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Warm & Cool Colors

Have you ever wondered about warm and cool colors and whats the difference. Warm color appear to move forward while cooler colors recede into the background. That's why when painting a landscape I prefer to use warm colors in the foreground then move to cooler colors and lighter values (meaning more water) in the background. If I was working on a floral I prefer to use warm or even a mix of color in the flower then use cooler colors in the shadows to give depth to my subject. 

Warm Colors
Cadmium Yellow Pale, New Gamboge, Cadmium Yellow, Winsor Yellow Deep, Indian Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Orange, Winsor Orange, Winsor Orange (Red Shade). Cadmium Scarlet, Scarlet Lake, Cadmium Red, Winsor Red, Rose Doré, Quinacridone Red, Opera Rose, Quinacridone Magenta, Permanent Magenta, Cobalt Violet, Permanent Mauve, Winsor Violet (Dioxazine), Cobalt Blue Deep, French Ultramarine, Ultramarine, (Green Shade), Winsor Blue (Red Shade), Cerulean Blue (Red Shade), Winsor Green (Yellow Shade), Yellow Ochre, Gold Ochre, Quinacridone Gold, Brown Ochre, Magnesium Brown, Burnt Sienna, Light Red, Venetian Red, Brown Madder, Perylene Maroon, Perylene Violet, Burnt Umber, Vandyke Brown, Sepia

Cool Colors
Lemon Yellow, (Nickel Titanate), Bismuth Yellow, Cadmium Lemon, Winsor Lemon, Lemon Yellow Deep, Transparent Yellow, Winsor Red Deep, Permanent Alizarin, Crimson, Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Carmine, Permanent Rose, Rose Madder Genuine, Indanthrene Blue, Cobalt Blue, Antwerp Blue, Prussian Blue, Winsor Blue (Green Shade), Cerulean Blue, Phthalo Turquoise, Winsor Green, (Blue Shade), Terre Verte, Perylene Green, Permanent Sap Green, Olive Green, Terre Verte (Yellow Shade), Green Gold, Raw Sienna.


  1. I really appreciate this listing and your suggestions about warm and cool as they relate to depth. Thanks so much!

  2. Hi Laura Thank you, great question these lists were based on Winsor & Newton colors. To answer your question, whenever you see a Brand name Blue color such as Joe's Blue or Winsor Blue etc. that is Phtalo Blue.

  3. Oh! That's good to know! Does it also go for phthalo green and turquoise? Also, Indian Yellow seems to be in both lists. To my eye—and based on the way it mixes—it's a warm yellow, yes no? Anyhow, good stuff.
    Thanks, Ben

  4. Is Indian Yellow warm or cold, because you've written both...

  5. This is great for new artists who still can't clearly discern which colors are warm or cool(like ME ;) Thank you, Birgit!

  6. This is such a great resource; thanks so much! What about the odd-ball colors such as Davey's Grey, Indigo, Sleeping Beauty turquoise (Dan.Smith,) Dioxizine violet, Rose of Ultramarine, others. Somehow, I'm just not picking up on the temperature of some of these. Even with squinting! ;P

    1. Cool: Indigo, Davey's Grey
      Warm: Dioxizne Violet warm, Rose of Ultramarine

      Not sure about Sleeping Beauty :)

  7. Hi Karla. Cheap Joe's site lists Sleeping Beauty turquoise as warm.

  8. Hi, I am a beginner again. I tried water painting many years ago. I hadn't a clue what I was doing, but I enjoyed myself. Now, I am going to do it again. This time, however, I have a computer and can find the information I needed last time but didn't know it! Thanks so much for the information you have on your blog. I appreciate it now, and I am certain I will enjoy the information you provide as time goes by. My biggest problem is the cost of paints and paper while being on a very small budget. I would appreciate any thoughts or ideas you or your readers have on the topic. Thank you. Carol

    1. Hi Carol, it really is best to start with good materials, simply because you can frustrated and not understand why you aren't getting the results you want with student grade materials. I would suggest 140 lb Cold Press Arches paper (even thought I prefer 300lbCP) the reason why I am saying 140 lb, is because it is cheaper and you working with a good paper. You could try a block, that's fine, if you try other papers you could be frustrated until you have a better understanding of what they do and how they react. many other paper have softer sizing which is fine but it all depends on the results you would like to get. Student grade id ok for more doodling, but when layering color can easily lift. mix and get muddy. Cheap synthetic brushes are more affordable but since they are so sift, you can be left with lots of brush lines, so try to invest in a good middle of the road, blend brush. I have brushes on my website, that are great, but you might be more than you want to spend right now. I like Winsor & Newton colors but you could try their student grade paint "Cotman " series...or for bigger tube and a great value try American Journey from Cheap Joe's Your best deal on art materials will be online either through, Dick Blick, Jerry's or Cheap Joe's, if your in Canada try Curries or Studio Six for online orders

    2. Hi, Birgit,

      Thank you so much for your reply. I will do the best I can. I have some good brushes from when I painted years 25 years. I also have some Grumbacher Academy paints in tubes which seem to be okay. At least they are pliable in the tubes. I also have some 140 pound paper but not very much. I bought some Pebeo masking fluid. I have some Masonite boards which I am going to use for the backing for my paper.

      Re: stretching the paper: I read one place that a painter is to soak 140# paper for four or five minutes; soak 300# paper for 20-25 minutes. I know when I painted before, I got the paper soaking wet under the faucet...but I certainly didn't soak it 4-5 minutes!

      I am not much good as a painter, and I draw even worse, but it is fun. I am 76 semi-housebound, and I decided to pick up painting again. It is fun.

      I enjoy your blog. Thank you for doing it. And thank you so much for your response!


    3. Hi Carol, I don't soak or stretch my paper, I like to use the surface sizing to flow the color.
      Here is a link to my online courses and a direct link to my FREE course....

      One reason why I do courses are is for situations just like yours.
      Happy Painting

  9. One reason why I do courses are is for situations just like yours.



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