REVIEW: YInMn Blue Watercolor

YInMn Blue – what is it and what’s so exciting about it? And how do I pronounce it without spraining my tongue? Why is it exciting? It’s the first new inorganic blue in over 200 years! In 2009, Dr. Mas Subramanian and his team at Oregon State University accidentally discovered this color pigment. It’s made of Yttrium(Y), Indium (In) and Manganese (Mn).

It is pronounced Yin-Min Blue, yin as in ‘yin and yang’ and the Mn is pronounced ‘min’ as in ‘minute’. You’ll commonly see it with a capital ‘I’ after the y, YInMn, though QoR Watercolor has chosen to label it with the lower case ‘i’. You may also see it called MasBlue, Oregon Blue, and Crayola created a crayon using it, called Bluetiful.


YInMn Blue Comparison

YInMn Blue Watercolor comparison chart with Ultramarine Blue and Cobalt Blue

There are some exciting differences about YinMn Blue. Unfortunately, most of them won’t excite watercolor artists. It is heat-reflecting, which means energy savings in many industries, and it’s highly stable, meaning it won’t fade even in sunlight. That lightfastness is good for watercolorists, of course, but other blues are also extremely lightfast.

I know this section uses many terms that people may be unfamiliar with, so there are definitions provided at the end of the review.

YinMn Blue falls between Ultramarine Blue (PB29) and Cobalt Blue (PB28), so I thought a comparison would be helpful. Colors, even with the same pigment name, can vary widely according to brand, so I’ve used QoR brand for all three, and I’m specifying the properties for that brand.

YinMn Blue hasn’t been rated through the art industry as yet or assigned a pigment index number. There has been enough testing, so we know it is extremely lightfast. Though not yet labeled as such, I would say it is semi-opaque and semi-staining. It granulates – more than either Ultramarine or Cobalt Blue, I think. It is the least intense of the three. It is non-toxic. Though it has a beautiful dark masstone, it tends to gray out as water is added.

YinMn Blue Watercolor Example

Cobalt Blue (Pigment Index: PB28) is extremely lightfast, and semi-opaque. It granulates, but is the least granulating of the three. It is semi-staining. It is neither cool nor warm. Cobalt colors are toxic.

Ultramarine Blue (Pigment Index: PB29) is extremely lightfast, and semi-transparent. It granulates. It has a medium staining strength, and moderate intensity. It is considered the warmest blue by many. It is non-toxic.

So not a huge difference between the three colors. To add insult to injury, YinMn Blue is expensive. Not break-the-bank expensive: this 5 ml tube was $14 USD. This is because the metal Indium is expensive. If other industries buy it then it may become cheaper. For now, though, why would you buy it, when it is so close to Ultramarine Blue and Cobalt Blue? I’ll answer that farther below.


Often colors that look similar will give very different results when you mix them with other colors. I was surprised that there wasn’t more variation between mixes of these three colors.

YInMn Blue Watercolor Coloring Mixing Chart Including Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue

Paintings Using YInMn Blue

Watercolor Painting With YInMn Blue Watercolor

My first two paintings were done completely by glazing layers of YinMn. The one above was done on cold-pressed watercolor paper. I expected it to granulate, but was surprised at how easily and how much granulation there was.

Landscape Painting with YInMn Blue Watercolor

This second painting was done on hot-pressed paper. It does have a little texture, but is fairly smooth. Usually, I would expect little to no granulation and was again surprised at how much there was. I don’t think the scan shows it very well, though.

As usual, I did quite a bit of lifting color, both while the paint was wet and while it was dry. It lifts well. I like the misty effect I was able to get along the mountains in the back.

For my third painting, every color I used is a mix of YinMn Blue. Living in Oregon, as I do, I’m used to misty, low-key mornings and YinMn was a great color to capture it.

In this last painting, I used YinMn Blue and mixes of it, along with Transparent Pyrrole Orange. For the background, I dropped color wet-into-wet rather than mixing on the palette. Bluebirds are actually gray, and it is a trick of the light and the way our eyes work that makes them seem blue. I like YinMn Blue for a painting like this, because it hints at the actual gray color.

Why Might You Want YinMn Blue?

At this time, YinMn Blue is being offered through special order.

Whether to buy it now or if it becomes cheaper, is going to be a highly individual choice. I bought it because I was curious. And because it’s a little bit of history-in-the-making.

To my eye, YinMn Blue is a hard color to categorize. I think it’s because of the granulation, but sometimes I see a more green-ish, and other times more violet-ish blue. It was hard to scan and photograph correctly. I got it right eventually, but screens are calibrated differently, so you may not see what I see. So truly, no one knows what the color looks like unless they see it in real life. I wanted to know!

It granulates more easily than any other color I’ve ever used, even on hot-pressed smooth paper. I like granulation, and often find it difficult to get as much as I want. That won’t be a problem with YinMn.

It is dull, more similar to the intensity (not necessarily the color) of an Indanthrene Blue, Cobalt Blue Deep, or Indigo Blue. I like the mixes that it makes. Misty mornings, dark waters, stony textures, dusk … I can think of lots of reasons to reach for this color.

If it ever gets cheaper, I’ll definitely add it to my palette. A 5 ml tube allows for quite a few paintings. I’ll see how I feel once it’s gone, and how difficult it is to find, and I might pay the higher cost again. That said, I wouldn’t call it a must-have color.


Pigment colors have characteristics, not just color. Some might look pebbly or extra smooth. Some might flow more easily than others. Some might be bright where others are dull. These are the properties of a color and terminology has been created to help you identify them. Of course, if you don’t know the meaning, they can confuse rather than help.

Masstone: The color of the pigment fresh from the tube, with little to no water added.

