Art History Lab

Unlocking the Beauty of Purple: History, Mixing, and Shades Explained

The Color of Royalty: All About Purple

Have you ever wondered why purple is associated with royalty? What makes it such a regal color?

In this article, we’ll dive into the history of purple and explore how it has been used throughout the ages. We’ll also answer the question that may have crossed your mind before: what two colors make purple?

Read on to discover more about this fascinating hue.

Brief History of the Purple Hue

Purple has a rich history that dates back to ancient times. In Ancient Greece, the dye known as Tyrian purple was highly valued for its rarity and expense.

It was made from the mucus of mollusks found in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The process of making the dye was so labor-intensive that it was often reserved for royalty or the wealthy.

In fact, the color purple in Ancient Greece was considered a symbol of power and wealth. In China, the purple gromwell plant was used to make purple dye in the Qi state during the Warring States period (476-221 B.C.E).

However, purple was not commonly used in China until the Tang dynasty (618-907 C.E.), where it was popularized for use in the clothing of high officials and the imperial family. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods, purple became closely associated with the church.

Purple robes were worn by cardinals and members of the clergy, and it was often featured in religious paintings depicting the Virgin Mary. The historical and religious significance of the color purple continued to be felt throughout Europe until the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the 18th century, the synthesis of quinine led to the discovery of mauveine, the first synthetic purple dye. This opened up a whole new world of possibilities for the fashion industry.

Queen Victoria was known to wear mauve-colored clothing, which kickstarted a trend for other members of society to follow in her wake. What Two Colors Make Purple?

Now that we’ve delved into the historical significance of purple, let’s answer the question that many of you are asking: what two colors make purple? The answer is straightforward: red and blue.

But it’s not that simple! The exact shades of these two colors can affect the end result. When you mix blue and red paint, you will get different variations of purple, depending on the specific shades used.

Color Bias and Temperature in Mixing Purple

Color bias and temperature come into play when mixing purple. For example, a cooler blue (one with more blue and less green in its composition) mixed with a warm red (one with more red and less orange in its composition) will result in a more vibrant, cooler purple.

In contrast, a warmer blue (one with more green and less blue in its composition) mixed with a cool red (one with more orange and less red in its composition) will produce a warmer pinkish-purple.

Ranking Blue Shades from Warm to Cool

To better understand how to mix purple, it’s helpful to know how blue shades can vary in temperature. The warmest blue is ultramarine blue, while the coldest blue is indanthrone blue.

Ultramarine blue has a reddish hue while indanthrone blue has a greenish hue.

Ranking Red Shades from Warm to Cool

When it comes to red shades, the warmest is alizarin crimson, while the coolest is spectrum crimson. Alizarin crimson has a bluish hue, while spectrum crimson has a yellowish hue.


Purple has a fascinating history, and understanding the color wheel and mixing purple can open up a whole new world of possibilities for creating unique shades and colors. The color bias and temperature of both red and blue can have a significant impact on the final result of a purple hue.

Experiment with different shades and combinations of red and blue to discover your perfect shade of purple.

Adjusting the Temperature of Your Purple Shades

Mixing purple is not an exact science; there are many factors to take into consideration, including the amount of paint, the color bias, and the color temperature. In the previous section, we explored how the color temperature and bias of red and blue can affect the end result of mixing purple.

In this section, we’ll dive deeper into how to adjust the color temperature of your purple shades.

Mixing Cooler Purple Colors

To mix cooler purple colors, start with a cool blue and add a very small amount of a warm red. Since the blue is already cool, adding too much of a warm red can cause the purple to become too red-toned, making it difficult to cool it down again.

It’s essential to use a tiny amount of warm red and build slowly until the desired color is achieved. Another way to adjust the temperature of your purple is to mix it with a cool color, like green, gray, or a darker blue.

This method results in muted hues that are more subdued.

Mixing Warmer Purple Colors

Mixing a warmer purple hue requires the addition of a small amount of a cool red to a warm blue. It’s essential to remember to add the cool red slowly to avoid overcorrecting and creating a grayish shade instead of a purple hue.

Using a warmer blue as the base and adding a small amount of cool red can create a purple hue with a reddish undertone. However, the color bias and temperature of the blue and red shades used in mixing can affect the outcome of the final color.

Muting Bright Pure Purple Colors with Complementary Hues

Sometimes, a pure purple hue can be too bright and overpowering to use in a painting or color scheme. To tone it down, mix it with a complementary color, such as yellow-green, orange, or yellow.

When mixing purple with yellow, it’s essential to use a small amount of yellow as too much can create a brownish hue instead of a muted purple color. Experiment with different complementary hues to find the perfect muted shade to complement your project.

