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Discover Top Van Dyke Brown Substitutes: 5 Great Options

Are you sold on Van Dyke Brown? This beautiful brown hue will be a wonderful accent for your next project.

But what if you can’t get it quite right? Use the following substitutes for Van Dyke Brown for ideas.

Van Dyke Brown is one of the most sought-after inks for fine artists.

This brownish-black ink is used to create a variety of line effects, and it’s a must-have for every artist.

What is Van Dyke Brown?

what is van dyke brown

Van Dyke Brown is an archival artist pigment.

It’s a very dark brown much like India ink.

The chemical name for Van Dyke Brown is iron oxide (Fe2O3).

That’s the same chemical that gives the earth its natural colour.

Van Dyke Brown is a tannin-based dye.

This means that it uses tannic acid, which comes from certain plants, to give you a brown colour.

The result of the reaction between this acid and an iron-based metal like ferrous sulfate or ferrous ammonium sulfate gives a brown colour.

Van Dyke Brown is the most widely used of all the brown inks and is in the majority of artists’ palettes.

It is an earthy brown ink that can be mixed with other colours to achieve various shades.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Van Dyke Brown

Van Dyke Brown is the ideal pigment to use when you want a brown that is less muddy than raw umber or burnt sienna.

It has a red tint to it and makes an excellent brown underpainting colour.

The formula for making this colour mix is considered a well-kept secret, but here are some great substitutes for van dyke brown:

1 – Cadmium Yellow Medium

cadmium yellow medium

Cadmium Yellow Medium (light) is an excellent permanent, opaque, and lightfast substitute, but it’s not as intense as Van Dyke Brown.

The suggested ratio of either Cadmium yellow medium or Hansa yellow medium to Raw Sienna is about 2:1.

You can also try mixing cadmium yellow medium with white paint.

This will give you a more intense hue that matches Van Dyke brown better than regular cadmium yellow.

The ratio of this mixture will vary depending on what look you are trying to achieve, but one good ratio would be four parts cadmium yellow medium and one part white paint.

2 – Cadmium Yellow Deep

cadmium yellow deep

Cadmium yellow, deep hue has a lot of similarities to the van dyke brown hue, but it is much lighter.

It has a reasonably warm tone.

This colour is used to create shadows in portraits, as well as other light-coloured paintings, such as foliage.

You can use 2 parts Cadmium Yellow Deep to 1 part Raw Sienna.

This combination produces a close match to van Dyke Brown.

Cadmium Yellow Deep is a very opaque paint.

Its consistency is really thick, and it dries quite soft and oily.

This oiliness makes it hard to mix with anything else because most paints aren’t as oily as Cadmium Yellow Deep.

3 – Cadmium Red Light

cadmium red light

Cadmium Red Light is a warm, red, opaque watercolour pigment that has the same tinting strength and permanence as its more expensive counterpart.

It can be used to paint landscapes and portraits and is a popular colour for painting horses.

This pigment produces a similar effect as Van Dyke Brown, though it is slightly cooler in tone and lighter in value.

It’s also an opaque colour, which means it has a high tinting strength, so you can use it to shade watercolour with strong darks instead of using black.

The basic formula of Van Dyke Brown is:

(1) Titanium White + (1.5) Burnt Umber + (0.5) Ivory Black + (0.5) Cadmium Red Light = Van Dyke Brown.

4 – Perylene Maroon

Perylene Maroon is an organic dye with a bluish-black colour.

Perylenes are a group of aromatic hydrocarbons that are important precursors to many dyes.

If you want to make a picture of it, mix the following colours:

  • 7 drops the red lake.
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or less) of Naphthol Yellow S.
  • 4 ounces of alcohol.

Perylene Maroon is a reddish-brown organic pigment.

It has a strong staining effect and a high tinting strength.

It is one of the most used organic pigments in artists’ oil paints.

5 – Perylene Scarlet

It is a warm, dark red and reacts with the same chemicals as van Dyke brown.

Many people use this colour to create flesh tones and other pigments in their artwork.

Perylene Scarlet is an organic dye that can be used as a red-brown pigment.

You can also add it to Yellow Ochre to get a deep red colour.

5 parts Perylene Scarlet + 1 part Sap Green gives you a good Van Dyke brown.

The ratio might change depending on which colours you use and how much light your painting is exposed to, which makes the colour more intense or lighter.


Ultimately, the best colour substitutes for Van Dyke Brown will depend on your project and needs as a designer.

It is important to understand how each shade will appear on your projects before you choose one, but many of these shades offer similar tones.

If you are an artist that is interested in using this or similar colour, chances are you will eventually be able to locate what you need somewhere.

And if you’re just starting your artistic journey and want a colour that’s similar to Van Dyke Brown, we have provided some alternatives to consider above.

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