Lunar Blue

I’ve been waiting for a coating of snow on the wheelbarrow to try out a tube of Daniel Smith Lunar Blue watercolour that I received last year at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Porto.

Here is the Daniel Smith description of the colour: The fabric of the night sky glides off the brush in this heavenly shade. Granulating lunar black floats above a phthalo undertone, perfect for capturing a moonlit sky. Inky as midnight, or diffused as the moon on water, semi-transparent Lunar Blue lifts beautifully, leaving behind a mere shadow of itself. This moody watercolor is sure to delight.

I painted a few swatches first and it did delight, so I moved on to a sketch. Of course if you have Lunar Black and Phthalo Blue, you can mix this yourself.

When you first squeeze out the paint on your palette, you’ll think that it’s a very dark paint, but in fact it’s quite light when you start to work with it. It took many layers of wash to get the values right. When you add water to it, it looks very grey. The blue is much more obvious when you paint with it.

Look closely at the swatches too. You’ll see that the staining Phthalo blue and the granular Lunar Black separate as they dry. That creates quite a beautiful effect — one that expresses perfectly the quiet of a snowy day. The only drawback that I found: because it’s a pigment with a lot of subtlety, I had some problems scanning the sketch. As soon as I brightened the whites, all the pale blues disappeared. But maybe you are better in Photoshop than I am!

26 Comments on “Lunar Blue”

  1. Anne Ritchie Klaus says:

    Thank you Shari. Blues are my favourite and I like following your exploration, thinking as well this is what your book will do – so looking forward to that, have pre-ordered. I have DS Lunar Black and Phthalo Blue, but may be tempted to get the mix.


  2. Judy Sopher says:

    I do like that color. And the wheelbarrow scene has taken on a new look. Not quite sure what the original looks like but this looks just fine. (I know nothing about Photoshopping)


  3. jjbrynteg says:

    This is beautifully subtle. I especially like the dry brush work and the knots in the wood of the fence and the shed. It makes me feel cold just looking at it.


  4. M. L. Kappa says:

    Can one have too many Daniel Smith colors? Sigh…
    I do love that wheelbarrow


  5. Wow, with a description like that I’d buy a tube! Lovely sketch, this colour really captures the light these days. Did you use levels in Photoshop?


    • Thanks Alison. I do use Levels in Photoshop. The problem is in the very light areas that are not quite white. I end up using a Gradient layer mask and painting back in the light parts but that takes a long time.


  6. gaelle1947 says:

    Interesting color – there’s a cold eeriness to it – gives me the feeling of what a winter scene would look like during a solar eclipse (not that I’ve had that actual experience). I’m curious as to effects when mixed with other colors or used as shadow color in wet on wet washes. What would be it’s complementary color? I’m sure some of your future paintings will reveal further aspects of this new color.


    • Gayle, I’m not sure I would mix it in with other colours because of the black. It could end up being a very dirty wash. I will have to experiment with it a bit to see. I imagine the complement of this would be some sort of washed out orange/burnt sienna.


  7. Wonderful scene, one of my favorites. Not being an artist, I appreciate your insightful explanation. Stay warm up there!


  8. Elisabeth says:

    I like the color and the way it behaves for you. It workes really well in your monochromatic winter sketch. Thanks for introducing it. I, too would like to see how it mixes with other colors. Did you try lifting it? I kind of like that some of it’s subtleties didn’t scan – reinforces the idea of seeing the real thing. Fortunately, it scans well enough for those of us who are unable to see the original.


    • Elisabeth, I didn’t try lifting it but the Phthalo Blue component would certainly stain the paper somewhat. You’re right about the scan. The colour is much nicer on the paper than on screen. I hope you try it too.


  9. Monique says:

    I like it:)Another I have discovered ..Cascade Green I love what it does:)


  10. 3bones says:

    Love the colour and the scene. Your Photoshop skills look fine to me, although I’m sure nothing would look as good as the original.


  11. Peggy Bjarno says:

    Shari, try “Shadows/Highlights” in PhotoShop.


  12. Ginny says:

    Now I’m going to try Lunar Black with a dark green, maybe dark sap or pery, and see what happens.


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