. Dr. Oto Kano was very impressed by its capacity transform their usual mixing range of bright colors into a nice range of autumny jewel tones.

In my post, Mix a Range of Browns with Just One Earth Tone, I found that TRO mixed a very cohesive range of nostalgia, sepia-toned hues.

Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) color mixing wheel

Let’s look at some more color mixes individually.

Winsor Yellow

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + Winsor Yellow (PY154) on Stilman & Birn Alpha

That said, we start with one of my least favorite mixes. I think the yellow somehow makes the TBO look grayish.

Monte Amiata Natural Sienna

DS Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7) + DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) on Wonder Forest paper

Much better. Lovely granulating golden browns. Slightly orangey/peachy in dilute.

Quin Burnt Orange

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + DS Quinacridone Burnt Orange (PO48)

QBO is very similar to TBO’s cousin TRO, but it doesn’t have as much range. One potential solution to that problem is to pair it with TBO which can make up the darker end of the range. The second and third mixes here look a lot to me like masstone TRO.

Transparent Pyrrol Orange

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + DS Transparent Pyrrol Orange (PO71) on Wonder Forest paper

Not the biggest fan of these mixes. Somehow TPO + TBO doesn’t look as nice as a one-pigment earth orange.

Quin Coral

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + DS Quinacridone Coral (PR209)

Bold, fiery earth orange/burnt sienna hues.

Deep Scarlet

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + DS Deep Scarlet (PR175) on Wonder Forest paper

More rich red clay-earth browns, but redder (less orangey) and duller than the Quin Coral ones.

Alizarin Crimson Quinacridone

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + DV Alizarin Crimson Quinacridone (PV19) on Wonder Forest

Brick colors.

Quin Magenta

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + Holbein Quinacridone Magenta (PR122)

A mix of red-browns that remind me of Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet. This does not really ever make a bold scarlet or crimson because the mixes are too dull.

Perylene Violet

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + DS Perylene Violet (PV29) on Wonder Forest paper

Somehow, the violet looks like straight-up dark brown when compared to the medium brown of the TBO. A range of rich, velvety dark browns.

Indanthrone Blue

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) on Wonder Forest paper

As with many colors on the brown/orange spectrum, TBO makes slate blue-grays and dark cool browns with Indanthrone Blue. I guess TBO isn’t really all that yellow, since they’re nowhere near green. You can almost get a black color when they’re both full-strength. Very similar to the mix of IB and Transparent Red Oxide, though not as good IMO (which gets more neutral gray in the middle, is more granulating, and makes richer deep browns).

Cerulean

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + DV Cerulean Genuine (PB36)

Really cool granulation from the Cerulean; the patterns look like water to me.

More mixed swatches give you cool browns to gray-blues with interesting texture that never get as dark as Indanthrone mixes.

Marine Blue

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + Holbein Marine Blue (PB16) on Wonder Forest paper

My favorite mix here is the extremely deep jewel-tone teal.

Prussian Blue

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + Holbein Prussian Blue (PB27) on Wonder Forest paper

Greenish dark browns; the mostly-blue mix is very similar to the Marine Blue jewel teal mix.

Cobalt Turquoise

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + SH Cobalt Turquoise (PG50)

Another nice beachy/pondy textured dirt-to-water mix. The mostly-TBO mix is one of the nicer cool browns.

Phthalo Green

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + DV Phthalo Green (PG7)

I see the granulation more in this mix, especially since it can’t possibly be coming from the super-smooth Phthalo Green. I wouldn’t turn to TBO to mix up natural-looking greens, but PG can add a muddy-river or mossy-log look to the TBO, and a pasty mix with a lot of both makes a really nice very dark green/Perylene Green hue.

Serpentine

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + DS Serpentine Genuine on Wonder Forest paper

I really like this combo – the TBO picked up the brownish granulation in the Serpentine in a really nature-looking way. This is a great mossy-log combo.

Rich Green Gold

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + DS Rich Green Gold (PY129) on Wonder Forest paper

Not super inspired by these, but I guess I can imagine needing a gross oxidized-avocado color.

My Overall Thoughts

If, like me, you’re not really into brown, you might not be impressed by this one on its own, but in mixes or glowing golden-brown glazes, it comes alive. It transforms all colors into a lovely range of autumny tones. It’s a very pleasant convenience brown, and plays nicely with other paints. I was so impressed with this that, for awhile. I considered it as my only earth tone on my palette.

Over time, I came to find it less useful, mainly because it has limited range. It can make a dark brown, but it’s difficult to get. It wants to stay in the midtones. I often want brown for darkening and muting other colors, which this doesn’t really do – that’s its superpower, it makes colors into glowing brown tones, not dull ones! So while this has a similar unmixed hue to Burnt Umber, it can’t really do the jobs that Burnt Umber is often called on to do.

On my palette: No, I’ve replaced it on my Autumn Palette with Burnt Umber.

Favorite version: DS is the only PR101 umber alternative I’ve tried extensively, although I think Schmincke’s Transparent Umber is pretty similar and probably also good.

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