Indanthrone Blue vs. Indanthrene Blue

Most watercolor brands offer a PB60 paint, often called Indanthrone or Indathrene Blue. As far as I know, there is no official distinction between the words Indanthrone (with an “o”) and Indanthrene (with an “e”) – I think they are synonyms. But I own two PB60 paints, one called Indanthrone and one called Indanthrene, and they’re very different. They’re different enough that I think they may fill different palette roles! Let’s take a side-by-side look.

DS Indanthrone Blue vs DV Indanthrene Blue

Color Mixes

Rich Green Gold (PY129)

These are fairly similar, and I love both! You can mix up dark piney greens or sap greens.

DS can make darker blues. It’s streakier, and makes less smooth gradients.

The DV version is the mix used for Da Vinci’s ‘Denise’s Green.’ A problem I am noticing with the DV version is that it can dry lighter than it seemed when wet.

Imidazolone Yellow (PY154)

Mixes with yellow showcase how much greener-toned the DV Indanthrene is. DS makes pretty muted sap-ish greens but DV makes brighter, more summery greens. Again I do feel that my DV mixes dried a bit lighter than I wanted.

Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150)

Mixes with DS Indanthrone are much duller and easier to get dark; those with DV Indanthrene are nearly middle greens and have a tendency to wash out.

Naples Yellow Deep (PBr24)

DS Indanthrone makes grayish mixes, while DV Indanthrene makes much greener greens.

Hansa Yellow Deep (PY65)

These mixes are really different too. I find the DS Indanthrone ones much nicer, subtle gray-blues and muted greens, where the DV Indanthrene mixes have some nice dark blues and greens on the bluer end but get really muddy-looking when you add a lot of the yellow.

Transparent Pyrrol Orange (DPP)

The DS Indanthrone makes more even blacks with this orange, while the DV Indanthrene keeps them on the blue/green side.

Burnt Sienna Deep (PR101)

The DS Indanthone makes a neutral gray, whereas I found that more difficult with DV Indanthrene. It always leaned brown or blue. Both make nice range of browns. DS Indanthrone’s blues are warmer and richer and more Burnt Sienna-like, and DV Indanthrene’s are cooler and more Raw Sienna-like.

Venetian Red (PR101)

This time the DS Indanthrone mixes lean violet where the DV Indanthrene are a bit more neutral.

Quinacridone Coral (PR209)

Reasonably similar; DS gets darker, as expected.

Quinacridone Magenta (PR122)

These are pretty similar; a range of violets, include Dioxazine Violet hues.


I found the same patterns again and again in these swatches:

AttributeDS IndanthroneDV Indanthrene
VibrancyMore muted, mixes more like a dark blue-black, e.g. IndigoMore vibrant, mixes more like a middle blue, e.g. Phthalo Blue Red Shade
Color BiasMore violet-toned, mixes muted greens or even grays with warm yellowMore green-toned, mixes more vibrant greens
ComplementComplement is more orange (e.g. Transparent Pyrrol Orange, Transparent Red Oxide, Burnt Sienna Deep)Complement is more red (e.g. Venetian Red)
TextureStreaky and lightly texturedSmooth
Drying ShiftLoses saturation in drying shift; dries more mutedLoses value in drying shift; dries lighter
ValueDark & stays dark; useful as a value-setterStarts middle-values and loses value in drying shift; not reliable as a value-setter

These patterns also played out in my experience of using these colors in the field. While I initially felt that DV might be more useful because I preferred its vibrancy, color bias, and texture, it turned out that the drying shift and value issues ended up being deciding factors that led me back to DS again and again.

I enjoyed using DV initially in summer; DV could be used to paint blue skies, while DS skies always looked stormy. DV could be used to mix bright summer foliage, while DV foliage mixes always looked dark and wintry. I felt perhaps that DV was my ‘summer PB60’ while DS might remain my ‘winter PB60.’ But as I continued to use DV, I found that my paintings frequently dried far lighter than I expected, and I lacked the dark values I needed for a contrast between sun and shadow. I simply couldn’t rely on the way the paint looked wet to determine how dark it would dry.

Personally, when it comes to drying shift, I can deal with a hue or saturation shift more easily than a value shift. If the hue or vibrance is off, the painting can still look basically okay (and a vibrance shift can save me from myself since I tend to paint too bright), but if the values are wrong, the whole painting looks wrong.

It may be that I could make DV work if I use it differently; not relying on it as a dark value setter, but instead using it for middle blue mixes and hues. But I have PBRS for that. DS is the only PB60 I have encountered that starts and stays dark enough to use for mixing truly dark blues, pine greens, browns, grays, shadows, etc. and I find that a more valuable palette role.