Creating Purple Tints and Shades

Tints and shades are created when you add white or black to a base color. In the previous section, we explored how to adjust the temperature of purple shades by mixing in complementary hues.

In this section, we’ll explore creating tint and shade variations of purple.

Making Light Purple Tints

To create lighter shades of purple, mix in white or a light yellow to the purple base. The amount of white or light yellow used will depend on the desired tint.

Mixing with white results in a more pastel shade, while mixing with light yellow creates a warmer, slightly muted version of the purple hue. Start with a small amount of white or light yellow and slowly mix it into the purple base.

Keep adding and mixing until the desired tint is reached. Lighter purple tones are ideal for backgrounds, highlights, or as the main color in a spring or summer palette.

Making Dark Purple Shades

To create darker shades of purple, add black, burnt umber, or phthalo green to the purple base. These dark colors can create deep, rich hues of purple that are perfect for shadowing or as an accent color in a moody or autumnal palette.

It’s essential to use a small amount of black or burnt umber and to add gradually; too much can result in a muddy or grayish hue instead of a rich purple tone. Adding phthalo green will produce an almost blackish tone that is ideal for creating added depth and shadow in paintings.


Adjusting the color bias and temperature of red and blue when mixing purple can have a significant impact on the final color. Additionally, creating tints and shades of purple by adding white or black tones can open up a world of possibilities for creating depth, vibrancy, and mood in your paintings and color palettes.

Experiment with different combinations and techniques to discover your perfect shade of purple.

Scientific Hex Table for Different Shades of Purple

Colors can be described by a hex number and their color composition, which reveals the percentage of each primary color (red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) needed to create the specific color. Here are the hex numbers and color compositions for some popular shades of purple:

– Pure Purple: #6A0DAD (40% red, 5% green, 68% blue)

– Lavender: #967BB6 (58% red, 48% green, 71% blue)

– Aubergine: #3B0910 (23% red, 3% green, 6% blue)

– Mauve: #E0B0FF (88% red, 69% green, 100% blue)

– Plum: #9C51B6 (61% red, 32% green, 71% blue)

– Violet: #7F00FF (49% red, 0% green, 100% blue)

– Amethyst: #9966CC (60% red, 40% green, 80% blue)

Purple Shade Examples

Different shades of purple evoke different feelings and moods; here are some examples of purple hues and their meanings:

– Pure Purple: This shade of purple is commonly associated with creativity and imagination. – Lavender: Lavender is a light, delicate shade of purple that is often used in romantic or feminine designs.

– Aubergine: This purple shade is dark and sophisticated, making it ideal for use in formal or elegant projects. – Mauve: Mauve is a soft, muted tone of purple that is often used in vintage or traditional designs.

– Plum: Plum is a rich, deep shade of purple that conveys luxury and opulence. – Violet: Violet is a vibrant and electric shade of purple that can add energy and drama to a design.

– Amethyst: This purple hue is bold and colorful, making it an excellent choice for creative or imaginative projects.

Tips for Using Different Shades of Purple in Your Painting

Different shades of purple can add depth, contrast, and dimension to your painting. Here are some tips for using purple in your painting:

Enhancing Other Colors with Purple

One of the best ways to use purple in a painting is by complementing other colors with it. Experiment with different color combinations to create depth and harmony in your painting.

For example, adding a violet hue to a red painting can create an energetic and passionate piece of artwork. Similarly, adding a soft lavender tone to a green background can create an earthy, natural feel.

Importance of Experimentation and Imagination

As an artist, you should experiment with different shades of purple to find your unique style. The more you mix colors and explore different combinations, the more you will be able to express your imagination and creativity through your artwork.

It’s also important to understand the theories behind color, such as color bias and temperature. This knowledge will allow you to create the mood and atmosphere in your paintings that you want, using the colors that you choose.


Different shades of purple can enhance your painting with depth, contrast, and dimension. With the correct hex codes and color compositions, exploring shades such as lavender, aubergine, or plum, can create different moods and convey different feelings.

When using purple, it’s important to experiment with colors and combinations and understand color theory to achieve your intended result. In conclusion, the color purple has a rich history that is intertwined with royalty, power, and religious symbolism.

Understanding how to mix purple using the right combinations of red and blue, adjusting the temperature and color bias, and creating tints and shades can open up a world of possibilities in art and design. Additionally, exploring the hex numbers and color compositions of different shades of purple can help in achieving the desired aesthetic.

By experimenting with color, tapping into your imagination, and embracing the power of purple, you can create captivating and evocative artwork that leaves a lasting impression on viewers. So, don’t be afraid to embrace the regal allure of purple and let your creativity soar.

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