How Many Colors on Your Palette

Oil Painting Supplies

Usually between 8 colors and 14 is the average. Now, at one point, I had more than 40 colors, and seriously, you will learn quickly that there are many similarities too tones and color throughout any paint manufacturing range. In other words, if you have Quinacridone Red and Quinacridone Magenta and Quinacridone Violet, they appear very different, but when you begin to mix them with the other colors, you will notice that they give very similar color mixes. It comes down to, what of those colors turns you on the most.

My personal oil painting palette comes down to how fast they dry, how well they mix with one another, how easy they are to replace and if they are toxic or not. Which comes to a different section of choosing your colors. How harmonious is your palette? A warm blue doesn’t mix well with a cool yellow, it will produce dull greens. But a cool blue and a cool yellow will produce bright greens, that can be dulled down with a violet. 

After years of painting, you will discover that there are colors you cannot live without, even if you can mix the color. For me, it would be yellow ochre. You can mix various ochres with Quinacridone Violet/Red/Magenta and Cadmium Yellow or Hansa Yellow, but if you are constantly mixing the color, just buy the tube, it will make your life so much easier.

This is a full set. Many people are opposed to black in their color mixing set, but sometimes, you are going to want black, particularly if you are doing a black and white painting. It is also helpful in learning how to paint, learning tones, and in general just buy a black. 

I use Gamblin and Winsor & Newton. Both of those manufacturers are available where I live. Winsor & Newton are available all over the world, they are reliable, that’s the main reason why I like them. Some people do not like W&N and use other brands. That’s fine, totally, totally fine. If there were more choices, maybe I’d go with another brand, but I don’t. There is one boutique art supply store in town, they have Gamblin, M. Graham and Winsor & Newton. But I can walk into Hobby Lobby, Michael’s or Aaron Brothers throughout the entire country and get W&N oil paint. So, we are talking convenience. Nothing is worse for me than almost running out of paint and having to wait two weeks for some art supply chain online to deliver the goods! Seriously.

Choose one color of each:

White

Black (yes, you will need black for black and white paintings!)

Yellow

Red

Blue

Violet

Brown

A harmonious palette that works in all mediums:

Titanium white

Ivory black

Cadmium Yellow Light

Cadmium Red Light

Phthalo Blue GS

Dioxazine or Cabozle Violet (same pigment)

Burnt Umber

A cheaper and non-toxic version of the above:

Titanium White

Mars Black

Hansa Yellow Medium

Pyrrole Red (Bright Red in W&N)

Phthalo Blue

Dioxazine 

Burnt Umber

A fast drying for oil painters palette is:

Titanium White

Mars Black

Hansa Yellow Medium

Pyrrole Red

Phthalo blue

Ultramarine Violet (looks like Dioxazine but won’t drive you crazy with the drying times)

Raw Umber

I like Raw Umber for the browns because it is a neutral brown. It dries overnight, and can be used as an under painting color. It is perfect for those who want to do the ground work, but do not yet know whether they want a cool painting or a warm painting. Like landscapes, sometimes, you’ll be in the middle of a down pour and the colors will change from warm to cool, so, if you tone your canvas, Raw Umber works wonders. 

Furthermore, Raw umber mixes a fantastic black with Phthalo blue. It creates beautiful Bordeaux colors with red.