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Choosing Your Basic Oil Painting Colors

Oil Painting Colors

What basic oil painting colors should you choose when you start?

That will depend on who you're asking, as opinion differ from artist to artist, and from art teacher to art teacher.

For instance, in Oil Painting for the Beginner (Watson-Guptill), Frederic Taubes suggests the following basic list of colors as a starter:

  • White Lead (Flake White)
  • Prussian Blue
  • Ultramarine Blu
  • Viridian Green (Chro-moxide Green
  • Transparent)
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Venetian Red
  • Cadmium Red
  • Alizarin Crimso
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber and
  • Ivory Black

As additional colors, he recommends Naples Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Indian Red and Cerulean Blue.

On the other hand, Jerry Farnsworth's Learning to Paint in Oil (Watson-Guptill) contains the following list of essential colors for the oil painter:

  • Zinc White
  • Cadmium Yellow Pale
  • Cadmium Yellow Mediu
  • Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red Light
  • Cadmium Red Deep
  • Yellow Ochr
  • Raw Sienna
  • Venetian Red
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Raw Umber
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Viridian
  • Ultramarine Blu
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Ivory Black

Other colors which he likes to use at times are Oxide of Chromium, Mars Violet, Payne's Gray, and the Manganese Blues and Greens.

But, if you are just beginning to paint, you will do well to start with a oil painting color range of a reputable brand.

Most color manufacturers make a line of student colors along with their professional grades.

These colors are appreciably less expensive and the selection is nearly as wide as in the professional line. As you progress, you can replace the student brand with colors of professional quality, which have far greater covering quality, particularly in the Cadmiums and Blues.

I recommend the following oil painting colors for basic use:

  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Light Cadmium Red
  • Light French Ultramarine
  • Ivory Black
  • Light Red
  • Thalo Green
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Zinc or Titanium White

These nine colors will enable you to mix the various shades of other colors that you will need for most purposes.

  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Deep Cadmium Orange
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Light French Ultramarine
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Viridian
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Thalo Blue
  • Raw Umber


More Oil Painting Color Links









Rokeby Venus, by Velazquez

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