using the colour blue in oil painting

Welcome once again to Emily McCormack-Artist’s blog on all things Oil Painting.

This month and next we are looking at the Primary Colours. So, in Part 1 we looked at the colour Red, in this week’s blog we are looking at the colour Blue. *


Blue is meant to represent trust, loyalty, wisdom, intelligence, truth, and heaven.

But there seems to be a difference between what the shades of blue represent, for example: –

  • light blue is associated with healing and tranquillity; whereas
  • dark blue is associated with power, seriousness, and knowledge.

Blue is often used to promote products associated with cleanliness, water, air, sea and precision / ‘high tech’ products. But is rarely used for food products as it is thought to suppress the appetite. (Colour Wheel Pro, 2015)

the shades of the colour blue
(Table produced from information taken from Wikipedia, 2019)


If you have attended the oil painting workshops here at the studio, you will have completed a section on working with the primary colours including blue. In these workshops, we study works by Munch, Degas and Sorolla to name a few, and use the full range of blues as listed in the above infographic ‘The Shades of Blue – What Are They?’.

If you have been following me, on my own art journey @emilymccormack-artist, you will have seen that I use a full spectrum of blues including turquoises (not included in the infographic above).

Lately, I have limited the blues to just one or two. However, I have expanded the range of its complement colour – ORANGE (being the opposite colour to blue on the colour wheel) – to include sienna’s, umber’s, transparent oxides and oranges.

For those who are only tuning in here now, below is a sample of some of my work using the colour and shades of blue: –

examples of my work using the colour blue
more examples of my work using the colour blue

Other artists who used the colour blue include Van Gogh, the Blue Riders, Matisse, Hokusai, along with:

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919)

Renoir painted the Umbrellas twice – once in 1880-1 and again in 1885.

In this painting, he used cobalt blue for the right side, but later used the new synthetic ultramarine blue introduced in the 1870’s, when he added the two figures to the left of the painting a few years later. (Bromford, Kerby, Leighton, Roy, 1991)

We are lucky enough to have one of these paintings in the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin.

The Umbrellas - Renoir
The Umbrellas – Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)

The Gare Saint – Lazare is one of twelve views of this station painted by Monet in 1877 (Bromford, Kerby, Leighton, Roy, 1991). He used several recently invented colours including cobalt blue, cerulean blue, and French ultramarine. (Wikipedia, 2021)

The Gare Saint Lazare - Monet
The Gare Saint Lazare – Monet

Pablo Picasso (1881 -1973)

During his Blue Period (1901–1904) Pablo Picasso used blue and blue-green, with hardly any warm colours, to create a melancholy mood.

According to

his Blue period works seemed to reflect his experience of relative poverty and instability, depicting beggars, street urchins, the old and frail and the blind…

…and the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagema’s who took his life at the LHippodrome Café in Paris France by shooting himself in the right temple in February 17, 1901.

The Old Guitarist - Pablo Picasso
The Old Guitarist – Pablo Picasso


Well, for the workshops, we have a recommended material list for the beginner artist.

In terms of blue – we recommend you purchase a warm and cool blue such as any of the following: –

  • Ultramarine Blue (warm),
  • Prussian Blue (warm),
  • Cerulean Blue (cool) and/or Cobalt Turquoise (cool)


You can create a cobalt turquoise relatively cheaply say with Winton oil paints which are student grade and the most a 37ml tube should cost is €5. 

So, if you mix PHTHALO BLUE and EMERALD GREEN and adjust the strength/tint with white you will get a lovely Cobalt Turquoise.

If you are an intermediate or advanced artist, I have included a simple table of the main brands of blue out there. For ease of reference, I have also bolded the blues that I currently have in my own kit:

The Information used was extracted from the K&A Evans website, but other art stores where you can purchase your paints include Cork Art Supplies, Art Materials, Kennedys Art, Jacksons, The Range and Eason’s to name a few.

Cerulean Blue Prussian Blue
Cobalt Blue Radiant Blue
Indanthrene Blue Ultramarine Blue
Manganese Blue Hue
Michael Harding (Extra to above)
Kings Blue (Light/Deep) Phthalo Blue Lake
Lapis Lazuli (Afghan) Phthalo Turquoise
Phthalo Blue & Zinc White
Old Holland (Extra to above)
Ultramarine Blue Deep / Light Extra Indigo Extra
Parisian (Prussian) Blue Extra Turquoise Blue Deep
Old Holland Blue Deep Old Holland Blue Violet
Scheveningen Blue Deep / Light Old Delft Blue
Blue Lake Old Holland Blue
Manganese Blue Deep Extra / Blue extra Old Holland Cyan Blue
14. Cerulean Blue Deep / Blue Light Cobalt Blue Turquoise Light
Old Holland Blue Grey Caribbean Blue
Winsor Newton (Extra to above)
French Ultramarine Winsor Blue Red Shade
Indigo Winsor Blue Green
Ultramarine Green Shade


We will be taking a more in-depth view of the colour blue in future blogs, where we will: –

  • delve into its history including the indigo wars of the 17th / 18th Century, and the expense and use of ultramarine blue and Lapis Lazuli;
  • explain the difference between French Ultramarine and Ultramarine;
  • look at mixing blues and creating limited and harmonious palettes with blue, its complements and neighbours on the colour wheel.

Finally, while we are on the subject of the colour blue. In the images below, you can see the effects of working with oil paint has on my skin, particularly, phthalo blues and turquoises.

working with oil paints on hands
effects of oil paints on skin
how to protect hands from oil paint

Now, you can use disposable gloves or a good barrier cream to avoid this problem. However, I have found that my hands seem to sweat inside the gloves, and I really don’t like the feel of them. This is just me!
However, I have found that the anti-chaffing cream by Wildsiog has helped prevent against the toll that solvents, oil-paint, and marble dust have had on my hands.

anti-chaffing balm siog

It’s also great if you are into sport of any kind or a gardener like myself.

In our next blog, we will be looking at the last of the primary colours – Yellow!!

Until then stay safe and keep painting.

Emily McCormack

* As always, I am not affiliated with any brands, stores, or persons I may or may not mention and your use of any of these products, links and the like are your own risk and it’s up to you to do your research/homework before you use them. This is just my opinion and experience.

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