I am a great admirer of colours, I love all colours with great passion and they are all so close to my heart. Having to limit the colours I use regularly is just a practical solution to the impossible idea of having them all play a part.
That is why I developed a system that works for me: I have some regular colours and the special guest stars for a particular painting project.
I was always so curious to see what kind of colours other artists are using and when I would discover a new one I tested it to see if I missed a hidden gem. My personal set of regular colours has developed from my own painting practice and that is what I suggest you do as well. You have to try different things until you find what exactly works for yourself. There is no one formula for success and there are no shortcuts here. You can use the palette I listed but it may not work for you, it is a personal choice after all.
This is my basic oil painting palette, my main colour stars:
- Cadmium yellow light
- Cadmium yellow medium
- Yellow ochre
- Cadmium orange deep
- Cadmium red light
- Permanent alizarin crimson
- Ultramarine blue
- Phthalo green
- Transparent oxide red
- Terra rosa
I do not really believe in limited palettes. Why would you want to limit yourself with colours? That would be like if a writer used only one set of words and combined them till the end of time. That sounds very taxing to me. I see how limiting colours can be beneficial for some artists but we are all so delightfully different, aren’t we?
I haven’t listed the special guest star colours, but you can go have a look at the variety offered by paint manufacturers to get that exact list 😁 (I see no point in listing you an entire catalog) Those are colours I use in special circumstances and one of the favourites in this category is “Terre verte” as for me that is the happiest colour of all. I am thinking of making it a regular.
I am currently auditioning different violets, as I will be adding a regular violet once I have established which one that is. I guess in a couple of years, these things take lot’s of time. You can see me here still using a violet I mixed from ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson.
I have a very sensitive nose and do not tolerate most solvent available today. This also makes me very particular about the smell of paint and I use only paint that passed my nose’s test. My studio always smells very good with a hint of cloves essential oil that I use to prolong the drying times of the paint laid out on my palette. I use some solvents with great caution in different particular situations and instructions on those far exceed the reach of this article so I will not recommend you any of those.
I use oil gels regularly, as well as some impasto mediums, but most often I use only a little bit of walnut oil. I also enjoy making my own mediums, as I find it empowering to make a medium exactly to my liking. As with paint, I have a great variety of mediums and use them for various purposes and most recently to play with thin and thick applications of paint.
What is your preferred colour palette? If you have any questions or to share your own preferences please use the comments section below.