Color Spotlight: Indanthrone Blue (PB60)

Daniel Smith – Indanthrone Blue (PB60)

Also known as Indanthrene, this is a deep, moody blue that gets very dark, perfect for night skies, shadows, and atmosphere!

Observations of Daniel Smith Indanthrone Blue

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 masstone. 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, the DS Indanthrone in particular does have some visible texture/flocculation. In some ways, 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 Ultramarine). Also, many of the mixes look textured, even with non-granulating colors.

Opacity: Transparent

Lifting/Staining: Staining. 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! In terms of hue, it is more similar to Phthalo Blue Red Shade (just a bit darker and more muted). This is strong, juicy color with a tendency to overwhelm mixes, but it does undergo a drying shift, making it dry a bit less dark than DS’s even though it looks just as dark when wet.

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 is more of a middle blue and doesn’t have the tricky texture and streakiness that DS’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.

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

PB60 comparison. Top row, from left: Daniel Smith; Schmincke (Delft Blue); Daler Rowney Artist. Bottom row, from left: MaimeriBlue (Faience Blue); Winsor & Newton; Da Vinci; Sennelier.

Quick impressions:

  • Daniel Smith Indanthrone Blue is the most purple-toned and muted (“moody”). It easily gets very dark. It has a bit more texture than most.
  • 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. Although I do not believe DRA uses honey as a binder, I found the paint fairly sticky.
  • MaimeriBlu Faience Blue is very low tinting strength compared to the others, and I got some cauliflowering (may have been user error).
  • Winsor & Newton Indanthrene Blue does not seem to get as dark as the others in masstone, and/or has a wider drying shift. It is well-behaved in terms of staying where you put it. and not very textured. The color is slightly green-toned. I would say this is similar to Holbein’s Royal Blue (not shown in this array).
  • Da Vinci Indanthrene Blue is one of the brightest and greenest-toned. You could use this in dilute as a sky color. It does have a drying shift and goes down even brighter when wet.
  • Sennelier Bleu Indanthrene is very easy to rewet (and sticky, as with all Sennelier colors I’ve tried) and gets lusciously dark, even from dry paint. It was probably the greenest-toned I tried. Perhaps a tad more muted than Da Vinci, but nearly imperceptibly. It could definitely be used as a sky color. It painted out a bit streaky.

Color Mixes

I used the distinctly purple-toned Daniel Smith color for these mixes. As DS is an outlier in terms of how violet-toned it is, 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.

Imidazolone Yellow (PY154)

Daniel Smith Indanthrone Blue (PB60) + Mission Gold Permanent Yellow Light (PY154) on Canson XL

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.

Naples Yellow Deep

WN Naples Yellow Deep (PBr24) + DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) on Canson XL

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.

Raw Sienna

DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) + DV Raw Sienna (PBr7) on Canson XL

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.

Burnt Sienna Deep (PR101)

DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) + DV Burnt Sienna Deep (PR101) on Canson XL

Lovely range of deep blues, black, gray, and browns. This is one of my favorite combinations!

Deep Scarlet

Deep Scarlet + Indanthrone
DS Deep Scarlet (PR175) + DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) on Arches

Quin Coral (PR209)

DS Quin Coral (PR209) + DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) on Canson XL

Quin Rose (PV19)

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.”

Quin Magenta (PR122)

Purple Magenta + Indanthrone Blue
SH Purple Magenta (PR122) + DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) on Arches

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.)

Cobalt Turquoise (PG50)

Cobalt Turquoise + Indanthrone Blue
SH Cobalt Turquoise (PG50) + DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) on Arches


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

[Daniel Smith] 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

In my tests, Da Vinci Indanthrene and QoR Indanthrone appear as a nice, soft denim blue and display little red. In dilution, both perform extremely well but in full saturation, I greatly prefer the richness of Da Vinci.

Tonya @ Scratchmade Journal, Watercolor Comparison: Indanthrone Blue

[Rembrandt Indanthrene Blue] is a very dark-valued blue and can be almost black in masstone, but it has a pretty big drying shift. While I did like the color when I had it in my palette, I found that I didn’t use it all that much. Its main use for me was to neutralise it and use it as a blue grey in stormy skies, but then I thought I could use Payne’s Grey to do the the same thing, so I never put it back in my palette… Now I just stick to Phthalo Blue Red Shade, Cobalt Blue, and Payne’s Grey. They do everything I need.

Jay Nathan, Rembrandt Indnathrene Blue Watercolor

I would highly highly recommend the Sennelier [Blue Indanthrene] over any other brand [of Indanthrone Blue]. It goes down smooth, it’s always going to be easy to rewet because it has that honey, you have find control over gradation, it’s just a great choice.

Oto Kano, Colossal Color Showdown: Indanthrone Blue

In watercolor, Indanthrone often undergoes a very, very large drying shift, sometimes lightening up to 50% depending on the brand… My favorite version comes from M. Graham. They called their version Anthraquinone Blue, and it is the richest version of PB60 that I have ever seen. It undergoes much less of a drying shift than other brands that I have observed, and it remains a stunningly vibrant deep color even as it dries.

Denise Soden, Color Spotlight: Indanthrone Blue

Lightfastness Tests

Daniel Smith

Lightfastness test for Daniel Smith Indanthrone Blue (PB60). Left: window swatch, exposed to western light in Boston, MA, from May 30-December 9, 2023. Right: Protected strip.

I don’t see a difference between these after 6 months of light. A+!

Da Vinci

Lightfastness test for Da Vinci Indanthrene Blue (PB60). Left: window swatch, exposed to western light in Boston, MA, from May 30-December 9, 2023. Right: Protected strip.

After six months of light, the Da Vinci Indanthrene is slightly more muted and warmer (more greenish-toned) than the protected swatch. The different is subtle. Grade: B

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 versatile as an all-purpose blue, but it also has more 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 is a unique color that I really love, and it’s got pride of place in my palette. I don’t see as much need for the more greenish color that most brands offer; I’d prefer to use PBRS for a transparent middle blue. As a bonus, the warmer DS color also appears to be more lightfast.