Pigment Index Number: Pigments are assigned internationally recognized color index numbers. The P = Pigment. Then comes the code that indicates the color group: PB=Blue, PBk=Black, PBr =Brown, P=Green, PM=Metal, PO=Orange, PR=Red, PV=Violet, PW=White, PY=Yellow. Not all colors are assigned Pigment index numbers.

Lightfastness: the degree to which a color will fade in daylight.

Transparency/opacity: the degree to which lines or other colors can show through the paint. Transparent would be like colored glass, while opaque completely covers what lies below. Semi-transparent or semi-opaque means it falls somewhere in-between.

Granulation: that pebbly look that some paints get, caused because larger particles settle into the paper while smaller particles float on top.

Staining strength: some colors literally dye the paper forever. Others can be lifted away to some degree. Lifting while the paint is still wet usually works best, especially with highly staining colors. It is rare to get all the way back to the color of the paper.

Intensity/chroma/saturation: The brightness or dullness of a color. Intensity can also refer to the purity of a hue, but I’m using it here to indicate bright or dull.

Temperature: whether a color makes you think of hot or cool. Yellow is considered hottest, then red. Blue is the coolest, then green.

  • A yellow tending toward orange would be the warmest yellow. A yellow tending toward green would be the coolest yellow.
  • A red tending toward yellow would be the warmest red. A red tending toward blue would be the coolest red.
  • A blue tending toward red would be the warmest blue. A blue tending toward green would be the coolest blue.

Note that many people disagree on how warm or cool a color is, especially with the blues. The colors around it can affect how warm or cool a color appears.

Tooth: When you run your fingers over the surface of watercolor paper, you should feel texture, sometimes gritty, sometimes wavy, sometimes like tiny hills and valleys. This may be easily seen, or you may have to hold the paper at an angle to see it. The different types of surfaces are given specific names. Cold-pressed is the most common.

Cold-pressed/Hot-pressed/Rough: The texture of a paper varies according to the way it is made. There is no real standard, so a paper by one company may be called hot-pressed, while another would call it cold-pressed. Generally, hot-pressed is smooth with a hint of tooth, great for detail, while cold-pressed has more ‘tooth’ – higher points and lower points. Cold-pressed is the most commonly used watercolor paper.

Glaze/Glazing: Painting a thin layer of watercolor over a layer(s) of watercolor that has already dried.


Disclaimer: I bought this tube of QoR YinMn Blue watercolor to satisfy my own curiosity. I received no other considerations, though this post may contain affiliate links which help support Doodlewash. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews

37 thoughts on “REVIEW: YInMn Blue Watercolor

  1. Sandra, as usual, good review, I have enjoy it a lot. Maybe I will try it, but I have to say that I am not a great fan of Qor watercolors, because I do prefer other brands. But maybe is time to try it!!!! Thanks for your review, I enjoy it anyway.

  2. Great review Sandra. Thank you. As usual, I love your paintings. Although I like the whoosh of QoR w/cs, I don’t like the price. I think that I’ll just use granulating medium with my current paints rather than purchase YinMn Blue.

  3. Thank you, :Professor Sandra – what an excellent review of this new color and for the paint terms you explained. Not sure I’m going to purchase this color yet, though I really like QoR paints. I’ve noticed that all my QoR watercolor paints exhibit a high degree of granulation – often the perfect effect for a painting. Your paintings are beautiful, especially the expressive Oregon landscape and the graybird who’s moonlighting as blue.

  4. Excellent review. I ordered it and am looking forward to getting it. You’re right, it’s very dear at $14 a tube and then $14 for the shipping. But this may be the only opportunity for us to experiment with a new watercolor pigment like this. I am going to be trying it with some of my Daniel Smith Primatek colors as I think it is close in color and behavior to Lapis but their lapis is such a washed out disappointment.

  5. Thanks, Sandra! I’m nutzo for Smalt blue, and this looks like it has similar properties. Definitely a fun color to play with by the looks of it!

  6. Love your reviews! So informative without being obscure and full of unnecessary fluff. Great read! Thanks for all the visuals. As always your paintings are beautiful and refreshing.

  7. Great review and had no idea there was a new blue out there. But I’m not a fan of QoR watercolors and it looks washy like all of their other colors. You can really see how QoR colors fade in your beautiful paintings. I suppose time will reveal whether or not this blue catches on with other art paint brands or is just a passing fad. Personally, I don’t see anything to draw me to it over any other blue, but if Daniel Smith picks it up, it will probably take off hahaha!

    Btw I think it’s important to mention that Cobalt is only toxic if you mix your paints yourself and breathe in the pigment particles in high quantities. In a palette, it’s highly stable and poses zero risk, even if you dip your paint brush into your coffee cup. 😉

    Cheers and again, thanks so much for the wonderful info, as always!

    1. Thank you for the link, Heidi! Kremer does have the color available in pigment powder, and it’s included in their Blue pan palette set. The shipping might be cheaper, but the set is € 145.00, so that’s not an improvement unless you really, really want a set of blue watercolors, lol. Hopefully, the price will come down so that more artists can give this color a try.

      1. Hi Sandra, You can by a full pan apart, and for me, living in Belgium – even if it is still extr. expensive – it was worth the try. So now I have a full pan with a some discount for my birthday and the shipping of a European letter. All in all less expensive and more value for my money. And more client friendlyness. Sorry to say. But I sure wanted that QoR 🙂 🙂 🙂

  8. Hi, Sandra. Great review! I am a chemist writing a book on pigments for the Royal Society of Chemistry. I’d like to use one of your art works using YIn Min Blue as an illustration in the book and also cite your webpage. How can I receive permission, please? Many thanks.
    Mary Virginia Orna

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