Color Spotlight: Burnt Umber (PBr7)

Da Vinci Burnt Umber (PBr7)

The classic brown! This is an earthy, granulating brown that looks to me like clay-rich soil.

Experiment Results

Hue: Platonic ideal brown. Slightly orange-toned but not as orange as a Burnt Sienna or a Transparent Red Oxide. Dilutes to a pale beige. Wide value range.

Gradient: A nice smooth gradient for such a granulating color.

Granulation: Highly granulating.

Opacity: Transprent.

Glazing: Deep brown.

Comparison to Other Colors

Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101)

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

Transparent Brown Oxide is a very similar hue, but slightly warmer/oranger (Burnt Umber is just a tiny bit cooler/bluer). I found it much more difficult to get a dark masstone with Transparent Brown Oxide.

Color Mixes

Color mixes from Burnt Umber (PBr7)

Earthy brown granulation over all mixes. A really great violet brown with Dioxazine Violet (PV23). Complement to Indanthrone Blue (PB60).

What Others Say

A natural warm brown. Once again it should be a dark brown, leaning towards orange not green. The best examples are made with PBr 7 and include Da Vinci and Daniel Smith.

Jane Blundell, “Earth Colours”

This is traditionally a yellow iron manganese oxide that is darkened by furnace roasting, which shifts the hue about 15 degrees from deep yellow to orange. Most paints are a very dark valued, semiopaque, dull orange (brown) at a hue angle around 50. The color resembles dark chocolate, and is yellower than burnt sienna. Again, burnt umber serves as a “pigment sibling” to the brighter, lighter and warmer burnt sienna.

Bruce MacEvoy, “Earth Pigments Tour”

Unlike Raw Umber, I fell in love with Burnt Umber immediately. It made its way onto my very first palette of professional watercolors with its warm, chocolatey, very brown earth color that generally leans more toward a reddish-orange than to a grayish-green of the raw umber. For me, it is an invaluable color that I reach for very very often, maybe even more so than my burnt sienna to mix those rich, dark, beautiful tones.

Denise Soden, Color Spotlight: Raw & Burnt Umber


I classically don’t like browns, but this is really a very nice brown; transparent and luminous with lovely granulation. My only concern about it is that even while being brown, it’s really too “bright” and orangey for the brown tones in my natural landscape, which tend to be cooler and grayer (e.g. dirt, tree bark) – better suited to Raw Umber. The warmer Burnt Umber looks like the rich brown soil of an idealized English landscape, not the gravelly/sandy dirt of the New England woods. It would need to be cooled and neutralized for use in realistic landscapes, yet if I’m going to the trouble of doing that, I may as well start from a brighter color such as Transparent Red Oxide, which I prefer and can use in more scenarios.

These were similar concerns that I had about Transparent Brown Oxide. At the very least, I do think I can fully replace TBO with Burnt Umber, since Burnt Umber has better granulation and a wider value range/more ability to get dark (important in a brown!)

On my palette: I have made room for it in my Autumn Palette as the darker/browner counterpart to the bright Quinacridone Burnt Orange. Together, they expand the palette space I usually accomplish in one with Transparent Red Oxide.

Favorite version: I really like the handling of this Da Vinci version. I think I struck gold my first time trying a Burnt Umber!

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