Choosing your paints

My own palette contains no greens. I mix them.
There are millions of possible palette combinations out there, and there is no one ‘correct’ system. My goals in choosing pigments are:
·          Lightfastness
·          Transparency
·          Single pigment
·          Position on the color wheel
·          Environmental friendliness
Understanding the difference between pigments and colors is essential in buying the right paint. Almost all paints sold in the US carry a Pigment CI name in tiny letters somewhere on the label. Learn to buy paint from this, rather than the poetic color name under which the paint is marketed.
Top row: hansa yellow, yellow ochre, raw sienna, burnt sienna. Second row: Indian yellow, cadmium orange, quinacridone violet, ultramarine blue. Bottom row: Prussian blue, ivory black, titanium white. The carrier was Jamie Grossman’s idea and I’ve used it for several seasons instead of tubes.
The single-pigment paints are made with only one pigment. Thus, cobalt blue contains only the pigment PB28; Prussian Blue contains onlythe pigment PB27. Paint manufacturers often blend pigments to approximate discontinued historic colors (Naples yellow or Alizarin Crimson) or to sell cheaper ‘hues’ of pricier paints, like the cadmiums.
My own palette doesn’t usually contain a true red, but when I use one, it’s generally naphthol red, because I’m concerned about the consequences of cadmium manufacture in China. Sadly, I’ve not found a substitute for cadmium orange, which is one of the three solid opaque pigments I use (the others being titanium white and yellow ochre).
Long after my own palette was written in stone, I came across this in a Grumbacher book and realized what I’m doing is pairing primaries.
My palette is roughly based on the idea of paired primaries. This means I have two blues—a warm and a cool—two yellows—a warm and a cool—and two ‘reds’, which in this case are quinacridone violet and cadmium orange. I fill these out with a variety of ‘earth tones’ because these are inexpensive paints and save me a lot of mixing.

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