I bet everyone has at least one red color on their palette. I have a bit more reds, because when I paint flowers I see many red shades. In this post I will show you how I choose reds for my palette, what I pay attention to and what are my most useful reds.


I came up with the idea of ​​describing my reds after I prepared myself for painting a red carnation. At the beginning, I was sure that I would use mainly the Winsor Red PR254, but later I realized that I had fallen into the same red trap. Every time I should use red, Winsor Red PR254 came to my mind. I thought this was a very universal color and I always start with it. This time it turned out that the color that I needed must be completely different. And what’s worse – I did not have the right color on my palette.

I started by checking if I can get what I was looking for from the colors I already had. This time I wanted to use the technique of optical mixing. I also decided to test Arches HP paper (see post: Paper test: Arches Hot Press). I painted swatches of various colors: Permanent Rose PV19, Translucent Orange PO71, Quinacridone Red PR209, Winsor Red PR254, Perylene Maroon PR179 and Quinacridone Magenta PR122. When they dried, I applied a second layer of Winsor Red PR254 and checked what went out:

What I got were different reds, but unfortunately nothing resembled what I had been looking for. So I opened my box with tubes of paint and took out my color swatches. It turned out that among the tubes I found Pyrrole Red Light PR255, which I had opened just once when I was making my swatches. I looked at the swatch and … that was it! The tube I have is by QoR. Unfortunately, Winsor&Newton has no equivalent, but Daniel Smith has it – Pyrrol Scarlet PR255 and Schmincke Horadam – Scarlet Red PR255 – highly recommended!

How do I choose colors

When I choose colors for my palette, the first thing I do is checking the pigments. I try to use only paints with single pigment. Currently I only have two exceptions on my palette with more than one pigment. Usually, when we look at pigments, we can judge whether the colors made by different manufacturers are the same despite different names. For example, Perylene Maroon PR179 Winsor&Newton and Deep Red PR179 Schmincke Horadam are the same colors – both have a PR179 pigment.

If you take a look at the swatches above, you will notice that I also divided them into certain groups. This is another way of selecting colors: if in a given group the colors look very similar, I choose only one of them.

I also pay attention to transparency (I use mostly transparent or semi-transparent paints) and lightfastness.

My most useful reds

Here is the list of reds that I think are the most helpful and they are not really similar to each other. I don’t really pay attention to the particular brand but I will mention them. All professional paints are great, for me the most important is the pigment and the color itself.

  • Scarlet Lake PR188 by Winsor Newton – orange-red. Scarlet Lake is a wonderful warm red. It is very bright, semi-transparent and has excellent lightfastness. A very similar color is Pyrole Scarlet PR255 by Daniel Smith.
  • Winsor Red PR254 by Winsor&Newton – red-red. Now when I lie down two swatches side by side (of Winsor Red and Pyrole Red Light) I can clearly see that Winsor Red is cooler. It is a wonderful red which I really like and it’s been my main red for a long time. Pyrrol Red by Daniel Smith and Scarlet Red by Schmincke Horadam are the same colors.
  • Quinacridone Red PR209 by Winsor&Newton – pinkish-red. Very different from the two above. When diluted is more like pink than red. Also helpful in many cases. Quinacridone Coral by Daniel Smith is the same color. Note: Quinacridone Red by Daniel Smith is very different, it has PV19 pigment.
  • Winsor Red Deep PR264 by Winsor&Newton – dark-red. This is my favourite dark red which reminds me the color of blood. I use it very often to darken Winsor Red or to paint shadows. I also mix it with Perylene Green to make black. Pyrrol Crimson by Daniel Smith is the same color. Note: Alizarin Crimson PR83 and Permanent Alizarin Crimson PR177 are very similar (Alizarin Crimson more) but they have much worse lightfastness.
  • Perylene Maroon PR179 by Winsor&Newton – brown-red. Very nice, dark red, actually more like a dark brown (depending on what is next to it: if there are reds it looks like red, if there are browns it looks more like dark brown). Very nice in mixes. Deep Red by Schmincke Horadam is the same color.

These are the reds that I’ve found the most useful. I didn’t include Quinacridone Magenta PR122 and Permanent Rose PV19, because I consider them as a different color family.

Here you can see why I was looking for the red. It’s currently on my easel.

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