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What's On Your Palette?

One of the perks of being a Resident Artist is that I get to use lots of paint! Like many artists, I have standard colors that I favor, but I’ve gotten questions about what color to use for portraits, landscapes, etc. So lately I’ve been exploring different color palettes when I’ve painted with Interactive and I thought I’d share some of my favorites.

Standard: What can I say – I’m old school! I tend to favor a classic warm/cool palette and generally use the following for my paintings: Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red Medium, Quinacridone Magenta, French Ultramarine Blue, Pthalo Blue, Dioxazine Purple and Permanent Sap Green.

Landscapes: I’ll add Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Permanent Alizarine, Chromium Green Oxide and Paynes Grey as needed. I’ve found that Transparent Perinone Orange is a fantastic glaze color, and landscapes look very cool when underpainted with Transparent Red Oxide. That hint of red makes the greens pop!

Portraits: When I’m working figuratively, I find I incorporate Jaune Brilliant, Naples Yellow Reddish, Toning Grey Pink and Mars Violet along with my standard palette. Sometimes I do an underpainting with Terre Verte like the Old Masters did in the Renaissance.

The above palettes use a mix of opaque, semi-transparent and transparent colors. Using a combination allows me to develop my painting classically with an underpainting, opaque layers and glazes as desired. The painting will absorb the light through multiple paint layers and only bounce part of the light back. This is what makes paintings glow, and this is a characteristic of Old Masters paintings.

When I do formal workshops on Impressionism, I work with a contemporary Impressionist palette, based off Monet’s paintings. This includes:

Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Green, Permanent Green Light, Permanent Alizarine, Vermillion, Yellow Ochre and Dioxazine Purple. I’ll use Cadmium Orange, Napthol Crimson and Brilliant Magenta when I want to make highlights or shadows pop even more. Most of these colors are opaque or semi-transparent, which is a hallmark of Impressionist paintings. When opaque colors are used with a high value and intensity, the overall painting will have a feeling of vibrancy and brightness. The Impressionist paintings reflect the light back from the surface because the light doesn’t get absorbed into the paint film.

If I had to give myself a label, I’d call myself a contemporary American Impressionist, since I aim to capture the light and the emotional resonance of a person, place or thing. That’s probably why I don’t usually use blacks, because I prefer to make my greys using the compliments. Everyone has a different color sensibility, and with 75 colors, everyone is bound to have their favorites. I’m curious: What colors do you use on your palette, and do you find you use different colors for different styles or subjects? Do you know why you choose the colors you do? Post you comments and artwork!

There are (5) Comments, Comments are now closed for this discussion?
  1. comment_1_5954

    Kyle commented on July 5, 2008, at 6:28 am.

    I'm using what I would call a transparent colorist's palette. It's based on the three mixing primaries (yellow, cyan, magenta), plus their secondaries, all single-pigment paints. This yields exceptionally clean mixes all around the wheel.

    Transparent Yellow - primary
    Transparent Perinone Orange - reddish orange between yellow and magenta
    Quinacridone Magenta - primary
    Ultramarine Blue - red-blue between cyan and magenta
    Pthalo Blue - primary cyan
    Pthalo Green - blue-green between yellow and cyan

    I add Titanium White and Carbon Black, which I only use when I'm painting more abstractly.

    I use Transparent Red Oxide for mixing darker and earth tones. I find it very similar to Burnt Sienna, only transparent. Great mixed with blues or yellow for different browns or with Pthalo Green for a dark, deep green. Or mix with yellow for an Indian yellow.

    I've also recently added Permanent Brown Madder out of curiosity and found it a surprisingly versatile color. Mix with magenta for alazarin crimson, with yellow for a raw sienna or reddish gold, or with Pthalo Green for a gorgeous near-black. You can even get a mars violet by adding some blue. I also love the dusty rose you get by tinting it. It's the only non-crucial color on my palette, but I like having it.

    You might be wondering why I have orange instead of a red or scarlet, but the idea is that perinone orange is basically halfway between magenta and cool yellow (same thing on the other side of the wheel with Pthalo Green) and so is better for mixing than having a medium red that is only a step away from magenta. By adding it to magenta, I get all kinds of clear, bright reds, and it does a great job of warming up the yellow. It's also fantastic for mixing dark browns when added to either of the blues.

    The one color I wish I had was a transparent yellow oxide for landscapes and portraits. Chroma hear my cry!

