Your Palette
Beyond the Basic Primary Palette
In general, I recommend that you work with a limited palette. Start with the basic primaries
(Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow and Ultramarine Blue), plus white. Learn the characteristics of
these colours well first. Eventually however, you will want to fill in some gaps.  For instance, you
might it difficult to produce brilliant greens with this palette. This is because both your blue and
your yellow contain traces of red (Ultramarine being a “purplish” blue and Cad Yellow being an
“orangish” yellow).
The Double Primary Palette
One way to do this is simply to add some secondary
colours – say, Viridian (green), Cadmium orange and
a purple (Cobalt violet, or Dioxazine Purple). Another
way however, and one that I prefer, is to double up
on your primary colours. So, if you started with
Cadmium Red, (an “orangish” red), add Alizarin
Crimson (a “purplish” red). Add Cobalt blue for a
cooler companion for Ultramarine, and add a cool
Lemon Yellow, or Cad Yellow light to compliment
the warmer Cad Yellow.  Your palette might look
something like this:

•        Titanium white
•        French Ultramarine
•        Cobalt blue
•        Lemon Yellow
•        Cadmium Yellow
•        Cadmium Red
•        Alizarin Crimson
Other colours
Black –
You will notice I have not mentioned black. Many painters use black, and at some point you should
experiment with it to see if it works for you. Adding black will reduce the intensity of a colour
significantly and too much of it will definitely usually make a painting look muddy. I find that a mixture
of Ultramarine, Alizarin and a little cad yellow will produce a colour dark enough for most purposes.

Earth colours –
You will also notice an absence of earth tones. These are the browns and muted reds and yellows
such as Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber and Burnt Umber. This is a personal
prejudice of mine and I know I am probably not doing justice to these colours. However, I have
never found myself stuck for a particular shade of brown that I couldn’t reasonably approximate from
the above palette. In fact, I find most painters in oils struggle to keep their colours from getting
mucky, so I can see no good reason to buy the muck ready-mixed in tubes!
Pthalo –
Pthalo blues and greens (Windsor &Newton market them as Windsor blue and green) are very
powerful “cool” colours of relevantly recent origins. I use Pthalo blue occasionally, usually in a colour
highlight – a neon sign, a bright jacket, a storefront awning or umbrella etc. The main problem with
these colours is that they are highly staining. If you’re not careful, the colour will take over your
painting. You can usually spot someone with Pthalo on their palette. It’s usually all over their palette,
and their brushes, fingers, hair, clothes, etc. It never gives up!

Beware Hue!
No, we’re not talking about the Borg here. I’m referring to some of the games paint manufacturers
play to get you to buy paints made with substitute ingredients. If you look at a rack of paints in the
art store you will notice a wide disparity between some colours and others.  The fact is, some
pigments (Cobalts and Cadmiums for instance) are much more expensive than others. The earth
colours for instance are just dirt. OK, very specific types of dirt, but dirt nonetheless. The price of a
good tube of Cobalt Blue for instance can be quite shocking. So, in order to deliver colours at certain
price points, the manufacturers have gone out and found pigments that had the same colour (ie.
the same hue) as the expensive pigments. Hence “Cadmium Red Hue” means “this colour has a
similar hue to cadmium red”. It is not, however, cadmium red, and as soon as you start to use the
paint, you see that it behaves nothing like cad red. I have also seem “Imit” used (short for “imitation”
I guess) in the same way. I can think of few other industries where this kind of misrepresentation
would be allowed. “Caveat emptor”, let the buyer beware. Bring your magnifying glass next time you’
re buying paints and read the small print that tells you exactly what pigments are in the tube.