Mixing Pinks in Watercolor

Painting a cherry tree and mixing pinks in front of an ipad showing a workshop with Barbara Luel.

Last spring, I enjoyed a lovely pink floral workshop with the delightful Barbara Luel. I forgot to post about it at the time, but since the pink season is coming up again soon, I thought I’d post on it now!

Two Methods

There are two main ways to mix pastel colors like pink in watercolor:

  1. Paint a magenta in a light value, that is, diluted with lots of water.
  2. Take any magenta-like color (magenta, red, purple, orange, etc.) and mix it with white watercolor or white gouache.

These result in two different categories of color. Diluted pastels are transparent, bright, and delicate. White-mixed pastels are opaque and have a sense of heft to them. At worst, they can be chalky, and that’s why I usually don’t prefer them; the lack the luminosity of diluted pastels. But sometimes, it’s what you want! They can also mix surprising, different-looking shades of pink. More different shades can look pinky with white. For example, a red or crimson color, like Pyrrol Crimson, does not look pink to me in dilute – it looks “light red” – but it looks pink when you add white.

Great Pink Pigments

In my Color Spotlights, I show colors in a gradient from more masstone to more dilute, so you can check any of those out to see the dilute value of the color. Here are some suggestions:

Mixing Pinks with White

During Barbara’s class, I mixed all my reds with white gouache to see what kind of pinks they made.

Reds mixed with white to form pinks

The white really seemed to bring out the purpleness of the magentas, including Quin Rose, Purple Magenta, Opera Pink, and (surprising to me) Bordeaux.

I was also surprised at how nice some of the mixes with orange were. Winsor Orange Red Shade (PO73) mixed a lovely peachy pink (this is the same pigment used in Holbein’s Shell Pink, which is a mix of PO73 and white!)

I found that some of the pinks looked a bit dull to me – Scarlet Lake, Pyrrol Scarlet, Pyrrol Red – whereas some remained very bright – I thought Quin Coral and Pyrrol Crimson were especially nice.

You don’t necessarily have to choose between orangey and purpley pinks; many subjects may have both tones. For example, the cherry blossom tree I painted in the class used a large number of the “palette pinks” I’d made, with darker (more paint, less white) and purpler tones in shadow and lighter and oranger tones in the light.

Cherry blossom tree painted in Barbara Luel’s Spring Colors class

Happy Pink Painting!