Color Spotlight: Burnt Sienna (PBr7)

Holbein Burnt Sienna

Burnt Sienna is one of the most classic earth tones, an earth orange that ranges from an orangey brown through to a peachy gold. It is often used to mix up a range of browns and to neutralize blues, which are its opposite.

Burnt Sienna is just one of many earth tones that are traditionally made with PBr7 (Pigment Brown #7); others include Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, and Burnt Umber. So basically all of them. PBr7 colors vary quite a bit in granulation depending on who you get them from. Holbein’s earth tones, like this one, tend to be quite creamy and smooth without granulation.

Experiment Results

Gradient: A smooth, nongranulating gradient from a deep orange-brown in mass through to a glowing sienna to a pale gold-orange. (Note that most Burnt Siennas are granulating.)

Transparency: Transparent. (Note that many Burnt Siennas are semi-opaque.)

Glazing: Glazes to a deep orangey brown.

Color Mixes: Bright and lively color mixes! Warm colors make a range of glowing earth tones, while blues and greens make muted browns and grays (but nothing ugly – all useful).

  • Vibrant warm red-siennas with reds;
  • Vibrant golds with yellows;
  • Olive greens with green and green-blue;
  • Neutral gray with ultramarine.
  • Even a surprisingly nice brown with Quin Purple, which I find to be a poor mixer generally.

Lightfastness: One thing worth mentioning about Holbein’s Burnt Sienna in particular that it’s one of the few colors I’ve done my own personal lightfastness test on. I didn’t find it especially lightfast! After six months in a sunny window, the masstone stayed pretty similar, but the dilute end faded to white and the overall color became much less orange and more pinkish.

Lightfastness tests for Holbein's Burnt Sienna (PBr7)
Left: Swatch of Holbein Burnt Sienna that remained in my closed sketchbook. Right: Swatch that was in my sunny window for 6 months.

PBr7 is typically known to be lightfast, so I think this is just a weird one.

Comparison to Other Brands

Many brands have a PBr7 Burnt Sienna.

(Note that Winsor & Newton’s Burnt Sienna and Da Vinci’s Burnt Sienna Deep are PR101 and more akin to Transparent Red Oxide (PR101).)

Da Vinci – Burnt Sienna (PBr7)

Da Vinci – Burnt Sienna (PBr7)

Da Vinci’s is a more typical granulating, semi-opaque Burnt Sienna. Again, it’s orangey-brown to a pale peach. Pay no attention to the bloom at the bottom which was screwup on my part. This one had lower tinting strength than I expected, and I had to go over it a couple of times to get the masstone dark, which resulted in my misjudging the water level on the bottom. The color on the bottom bar is typical of the one-layer masstone you’d get from dry paint. Pretty light!

What Others Say

Burnt Sienna is an ancient colour, made by roasting Raw Sienna, so both colours are made with the pigment PBr 7. It is the most useful earth colour in the palette, as it combines with its opposite, Ultramarine, to form a range of blues, greys and browns (see below). It will create a range of mossy greens if mixed with a Sap Green (which can be made from Phthalo Green and Quinacridone Gold) and wonderful flesh tones when diluted with water, with or without the addition of other colours.

Mixed with a yellow it creates a yellow ochre and raw sienna hue, mixed with a blue it creates a myriad of greys, browns and deep blues and mixed with a red a wonderful range of neutralised red hues. Mixed with a green it can create a range of more mossy greens and very interesting neutrals with a purple – it’s a magic colour!

Jane Blundell, Earth Colours

My Review of Burnt Sienna

Earth orange is a useful mixer. Of all the earth tones, I find that orangey ones most reliably make a range of nice browns when mixed with cool colors like blue, green, and purple. Burnt Sienna is the classic earth orange, but there are a number of other options, and I think most of them are more interesting. I typically don’t have this on my palette, preferring the wilder Transparent Red Oxide (PR101) or the more glowing Quinacridone Burnt Orange (PO48) for my earth orange. Burnt Sienna is just a little dull to me.

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