Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Designing Your Palette

What pigments should you put on your palette?  Depends.  Lets suppose you want to paint landscapes from life.  In this scenario you are faced with a time factor as light shifts and moves.  So, it might help you to have a short palette to eliminate some of the decisions.  In that case a triad of primary colours plus white might make sense.  Such a palette might be Cadmium Yellow Light, Alizarin, Cobalt, and Titanium White.

Practical Colour Wheel

This version of a colour wheel shows specific pigments, a value scale, on a mid value grey.

Here is the palette suggested above showing how to mix yellow ochre (with the addition of white).

Yellow Ochre "greyed yellow"

So, yellow ochre is a tertiary colour.  It is an earth colour or a greyed yellow, made from the three primary colours here (lots of yellow, some red and a little blue).  If you use Alizarin and Cadmium Yellow Light in a mixture to get an Orange, the colour achieved would lie along the line between those two pigments - inside the circle. The pure pigments are shown on the perimeter.  That is, the orange mixed is not as chromatic as an orange pigment - it lies in the greyed area just like the Yellow Ochre.  This is not so bad if you are painting the landscape with its muted (less chroma) colours.  However, if you want more chroma, you should add pigments on the perimeter of the wheel (not tertiary or earth colours) to your palette.  If you want a high chromatic painting you would add all of the pigments and others not mentioned.

Of course it can be much more complicated if you wish.  I have not mentioned the modern pigments.  For me I use what I have found works for me, and leave a spot or two for guest pigments on occasion.

I typically use Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Orange or Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin, Mineral Violet, Ultramarine, Cobalt, and Viridian.  

The Viridian is a great base for greens and makes rich greys.
The mineral Violet is a weak mixing colour used in greys and greens.  Together with Viridian it makes a silvery grey.
The palette has a cool and a warm of the primaries.  This is good for realizing cool and warm temperature passages.
Guest pigments might include Cobalt Violet, Permanent Rose, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Red Middle etc.
To reduce mixing, I often use Transparent Red Oxide, and yellow Ochre.
When speed is important I drop a few pigments.

I have painted with the Zorn Palette and other short palettes.  They are great experiences.  Inevitably I like more chroma available. 

You should lay out your palette the same each time.  In poor light you can reach and get the pigment you need.

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