What Colors Do They Use?

Do you want to know what colors are on other artists' palettes? Are your favorite artists hiding some secrets behind closed studio doors? Well, here's your chance to find out.

This artists palette roundup features acrylic and oil artist across different genres, from realism to abstract, from landscape to portraiture. Some use a limited palette, while others an extended palette.

They are happy to reveal what paints are on their palette and even share some color tips with us. Let's dive in!

Limited Palette

A limited palette usually consists of three primary colors of red, yellow and blue, plus a white.  It may seem restricted and limited, but you would be amazed at how flexible and versatile it can be.  Adopt a limited palette, and not only will you learn to use each color very well, but your paintings will have a kind of build-in color harmony because every color is a combination of two or three of the same tube.

Jim Carpenter

Nickel Azo Gold, Yellow Orange Azo, Turquoise Deep, Pthalocyanine Blue (green shade), Quinacridone Magenta, Quinacridone Crimson, Prism Violet, Unbleached Titanium, Parchment

“The Eternal Heart to Heart” 2012, Acrylic on Paper, 22″ x 30″, by Jim Carpenter

“The Eternal Heart to Heart” 2012, Acrylic on Paper, 22″ x 30″, by Jim Carpenter

Judith Peck

Titanium White, Chinese Vermilion, Mars Yellow, Mars Black (a very cool blue).

Variation: Judith says she is working on something different right now, and she is adding Medium Yellow, Ultramarine Blue to her palette for this new project.

“The Storm Pales”, 24″x18″, Oil on board, by Judith Peck

“The Storm Pales”, 24″x18″, Oil on board, by Judith Peck

Extended or Full Palette

An extended palette consists of a cool and a warm version from each primary color, plus white and few other colors (mostly neutrals) the artist favors. Having a full range of colors at the ready helps you see the relative temperature of colors and how they relate on the color wheel.  Adopt an extended palette, and you can mix almost any color imaginable. It is also a good habit to lay your paints in the same exact order each time, so picking up paints becomes a second nature, much like a pianist hitting his keys.

Pauline Agnew

Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue, Turquoise Blue, Phalto Blue, Indian Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light, Quinacridone Burnt Orange,  Burnt Umber, Raw Sienna, Bone Black

Pauline adds that beginners would be better off steer clear of Phalto Blue and Bone Black until they have experience with colors, as Phalto Blue can overpower and Bone Black can deaden other colors very easily. Pauline recommends mixing a great dark color with Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue instead.

“Easter Sky”, acrylic, by Pauline Agnew

“Easter Sky”, acrylic, by Pauline Agnew

Melinda Cootsona

Primary Colours:
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Mono Orange (Gamblin), Fire Red (Classic Artist Oils, it’s similar to Cadmium Red Light but cheaper), Quinacridone Red, Viridian, Green Gold (Gamblin or Classic), Ultramarine Blue (I can’t live without Ult. Blue), Cobalt Blue (I look for good quality hues)

Titanium White, Gold Ochre, Van Dyke Brown (a great warm black), Ivory or Chromatic Black (Gamblin), Transparent Red Oxide (Classica)

“Hissing of Summer Lawns II”, Oil, 48″x48″, by Melinda Cootsona

“Hissing of Summer Lawns II”, Oil, 48″x48″, by Melinda Cootsona

Lori McNee

The oil paint Lori uses is Cobra water-mixable oils by Royal Talens. She uses a simpler palette for outdoor painting, and a more extended one while working in the studio.

Studio Palette:
Titanium White, Naples Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red Light, Cobalt Blue (for still life) or Cerulean Blue (for landscape), Ultramarine Blue, Permanent Green, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Madder Lake (also known as Alizarin), and rarely Ivory Black

Plein Air Palette:
Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Ultramarine Blue, Madder Lake, and sometimes she will add Cerulean Blue and Permanent Green.

“Old Chinese Flash & Hummingbirds”, 20″x24″, Oil on board, by Lori McNee

“Old Chinese Flash & Hummingbirds”, 20″x24″, Oil on board, by Lori McNee

William Rushton

Titanium White, Magenta, Cadmium Red Deep, Cadmium Orange, Cerulean Blue, French Ultramarine Blue, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Permanent Green, Paynes Gray, Cadmium Yellow Hue, Cadmium Yellow Light

“Tea”, 18″x18″, Oil, by William Rushton

“Tea”, 18″x18″, Oil, by William Rushton

What Colors Should You Use?

As you can see, different artists prefer different colors. The palette alone does not guarantee a good painting, and the magic does not happen with a particular pigment.

It is the artist’s experience, skills, perseverance, compassion, love and devotion to making the work that make their work beautiful and magical.

What are your favorite colors?