Color Spotlight: Indian Red (PR101)

Da Vinci – Indian Red (PR101)

Indian Red is strikingly opaque granulating maroon earth tone made from PR101, the same pigment as Transparent Red Oxide.

Experiment Results

Hue: Deep red-brown to a peachy/pinky beige, all with a scarlet red undertone.

Granulation: Very granulating.

Opacity: Very opaque. (Da Vinci lists this as ‘transparent’ on their website but this is a mistake. This, like every version of Indian Red I’m aware of, is quite opaque. However, I do think the DV version is a normal level of opaque for a watercolor, not the like super-opaque DS version.)

Glazing: Glazes to roughly the same color as the masstone, typical of opaque paints.


Lightfastness test for DV Indian Red (PR101). Left: window swatch, exposed to western light in Boston, MA, from July 22-December 9, 2023. Right: Protected strip.

I don’t see any difference between these. This performed best of all the PR101’s I tried.

Comparison to Other Colors

The two most similar colors are also opaque PR101 variants: Venetian Red and Caput Mortuum Violet aka Violet Iron Oxide, which are more orange and more violet, respectively. I think of the Venetian/Indian/VIO trio as earth scarlet/earth maroon/earth violet, respectively. Here they all are in the Winsor & Newton range:

Winsor & Newton Opaque PR101 comparison: Venetian Red, Indian Red, Caput Mortuum Violet. (DV Indian Red shown at the bottom for comparison)

I think Winsor & Newton tends to be a bit warm across the board compared to other brands, with DS and DV Indian Reds falling somewhere between WN Indian Red and WN Caput Mortuum in hue. DS Venetian Red is almost a dead ringer for WN Indian Red.

Comparison to Other Brands

Daniel Smith – Lunar Red Rock

Daniel Smith – Lunar Red Rock

Daniel Smith has an Indian Red, but Lunar Red Rock also appears to be roughly the same color (with a cooler name).

Daniel Smith Indian Red vs Lunar Red Rock

These are both more maroon/violet-toned than the Da Vinci version.

Color Mixes

Yellow Ochre (PY43)

DV Yellow Ochre (PY43) + DV Indian Red (PR101)

Warm, orangey browns/golds that remind me of Burnt Sienna. Perhaps not as bright as a single pigment PBr7 Burnt Sienna would be.

Raw Sienna Deep (PY42)

DV Raw Sienna Deep (PY42) + Indian Red (PR101)

A granulating variation on Yellow Ochre.


DS Monte Amniata Natural Sienna (PBr7) + Indian Red (PR101)

Another granulating earth yellow; this one a bit brighter.

Raw Sienna (PBr7)

DV Raw Sienna (PBr7) + Indian Red (PR101)

Compared to the other Earth Yellow variants, the slightly more orange Raw Sienna gives rosier, more reddish/peach mixes.

Smalt (PV15)

WN Smalt (PV15) + Indian Red (PR101)

Granulating maroons and purples.

Ultramarine Blue (PB29)

WN Ultramarine Blue Green Shade (PB29) + DV Indian Red (PR101)

Muted, granulating, violet-greys.

Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15)

HO Phthalo Blue RS (PB15) + DV Indian Red (PR101)

These are quite grayish. Indian Red mutes the Phthalo Blue very well. It does always have some color separation.

Cerulean Blue (PB36)

DV Indian Red (PR101) + DV Cerulean Blue (PB36) on Canson XL

A lovely soft neutral gray. Very useful in landscapes. Slight tendency toward violet.

Cobalt Turquoise (PB36)

DV Indian Red (PR101) + DV Cobalt Turquoise (PB36) on Canson XL

Also makes gray, but tends toward a warmer (greener) gray. There is a certain foggy paleness to the browns.

Chromium Oxide Green (PG17)

WN Oxide of Chromium (PG17) + DV Indian Red (PR101)

Khaki browns/tans. These get very muted but don’t get super dark value because both pigments are opaque.

What Others Say

Indian Red is an interesting paint. It is the most opaque of any Daniel Smith watercolour I’ve used. It is best to use it without fiddling with it as the heavy pigment can be hard to control. What I love about it though is that it is the perfect colour for lips and the ‘pink’ of eyes in portraits, provided it is very diluted. It can also be used in mixes to paint the more red-toned skin. It is also lovely as an earth triad with Cerulean Chromium and Goethite for subdued paintings, and can be very useful for painting landscapes and rust.

Jane Blundell

Indian Red: quite possibly the most opaque color besides white in my palette right now, this color looks like house paint at the highest concentrations. It likes to take over mixtures so I have to be mindful not to use too much. It also granulates a lot, especially in washes, which is sometimes amazing and sometimes very hard to get consistent results. My favorite way to use this color is in collaboration with one or two other colors that granulate less, such as a yellow or pink, and even in shadows with blues! That granulation also makes it amazing for creating the impression of sandstone textures. 

Claire Giordano, Fall in the Southwest: Favorite Colors

My main use for this paint [Rembrandt Indian Red] is for skies. I like to paint a light wash of indian red before I paint the sky. I also like to mix with cobalt blue to create a nice grey and with phthalo blue red shade to make a violet for shadows.

Jay Nathan, Rembrandt Indian Red Watercolor

My Overall Review of Indian Red

This is a pleasant warm reddish brown color and I like the pinky dilute end. The color and granulation are useful for certain “red rocks” paintings like those I painted in Nevada.

Red Rock Canyon overlook sketch, in pen and paint. November 24, 2022.

However, I’ve yet to really find a use for it in the northeast forest environment. I find it difficult to use generally because of the opacity and granulation. It works in an earthy palette, but doesn’t go well with the transparent brights I tend to favor.

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