Color Curriculum

Dioxazine Purple

By Carolyn Payzant

Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist – Volume 15, Issue 2


Many, many years ago, while visiting San Francisco, I fell in love with the color purple. Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Purple Petunia” was being exhibited at the de Young Museum and I was instantly mesmerized. On the same visit, I must have returned to this painting at least a dozen times. This painting had a velvet texture that was sensual and at the same time ethereal – but isn’t that what O’Keeffe was all about. All I can say is: this specific painting had such an impact on me that to this day I can close my eyes and be transported into its velvety lushness. I know, you are all thinking that O’Keeffe painted in oil and through that medium this velvet texture is achievable. But I think you clever watercolorists can create a similar texture through the use of M. Graham’s Dioxazine Purple PV37. 

Many color experts do not recommend Dioxazine Purple PV23 (BS) stating that it has less than satisfactory lightfast attributes. M. Graham has formulated their Dioxazine Purple with PV37 - again; some say it has a lightfast rating of III (my research shows that it has not been tested by ASTM) and some say it takes for ever to dry – I have not found that to be a problem. M. Graham is a trusted brand and their testing gives it a lightfast rating of II. So I suggest you evaluate it and see if it is a color you want to add to your palette.  

Dioxazine Purple is one of the bluest shades of violet I tested. But even so it is a violet, therefore falls between red and blue. It mixes well with most any pigment. The red characteristic of this pigment mixes well with any yellow, orange, red or violet and the blue characteristic of this pigment mixes well with most blue, turquoise or green. 

Mix Dioxazine Purple with Daniel Smith’s Nickel Titanate Yellow PY53 and you create a variety of soft lavenders. (Note: If you are searching for pastel and just can’t quite find what you are looking for, mix your preferred color with Nickel Titanate Yellow and in a blink of an eye you have created the pastel that you just might be looking for. Try it – I am sure that you will like it.)  

Mixed with the various Hansa Yellows and Dioxazine Purple creates earth tones from: sepia, burnt umber, raw umber, raw sienna, and neutral tints with a lavender bias.  

With orange or any severely orange biased yellow, like Gamboge create superb colors such as van dyke brown, intense raw umber with a violet bias, succulent reddish violets, and ripe plum.  

With Scarlet Lake, Quinacridone Red, and Carmine mix to create purples with a strong bias toward pink, cherry violets or that perfect shade of fuchsia. 

If your painting requires a Paynes or Dave’s Gray mix Dioxazine Purple with MaimeriBlu’s Permanent Green Light PY3 + PG36. 

I am not enthusiastic on the mixes created from MaimeriBlu’s Cupric Green Deep PG7; the mix becomes slightly muddy. But mixed with MaimeriBlu’s Cupric Green Light PG36 and create soft shades of gray with a green bias.  

Now back to that velvety petunia – or for that matter the happy faces of purple pansies; mix Dioxazine Purple with Holbein’s Mineral Violet PV15, or Daniel Smith’s French Ultramarine Blue PB 29, or M. Graham’s Cobalt Blue PB28, or Winsor & Newton’s Cerulean Blue PB 35, or Holbein’s Marine Blue PB16 and watch the magic begin. Without any difficulty you have created the instant opulence of purple velvet.