Updated: Apr 7, 2021

This is a sample chart of browns and one black. Its purpose is to demonstrate the similarities and differences in the color brown. I included ivory black (a blue-toned black) to see how browns appear against the black. These are not all the browns available but some of the most popular. These are oil paints by M. Graham. It is important to note that colors may appear a little different among brands.

Oil Paint Handling Characteristics:

Professional artists will choose one similar-looking brown color over another for the following reasons:

1. Color Purity

2. Pigment Load

3. Stiffness

4. Flow

5. Granulation

6. Transparency

7. Opaqueness

8. Permanence

9. Cost

Artists might eventually mix paint brands. However, this is not advised unless the artist is sure that the paint ingredients can commingle.

Many professional artists create color charts where they mix one color with each color on their palette to see the color possibilities. To simplify a chart on browns, mix each primary color with its complementary color to see what color of brown can be achieved.

My favorite brown oil paint is burnt sienna. Why?

1. In artist-grade paints, burnt sienna is usually a pure pigment (PLBr7) which makes great color purity.

2. A similar color can be mixed from primary colors, but it is so convenient to not have to mix this popular color. Also, used as a pure pigment it retains its rich color.

3. It can be thinned and rubbed on a white canvas to achieve an earthy-toned canvas. I recommend thinning with a non-toxic solvent substitute.

4. Its granulation property is not a problem in medium to heavy applications. This granulation characteristic is useful if thinned as a glaze over rocks and trees to add a convincing texture. Granulation is different between brands.

5. It is semi-transparent and contains red tones. Thus, it makes beautiful flesh tones, from delicate light tints to deep rich browns.

6. Burnt sienna is so essential in landscape painting for earth colors and to tone down greens.

7. Many artists achieve rich grays or a gentle black by mixing it with ultramarine blue.

8. Burnt sienna is a very permanent paint.

9. As with many earth colors, burnt sienna is likely one of a brand’s less expensive paints.

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