In this post, I’ll be comparing Winsor & Newton’s Smalt (Dumont’s Blue), which is made from Ultramarine Violet pigment (PV15), with Daniel Smith’s Lavender – a mix of white, Ultramarine Blue, and Ultramarine Violet.
Note that the color WN calls “Smalt” is not traditional Smalt pigment, which is made from finely ground glass containing cobalt. Instead, it’s a version of Ultramarine Violet that leans heavily toward blue, somewhere between a typical Ultramarine Violet and Ultramarine Blue hue.
Because of that, I found it to be a good hue match to Lavender, which is made from a mix of Ultramarine Violet and Ultramarine Blue. The main difference is that Lavender also contains white, so it’s opaque and can have a pastel (“chalky”) appearance. Smalt has no white, so it can get darker, and is more transparent.
Both colors are granulating blue-purples with similar use cases: the violet tones in sky mixes, clouds, hazy distant mountains. I don’t think I need both, so which should I choose?
With Daniel Smith’s Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7), a yellowish form of Raw Sienna, both colors make a range of neutral grays that don’t get very dark. I found it easier to achieve a true neutral with Lavender, as well as cool grays in light values. The downside of using Lavender in mixes, generally, is that if you need to use a lot (because you are mixing with a strong color or want the color tilted toward Lavneder), you can end up with streaky, opaque, chalky mixes.
Both make a range of lovely purple-violets that look especially similar when tilted toward magenta. Smalt’s mixes can get darker and also feel a bit bluer. These can read a bold purples or purple-blues. Lavender’s mixes are firmly in the pastel space, whether diluted or not; color names like lilac and periwinkle spring to mind.
Phthalo Blue Red Shade
Both make lovely light blue sky mixes with light purple granulation giving a duochrome, textural effect.
The Lavender mixes have more granulation more of the time. Although Smalt is a granulating color, I have found that its granulation can get lost or become more subtle in mixes.
I chose some use case scenarios to compare Smalt and Lavender side-by-side.
In the top row, I mixed a sky hue by adding a diluted Phthalo Turquoise wash to each color. The color is more violet at the top, fading to more Phthalo Turquoise toward the bottom. The Lavender one looks greener mainly because I accidentally added more Phthalo Turquoise to that one. Overall I think they perform similarly making nice blue-sky hues. Lavender looks more granulating in the mix, particularly in the middle space between full-Lavender and full-Phthalo Turquoise; you can get a convincing Cerulean hue between these two, whereas I feel Smalt’s light blues never have that much visible granulation.
In the middle row, I painted a sunset sky in Phthalo Blue Red Shade to Quin Coral to Hansa Yellow Deep, and then when it dried, I slapped a cloud over the top in either Smalt or Lavender. The Smalt cloud looks odd at the edges because I tried to smooth out the harsh edges and accidentally added too much water. Again, Lavender looks more granulating. Because it’s opaque, Lavender covers up the background more, which in this case makes sense.
In the bottom row, I painted two layers of mountains in the test color (against a PBRS sky and with some green foliage in front). The back layer is in a lighter value, and the front layer is at nearly full strength (for Smalt) or totally full strength (for Lavender). Again, you can see more granulation in the Lavender, especially at full strength. I think the masstone color is nicer for Smalt, and I also had more flexibility there for making the mountain darker if I wanted to add another layer. I think both colors did a good job for the back layer.
Both of these colors serve similar palette roles. Neither is essential (in a minimalist palette, I would use Ultramarine Blue for all of these roles, with a bit of magenta if I wanted it to be purpler).
Generally, between these two, I lean toward Smalt because it is a bit more flexible; it has more range, and the addition of white would make it behave more like Lavender, whereas the white can’t be extracted from Lavender to make it more like Smalt.
However, my custom mix of Smalt and white doesn’t have the same granulation as DS Lavender (I can’t speak for other Lavender mixes, but DS definitely seems to make its granulation a priority). For granulation fiends, the Lavender might be a better choice. I think Lavender is especially effective for mixing up a nontoxic Cerulean hue, with a Phthalo Blue or Turquoise.