Color Spotlight: Indigo

Holbein – Indigo (PB15, PBk6, PR122)

Darker and more muted than Indanthrone, Prussian, or any other single pigment blue, this deep moody blue is useful for shadows, night skies, and other dark blue use cases.

Indigo pigment (PB66) is fugitive and not usually used anymore (though MaimeriBlu, a single pigment line, still uses it, and Schmincke has it in the mix). Most indigos, like this Holbein, are mixes chiefly of phthalo blue and black.

Experiment Results

Hue: A dark, muted blue on the green-toned side.

Gradient: Very smooth gradient. Some horizontal lines suggesting a very fast-moving paint.

Comparison: At the bottom I compared DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60), DV Prussian Blue (PB27), and this Indigo. You can see that the Indanthrone is more purpley, and Prussian is more of a middle blue that’s brighter.

Color Mixes: Muted olivey greens (with yellows), muted purples (with reds/pinks), black (with orange) or brown (with Transparent Red Oxide/burnt sienna equivalent).

Color Replication: Along the right side, I attempted a couple of muted blue mixes with my dark blues of choice to replicate a similar color. The most successful was mostly Prussian Blue, with a bit of Deep Scarlet. This mix is slightly yellowy compared to this Indigo.

Brand Comparison

Daniel Smith – Indigo (PB60, PBk6)

Daniel Smith’s indigo is made from its very warm Indanthrone Blue plus black, so the overall effect is much warmer (i.e. more violet-toned) than the greenish Indigos from Holbein, WN, or most other companies.

The comparison below looks at a midchroma warm-and-cool blue combo, DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) and DS Prussian Blue (PB27) above the superdark warm-and-cool blue combo, DS Indigo (PB60, PBk6) and WN Indigo (PB15, PV19, PBk6).

Top row: DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60), DS Prussian Blue (PB27). Bottom row: DS Indigo (PB60, PBk6), WN Indigo (PB15, PV19, PBk6).

Misc Comparisons

Payne’s Gray and Indigo comparisons

This page from my color sketchbook shows different Payne’s Grays and Indigos.

  • WN Payne’s Gray is on the blue side
  • DV Payne’s Gray is on the green side
  • Holbein Payne’s Gray is pretty neutral
  • Mijello Mission Gold Payne’s Gray is even bluer than WN
  • Schmincke’s Payne’s Gray is very neutral black, borderline brown
  • Rembrandt’s Payne’s Gray is also a very neutral black, made from single pigment PBk26
  • Holbein Indigo is very blue
  • Mijello Mission Gold Indigo, weirdly, is much more netural/black compared to their Indigo. It is a bit greenish and resembles DV Payne’s Gray.

Color Mixes

Rich Green Gold (PY129)

Holbein Indigo (PBk6, PB15, PR122) + DS Rich Green Gold (PY129) on Canson XL

A range of medium greens, somewhere between muted and bold. Phthalo Turquoise (PB16) makes bolder greens with RGG, and Indanthrone Blue makes more muted dark greens.

Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7)

Holbein Indigo + DS MANS

Raw Sienna (PBr7)

Holbein Indigo + DV Raw Sienna (PBr7) on Canson XL

Transparent Orange

Holbein Indigo (PBk6, PB15, PR122) + WN Transparent Orange (DPP) on Canson XL

The orange mutes the Indigo and makes it even darker and blacker, reaching a fairly neutral black, as well as a range of dull browns. I don’t like these browns quite as much as those from Indanthrone Blue and/or Transparent Red Oxide.

Pyrrole Rubin

Holbein Indigo (PBk6, PB15, PR122) + Holbein Pyrrole Rubin (PR264) on Canson XL

Deep, dark purples. Similar to those with Indanthrone Blue.

Quin Magenta (PR122)

HO Quin Magenta (PR122) + HO Indigo on Canson XL

Fairly vibrant violets, muted only by the black in the indigo.

My Review of Indigo

I avoided this color for a long time because it’s a mixed color that should be easy enough to create at home from its ingredients: (black, Phthalo Blue, and a bit of magenta) or by muting any blue with a complement. But now that I have it premixed, I find that it is quite convenient! It can be hard to mix luscious darks on-the-fly, especially in the field, and it’s useful to have a consistent recipe if you’re planning to use a lot of it, like for a night sky.

I have found that having some sort of very dark color is important even on the brightest palettes in order to make it easy to paint in a wide range of values, and I like dark blue in this slot. Dark blue can be used for shadows and night skies, to mix moody muted tones and to cool earth oranges into deep browns.

Because it’s a mix containing black, Indigo can have a slightly dull look, though less so pure black pigment.

Skyscape for #magrish_challenge_sky. November 29, 2022. Holbein’s Indigo is the darkest tone in the top of the sky. I still used black for the silhouettes.

My typical dark blue of choice is DS Indanthrone, but Indigo is a nice alternative that’s even darker. Most version (other than DS) are also significantly more green-toned. I feel like this Indigo is pretty much the color I always want Prussian Blue to be.

On my palette: Yes.

Favorite version: Holbein. WN is very similar. DS is also good if you prefer a warmer hue that doesn’t make greens as readily, though I personally find it too close to Indanthrone which I usually also have.

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