Color Spotlight: Indanthrone Blue (PB60)

Daniel Smith – Indanthrone Blue (PB60)

A deep, moody blue that gets very dark, perfect for night skies, shadows, and atmosphere!

Experiment Results

Daniel Smith is the PB60 that I originally fell in love with, not realizing it’s very different from other brands – very violet-toned, dark, and muted!

Graded Wash: Not super even, I struggled to get a streak-free wash in gradients and flat washes, but it does have quite a range of color from a very, very dark blue in masston. The color is very purple-toned and muted throughout, with the diluted end being too grayish to be useful for blue skies.

Granulation: Although listed as non-granulating, it does have some visible granulation. In my opinion, it behaves more or less as a granulating color, in that it is difficult to bloom and tends to clump together when you try (similar to Payne’s Gray). Also, many of the mixes look granulating even with non-granulating colors.

Opacity: Transparent

Glazing: Glazes to an even darker navy blue-black.

Lifting: Leaves behind residue in both lifts.

Daniel Smith Indanthrone Blue Lifting tests: Wet Paint/Dry Paper Towel vs. Dry Paint/Wet Paper Towel

Comparison to Other Brands

Da Vinci – Indanthrene Blue

Da Vinci – Indanthrene Blue (PB60)

Super different from Daniel Smith’s version in just about every way; this is a green-toned rather than a purple-toned blue that is much brighter/less muted, grades evenly, and has no texture at all! This is a super strong, juicy color. It’s almost too strong and has a tendency to overwhelm mixes. It is very similar to Phthalo Blue Red Shade (a bit darker and more muted).

Colors mixes are relatively bright and bold, and the greens are pretty bright.

Both lifts left behind a residue, though less so than DS’s version.

Lifting tests for Da Vinci Indanthrene. Left: dry paper towel on wet paint; right: wet paper towel on dry paint.

Overall, this is a much more versatile color that is easier to work with. DV’s Indanthrone Blue could stand in for a PBRS and Prussian Blue in your palette, and it doesn’t have the tricky granulation and goopiness that DV’s has.

Holbein – Royal Blue

Holbein – Royal Blue

Don’t blame Holbein for the bloom right in the middle of my swatch there, I dropped some water while it was drying.

This one gave me nice, even gradient, though I didn’t get it as dark as I would have liked. I wrote “drying shift” because it looked a lot darker before it dried.

Here are three PB60’s side-by-side.

From left: Daniel Smith Indanthrone Blue, Holbein Royal Blue, Da Vinci Indanthrene Blue

You can see that Daniel Smith is the purplest and streakiest; Holbein and Da Vinci are both smoother gradating and nearly the same color (with Da Vinci being a teensy bit greener, most noticeable in dilute). The main different I noticed between Holbein and Da Vinci was strength with Da Vinci being higher tinting. However, Da Vinci is almost too high tinting and has a tendency to overwhelm mixes, so the Holbein is a more well-behaved mixer.

Schmincke – Delft Blue

Schmincke offers two PB60’s: Delft Blue and Dark Blue. Delft Blue is the more violet hue, similar to DS, so that’s the one I tried.

Schmincke – Delft Blue (PB60)

I really like it! It has a similar hue to DS, and gets lusciously dark. You can see from the horizontal lines that it’s a fast mover, which can be troublesome. Nice color mixes with other blues.

Multi-Brand Comparison

Indanthrone Blue (PB60) comparison. From left: Daniel Smith, Schmincke (Delft Blue), Daler Rowney Artist, MaimeriBlu (Faience Blue), Da Vinci.

Quick impressions:

  • Daniel Smith Indanthrone Blue is the most purple-toned and muted (“moody”). It easily gets very dark. It has a bit of texture, and the others don’t.
  • Schmincke Delft Blue is also violet toned. I found it a very fast mover, and hard to control (likely due to the Schmincke binder rather than the specific color). It didn’t get as dark in masstone as some of the others.
  • Daler Rowney Artist Indanthrene Blue gets very dark in masstone, even from dry paint. There are some bubbles. It’s a balanced, middle color.
  • MaimeriBlu Faience Blue is very low tinting strength compared to the others.
  • Da Vinci Indanthrene Blue is one of the brightest and greenest-toned (though still certainly less so than, say, Prussian Blue.) You could use this in dilute as a sky color.

Color Mixes

I used the distinctly purple-toned Daniel Smith color for these mixes. The other brands would mix differently.

Lemon Yellow (PY175)

Lemon Yellow + Indanthrone Blue
Winsor Lemon (PY175) + DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) on Wonder Forest paper

Even with light yellows, the darkness of Indanthrone can make nice deep dark greens, similar to Perylene or Jadeite.

Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150)

Nickel Azo Yellow + Indanthrone Blue
Mission Gold Green Gold (PY150) + DS Indanthrone Blue

Because DS’s Indanthrone Blue is so purpley, these green mixes are fairly muted. With almost all Indanthrone Blue, I got a reasonable Perylene Green clone, but it was hard not to overwhelm the blue with the bold yellow.

