Mixing a Burnt Umber Lookalike

While I think that Da Vinci Burnt Umber has quite a nice color – for a brown – I have trouble motivating myself to find space on my palette for many earth tones, when there are so many brights to choose from that are more compelling to me! So here are my attempts to find a lookalike mix from my palette.

Because Burnt Umber is granulating, I only chose mixes where at least one of the colors was granulating.

Using Transparent Red Oxide

My first thought was to use the most similar color in my palette, DS Transparent Red Oxide (PR101). Although Burnt Umber is an orange-leaning brown, TRO is even more orange, so I added various blues to neutralize it a bit. Because TRO is granulating, I could use any blue.

Burnt Umber lookalike mixes with Transparent Red Oxide
  1. Da Vinci Burnt Umber: This is the color we are trying to match.
  2. Mostly TRO + a bit of Cobalt Blue: A nice brown, a bit too red for Burnt Umber, but one I wouldn’t mind seeing again!
  3. Mostly TRO + a bit of Prussian Blue: Much yellower than the Cobalt mix, and slightly too yellowy/greeny for Burnt Umber, but again a very nice brown mix. The closest match on this page.
  4. Mostly TRO + a bit of Cerulean Blue: I suppose I didn’t use enough TRO since this came out too neutralized and gray. Since Cerulean is a green-toned blue, I expected it to look more like the Prussian Blue mix. But it was hard to keep it from just being light gray.
  5. Mostly TRO + a bit of Ultramarine Deep: Much too dark/purpley, which may be because I added too much of the blue. It looked more orangey/TRO-heavy when wet, but dried more violety and ultramarine-forward.
  6. Mostly TRO + a bit of Ultramarine Light: Same experience as Ultramarine Deep! These colors look different unmixed, but mixed very similarly.

Using Burnt Sienna Deep & Miscellaneous

Next, I tried some similar earth orange/blue mixes using Da Vinci’s Burnt Sienna Deep (PR101), a non-granulating and oranger PR101 than Transparent Red Oxide. Because it is nongranulating, I only used it with granulating blues. I also tried some random, off-the-wall mixes from other colors entirely.

Maybe I was just getting better at it, but I feel like these are overall more successful, even if none of them are quite right.

Burnt Umber lookalike mix attempts
  1. Da Vinci Burnt Umber: This is the color we are trying to match.
  2. Mostly Burnt Sienna Deep + a little Ultramarine Light: Decent, a bit green
  3. Mostly Burnt Sienna Deep + a little Ultramarine Deep: Richer, redder than U; maybe a bit too much, but a really decent equivalent to the original color in terms of granulation and overall pleasantness. Probably my favorite.
  4. About half and half Deep Scarlet and Serpentine: A surprisingly reasonable hue match for a totally different approach, but weirdly there is almost no granulation even though Serpentine is granulating.
  5. Mostly MANS + a dollop of Perylene Violet: Also surprisingly decent for a totally off the wall mix, though it’s too orange and there’s no way to make it any less so.
  6. Back to Burnt Sienna Deep + a little Cobalt Blue: This mix is too reddish, but it’s not too bad.

Conclusion

The most successful were BSD + Ultramarine Deep, which erred a bit on the red side, and TRO + Prussian Blue, which erred a bit on the yellow/green side.

None of these mixes were perfect matches to Da Vinci’s Burnt Umber, but some were close enough that you wouldn’t know unless you were looking at them side by side; and certainly within the level of variation you’d expect from one brand’s Burnt Umber to another.

Still, as much as I overall find earth tones boring, I have to acknowledge that I found actual Burnt Umber to be slightly more beautiful than any of the mixes! As a single pigment paint, it has more transparency/luminosity than the mixes. With that said, some of the mixes (such as TRO + Cobalt Blue) have some color variation/separation that is also interesting and beautiful in its own way.

Do you use Burnt Umber? If not, do you have a preferred mixalike, or simply not really use this color at all?

2 thoughts on “Mixing a Burnt Umber Lookalike”

  1. I tend to regret any palette that doesn’t have a solid blue-brown neutralizing pair, and a burnt umber color + UB tends to be the easiest way to achieve this. (Burnt sienna colors tend to swing over too far into orange to neutralize my UB options. But then the burnt umber colors I like seem to be deeper than the one you have here. Right now I am really into DS transparent Brown Oxide.)
    Anyway, having to mix a burnt umber to mix it with UB would be annoying.
    I also use it as a base for bark color and in all kinds of other shadows.

    • BU + UB is a classic combination!

      Given what I usually have on my palette, I’d say Burnt Sienna Deep (or TRO) + Ultramarine Blue (medium or green shade) is my most common palette combo for mixing any kind of brown. If I want to mix a blue-brown, I don’t think of it as “mix a BU hue, then mix that with UB,” I just think “mix a little BSD with a lot of UB.”

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