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Oil Painting Colors: Qualities and Characteristics

Oil Painting Colors

Oil painting colors vary in their degree of transparency.

You will soon discover how much more the transparent colors on your palette are affected than the opaque colors, when mixed with white.

This does not necessarily mean that all transparent colors possess less tinting strength.

On the contrary, such transparent and semi-transparent colors as Prussian Blue, Thalo Green, Thalo Blue, and Alizarin Crimson have a powerful tinting capacity.

It is useful to know of this varying degree of transparency in the colors on your palette, both for mixing and for glazing and scumbling.

The table below gives you a snapshot of the qualities and characteristics of the most common oil painting colors.

Opaque Colors

  • Burnt Umber
  • All of the Cadmium colors
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Chromium Oxide Green (Opaque)
  • Light Red
  • Indian Red
  • All of the Mars colors Vermilion
  • All of the Whites
  • Naples Yellow
  • Raw Umber

Semi-Opaque Colors

  • Lamp black
  • Lemon Yellow
  • Permanent Green
  • Light Terra Rosa
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Zinc Yellow

Semi-Transparent Colors

  • Brown Madder
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Gold Ochre
  • Ivory Black
  • Thalo Blue
  • Thalo Green
  • Permanent Green
  • Deep Prussian Blue
  • Raw Sienna


  • All of the Ultramarines
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Green Earth
  • Permanent Blue
  • Rose Madder
  • Viridian

More Oil Painting Links:

Rokeby Venus, by Velazquez


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