Rich Green Gold (PY129)

Rich Green Gold + Indanthrone Blue
Daniel Smith Rich Green Gold (PY129) + Daniel Smith Indanthrone Blue (PB60) in a Wonder Forest sketchbook

Very similar mixes to Nickel Azo Yellow, just a bit more brownish an avocado-colored compared to the lemon-line undertones of the NAY mix. I found it even easier to get a great Perylene Green clone with mostly highly pigmented Indanthrone Blue.

Monte Amiata Natural Sienna

Indanthrone Blue (PB60) + Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7) on Wonder Forest paper

Not quite complementary, doesn’t exactly make gray or green… more of a weird yellow blue.

Transparent Pyrrol Orange

Transparent Pyrrol Orange + Indanthrone Blue
Daniel Smith Transparent Pyrrol Orange (PO71) + Daniel Smith Indanthrone Blue (PB60)

Use the near-complement orange to make the dark blue into a dark grey or even a solid black! With more orange, you get cool browns.

Quin Rose

Quin Rose + Indanthrone Blue
Da Vinci Red Rose Deep (PV19) + Daniel Smith Indanthrone Blue (PB60) on Arches

Dark purples/plums/wines. The highly pigmented version that’s mostly PV19 is the closest to what I’d call a “dark magenta.”

Ultramarine Blue

Ultramarine Blue + Indanthrone Blue
Holbein Ultramarine Deep (PB29) + DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) on Arches

These colors are similar enough that there’s not a lot of range. DS Indanthrone is essentially “dark ultramarine” in hue (without the granulation).

Phthalo Blue

Phthalo Blue + Indanthrone Blue
Holbein Phthalo Blue Yellow Shade (PB15:3) + DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) on Arches

Use this bright cyan to mix true navy or a night-sky gradient. (I think the dark mix in the middle looks a lot like other brands’ Indanthrone Blue.)

Viridian

Viridian + Indanthrone Blue
Winsor & Newton Viridian (PG18) + DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) on Stillman & Birn Alpha

Range of muted jades and teals. I think the mostly-Indanthrone version looks a lot like Prussian Blue.

What Others Say

Indanthrone blue– the absolutely perfect base color for the shadows and darkest cracks in the stone. In every painting I made the shadow by combining Indanthrone blue with usually at least two colors from the rest of the petrified wood, as this helped the shadow harmonize with the rest of the painting, and also made each painting have a unique shadow color.

Claire Giordano, Petrified Forest Residency: Favorite Colors

My Review of Indanthrone Blue

This is one of my most-used colors! I used the Daniel Smith version in every painting for Kolbie Blume’s 10 Day Challenge. It has so many use cases:

  • A perfect mixer for any number of shadow colors.
  • Atmospheric clouds.
  • It mutes earth tones into darker, cooler browns. Mix it with Burnt Sienna for a Burnt Umber hue, for Burnt Umber for a Van Dyke Brown hue.
  • Because it gets so dark and has such a high range of values, you can use it as the only color for a monochrome painting.
A monochrome Mount Rainier using only Daniel Smith’s Indanthrone Blue. Copy-painted from Claire Giordano’s Indigo Mount Rainier, in an Adventure Art Academy class.

When I got the DV version, I realized that it was much easier to handle and more versatile; I even used it to make clear blue skies.

“Ode to Fireweed,” a tutorial from Kolbie Blume’s Wilderness Watercolor Landscapes. Painted April 2022. This painting uses diluted Da Vinci’s Indanthrene Blue for the sky. It’s also found in the mountain mix, along with DS Perylene Violet.

Although I was initially wowed by DV’s Indanthrene Blue (is this what it’s supposed to be like???), I have to admit that I was back to Daniel Smith’s Indanthrone Blue within a few weeks. DV’s PB60 has a lower learning curve and is more generically useful, but it also has a lot of competition for its palette role: if I want a dark green-toned blue, I can use PBGS, PBRS, or Prussian Blue, whereas if I want a muted, moody, violet-blue, DS’s Indanthrone is uniquely situated to fill that need. Sure, I can mix a muted, moody, violet-blue by muting Ultramarine a bit (using Burnt Sienna or another orange), or by adding a red to one of the green-blues I noted above, but listen: I live on the New England coast. I like to paint gray-blue granite rocks and foggy skies. I need a convenience muted blue!

Local color photo taken in Wells, Maine, in March 2022. Muted blues and grays with the occasional pop of rusty orange.

On my palette? Yes, always.

Favorite version: Daniel Smith; runner up Schmincke Delft Blue. If you want a more middle dark blue (not as violet toned), consider one of the others (Da Vinci, Holbein, Winsor & Newton, or Schmincke Dark Blue.)

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