How Did I Choose My Palette?

How Did I Choose My Palette?

Becky Joy

Painting Palette

Have you wondered how to choose your painting palette of colors? So many colors, how to choose.

I'll tell you my experience. I painted my first painting in oils when I was 12 years old. I don't remember exactly which colors I used, but I do remember the painting, an old barn, and that there were lots of earth tones in the palette. I would assume that ochers, siennas and burnt umber were part of the list of colors. These are all tertiary colors, which can be mixed. I also know that I didn't learn anything about mixing colors at that time. So, I also assume that the red barn was red paint out of the tube and the green trees used green paint out of the tube.

Since that time, I'm fortunate to have taken some workshops from some great artists. My first workshop from a well known artist was Ray Roberts in about 2000. It was a plein air workshop and we used a limited palette. Since I have continued to paint in plein air, I have chosen to keep it simple with the number of paint tubes that I am willing to carry. I have modified my palette over the years. Some colors have been added finding colors that worked for me after taking additional workshops and experimenting.

The warm/cool limited palette that I started with (to the best of my recollection) consists of the following paint colors: Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and Cerulean Blue. Since that time I have made a few modifications.

I have added Dioxazene Purple which is brighter than what I can mix with Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson. I also have added Sap Green, which is really for convenience. Beautiful greens can be made with the limited palette. I also changed from Cadmium Yellow Medium to Cadmium Orange. I felt this gave me more options. I am not able to mix as bright of an orange as the Cad Orange will give me and I can use a small amount of Cadmium Orange and Cadmium Yellow Lemon together to get the same color as a cadmium light and medium yellows. I tried to switch from Alizarin Crimson to Alizarine Permanent, which is more lightfast than crimson, but the color isn't quite as deep. Sometime, I would still like to replace the Alizarin Crimson, but for now it remains on my palette. I have also switched from Cerulean Blue to Manganeze Hue, this gives me a cleaner, brighter color when adding white to it.

When I travel by car and can take a few more colors with me, I will add more reds and blues. Once in a while I find an object, especially pink flowers that are hard to duplicate with Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium Red Light. In the studio, I will add more colors for convenience, colors that are hard to duplicate and for fun. I like playing with color.

For a beginning artist, I think it is important to start with a limited amount of colors, expanding on it when you learn more about color and if you choose to use different colors.


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