Streamlining the Paint Box

As the new year begins, artists sometimes get the urge to clean out the studio and make a fresh start. A painter can mix these few tube colors to create any color on the traditional color wheel, plus all the tones and tints possibly needed. No need to buy any more tubes of paint that are not on the simplification list:

Red: Quinacridone Red

Blue: Ultramarine and Phthalo

Yellow: Cadmium Pale or Light

White: Titanium

Burnt Umber

*Cadmium Orange

I suggest these as all the colors you will need if you decide to paint as a “full spectrum” painter. The last starred orange choice is strictly a convenience one for those who use a lot of orange in their paintings, and is a useful tube paint for mixing toned hues. (You can quickly mix your orange from the red and yellow I suggested here.)

If you paint in oils, save your muddy grays when you periodically scrape your palette with unused paint. It is a natural “toner” to mix in occasionally as needed.

I use these main tube colors because I like to have the purest choice available before I tone the hues. These pigments give me a good pure secondary or tinted color choice for (primary) green, violet, and pinks, which are sometimes difficult to achieve with other tube colors.

I hold to the opinion of some painting instructors that it is better to mix one’s own palette than to purchase the secondary or tertiary hues in tube form. The learning experience makes for better painting in the long run.


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