Color Spotlight: Manganese Blue Mix or Hue (PB33, PB15)

Da Vinci – Manganese Blue Mixture (PB33, PB15)

Genuine Manganese Blue (PB33) is a toxic pigment that has mostly been removed from major lines. The only major brand that still sells PB33 is Da Vinci; this is a mixture which also contains PB15 (Phthalo Blue). Other large-company versions (e.g. Daniel Smith, Holbein, Winsor & Newton) offer hues made from PB15 only.

Genuing PB33 is/was a non-staining, liftable, and highly granulating light blue that creates striking separation effects in mixes (especially visible in the mix with red above). Because Phthalo Blue does not typically have those properties, Manganese Blue Hues are treated in a way to create them as closely as possible. Some only aim to match the hue, while others also attempt granulation.

Observations of Da Vinci Manganese Blue Mixture

Hue: A bright, rather light, sky blue on the cyan/green-toned side. Higher-chroma and greener than Cerulean, less green than Cobalt Turquoise, and lighter-valued than Phthalo Blue Green Shade.

Gradient: Smooth

Granulation: Highly granulating

Tinting Strength: Moderate. While some versions of MB Hue are quite intentionally weak, I found DV’s version fairly easy to rewet and bold, though it doesn’t get very dark.

Transparency: Semi-transparent

Glazing: Glazes to a midtone sky blue that’s still not as dark a Phthalo Blue

Color Mixes: A range of color-separating cool pastels. I especially like the lavender and violet with Permanent Rose (PV19) and Carbazole Violet (PV23).

Comparison to Other Brands

All other versions from major commercial brands are hues made from PB15 – they don’t contain any PB33 genuine manganese.

Daniel Smith – Manganese Blue Hue

Daniel Smith Manganese Blue Hue (PB15)

Granulation: Highly granulating. Daniel Smith’s version is said to be the most granulating/similar to PB33 for a PB15-only version. That said, I found that this mixed differently, creating textured mixes instead of color-separating as genuine PB33 does.

Brushfieel: I found this version very hard and gummy, quite texturally unpleasant.

Tinting Strength: Extremely weak. They went way out of their way to nerf Phthalo Blue. It’s so aggressively weak and difficult to rewet that I found it not practical to use in the field.

Misc: Some interesting qualities of this one are that it’s reflective (looks more opaque when wet) and naturally fluorescent (glows under blacklight), as Kim Crick shows in a video. Unlike fluorescent Opera Pink, it does not seem to be fugitive, so Crick’s speculation is that DS adds colorless optical brighteners (similar to those added to white paper).

Holbein – Manganese Blue Nova (PB15)

Holbein – Manganese Blue Nova (PB15)

Granulation: Holbein’s version is more or less nongranulating. It’s kind of granulating (or at least textured) in masstone, but very smooth in dilute.

Gradient: Much smoother than DS’s.

Tinting Strength: Still noticeably weak compared to other paints, although I think this is the strongest of the MBH’s I’ve tried.

Brush feel: This is my preferred MB hue for feel; it feels more or less like other Holbein paints – smooth, easily rewet and creamy but not sticky or gummy.

Winsor & Newton – Manganese Blue Hue (PB15)

Winsor & Newton – Manganese Blue Hue (PB15)

WN’s version is similar to Holbein’s, in that it has some masstone texture but is smooth in dilute.

Tinting Strength: Still very low, exacerbated by increasing difficulty in rewetting as the paint gets harder.

Brushfeel: I found it a bit gummy at first but within a few days it became quite hard, like many WN paints.

Color Mixes

Deep Scarlet (PR175)

HO Manganese Blue Nova (PB15) + DS Deep Scarlet (PR175) on Canson XL

Perylene Maroon (PR179)

HO Manganese Blue Nova (PB15) + HO Perylene Maroon (PR179) on Canson XL

Pyrrol Red (PR254)

HO Manganese Blue Nova (PB15) + HO Pyrrol Red (PR254) on Canson XL

My Review

I hate to say it, but I far prefer the DV mix with genuine PB33 to the nontoxic hues. The DV mix creates this magical color separation in mixes which others don’t. Although I think it’s likely that the Da Vinci mix doesn’t use much genuine PB33, I suppose it’s necessary to have some to make this color stand out from alternatives. The hues just feel like worse Phthalo Blue.

On my palette? Experimenting.

Favorite version: DV by a long shot. If I had to choose one of the hues, I’d go with Holbein, but tbh if I couldn’t use DV I would probably just skip this one and use other blues instead (e.g. Phthalo Blue for a cyan hue, Cobalt Turquoise for a very cyan hue with some granulation, Cerulean for a sky blue with granulation).

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