    I make occasional use of Copper in non-figurative work, just because I like it. I've also done some cool scratch back work with Tri-Art's graphite gray (my only non-Interactive color). It's useless for mixing because you lose the luminous sheen of the graphite, but it's a neat touch every now and then. It doesn't really bother me that it's not Interactive since I don't mix it, but if Chroma made it, I'd buy it from them instead, of course :).

    So that's 9 colors on the basic palette plus brown madder every now and then plus wishing I had Interactive trans. yellow oxide on my regular palette plus the two metallics for special projects.

  2. comment_2_5954

    Diaedwards commented on August 7, 2008, at 9:20 am.

    I agree that Transparent Yellow Oxide would be a great addition, in JoSonja acrylics I use her Transparent Yellow Oxide stain or glaze a lot.
    Thanks for all the mixture ideas. I am a color fiend and love to find new combinations after 45 years of painting in oils and acrylics.

  3. comment_3_5954

    Coonradt commented on August 8, 2008, at 2:21 pm.

    I love all the Chroma colors that I have. They are clear and true. I use a lot of Permenant Brown Madder as well as Naples Yellow Reddish, Red Gold, Raw Sienna Dark and Cobalt Turquoise Light in all my painting. There is only one color that I use on a consistant basis that is not an Interactive color and that is Windsor & Newton Buff Titanium. If Chroma made such a color I would add it to my paint box.
    When I started using Chroma Interactive paints I very quickly donated my old paints to a summer art program for kids. I don't even shop other paints at all now because I know I will be able to find what I want from Chroma. I stick with Chroma and recommend it to all my students. Once each new semester I bring in my personal paints and let my students try them during a class. I have even switched my oils for Chroma's Archival brand.
    I love color and love the brilliance and clarity of Chroma colors. I have not used the Transparent Yellow Oxide but it sounds interesting so will give it a try next time I shop for paint. I have not done much glazing in my painting and am just now discovering the fun things you can do with a glaze.
    I am 71 years old and have been an artist all my life but did not know it. It went under the name of homemaker. I did my first oil painting thirty years ago which started me on a quest to become an artist with a brush as opposed to a needle artist. When I retired I became a full time painter and not a day goes by that I am not painting. The Interactive Paints were a wonderful find for me and have made acrylic painting more like oils for me.
    But back to the original subject which was about what palette I use. I make my students use two reds, two yellows and two blues with white and black the first several weeks of class to mix all their colors and to have a clear understanding of what the paints will do for them before I let them use all the various pre-mixed colors available.
    I trust Chroma Interactive Paints to get me the results I am looking for in all my painting. If they make watercolors I will use them as well as their oil and acrylic paint.

  4. comment_4_5954

    Shanipants commented on August 10, 2008, at 6:24 am.

    I love color! I am a die hard oil painter, but I used to use Golden acrylics and I have had a tube of every color at one time or another, but I am truly growing to appreciate the unique nature of Interactive paints. I find that regardless of whether I have 10 or 100 colors my standard palette includes:
    Payne's Grey for darkening
    Titanium White for tinting
    Cadmium Red medium
    Permanent Alizarine
    Cadmium Yellow Medium
    Cadmium Yellow Light
    Yellow Ochre
    Sap or Forest Green
    Cerulean Blue
    Phtalo Blue
    Quinacridone Magenta
    Burnt Umber
    Burnt Sienna
    Raw Umber

    If I want to round things out I add Cobalt Turquoise Light, and something like Golden's Quinacridone Burnt Orange- though I hear that Chroma's Red Gold is similar, as well as Cadmium Orange and Diox. Purple.

    I paint portraits often. I mix flesh tones using Alizarine, and Yellow Ochre, as a base with White, Sap Green or Paynes Grey for lighter flesh, for darker ethnic flesh I use Alizarine, Yellow Ochre, Burnt or Raw Umber- it is important not to add white to colors mixed with Paynes Grey or the Umbers because it causes a sort of deadening effect.

    I think understanding color mixing is very important. I used to keep my palette down to 7 or 8 colors and mix everything. I personally love to geek out on the pigments and like to have a broader range of colors to mix, including transparent and opaque colors. Knowing what the "pigment codes" mean can really help when you are shopping as well as when you are mixing. I won't always use the extra colors, but it is nice to know I have then if I need a subtle change.

  5. comment_5_5954

    Jennifer commented on August 22, 2008, at 11:19 pm.

    What great suggestions - I'll be doing some plein air work next week & I'll bring some of these suggestions along. I'm always up for trying new color schemes,and I'll post the results. Lately I've been using a lot more Cobalt Blue. I forgot how beautiful this color is!