Painters and Their Palettes

Some painters were invited to describe their palettes and the way they organize them, as well as their preferences regarding brushes, paint brands and medium formulas. Their replies follow.

Paul Cezanne

The colors on Cezanne's palette, according to Emile Bernard:
brilliant yellow
naples yellow
chrome yellow
yellow ochre
raw sienna
red ochre
burnt sienna
rose madder
carmine lake
burnt lake
emerald green
green earth
cobalt blue
prussian blue
peach black
lead white

Gideon Bok

For brands, I use mostly RGH paint, and have for many years. I also use some Old Holland, Gapka, Williamsburg, and occasionally Gamblin.
The medium is mostly rectified turpentine in the early stages of a painting, and then a mix of rectified turp and walnut oil, then straight walnut oil. I have three bottles, one with straight clean turp, one with half and half, and one with straight walnut oil. I have the kind of pourers they use for liquor bottles in bars on them, which helps keep them from drying and evaporating and also controls the pour. I used to use linseed oil but haven't been lately. I don't wash my brushes as often as I should, but I clean them in turpentine and use them until (usually way after) they've worn out.

I am not very careful about how I set out the colors on the palette, and there is no specific pattern. I lay out the basic palette that I'll need for a given situation, depending on what I'm looking at. Generally speaking, though, an average day will have cadmium red medium and/or light, sometimes cad red dark (or deep or maroon, depending) cadmium yellow light and/or medium, cremnitz, flake, or lead white (I don't generally use titanium white for mixing color. I find flake to be much more color-friendly) raw umber, indigo blue (an RGH color-basically a pthalocyanine blue that's been mellowed out a bit with some other pigment) cerulean blue, cobalt blue, and ultramarine. The blues vary somewhat, but I try to have one opaque warm, one opaque cool, one transparent warm and one transparent cool blue. Usually those are the above colors from RGH, but I occasionally use one or two of the old holland blues for certain blacks and grays.

Sometimes (depending on the time of year or the dominant colors in the studio) I will add cadmium green, other earth colors, red oxide transparent, etc. and if there's something important in the studio that needs a rich pink or purple I'll use quinacrodone or something like that. My current studio floor at the place where I'm teaching involves a really weird combination of mars red, which I never ordinarily use, and some purples and rose colors, the pigments of which are a complete mystery to me because the labels on the cans (all from RGH) are obscured by paint.

I use thick glass for a palette, as big as I can manage, and smear a thick layer of gesso on the bottom and use the gesso to glue it to a piece of blue foam insulation, which helps keep the glass from cracking. The excess paint that builds up around the edges keeps soupy stuff from flowing off the palette onto the floor when things get really sloppy. I clean it with razor scrapers from the hardware store. I have several palettes, but the one I'm using now is a relatively new piece of glass that sits on top of a desk that I found discarded behind a Goodwill store some years ago. I keep brushes and palette knives in the drawers, except what I'm using, which is stored in a can of turp on the palette. I screwed casters to the bottom of the legs so I could move it around easily.

Currently the brushes are in a can filled with turpentine. The can kept falling over and spilling all over the palette so I put it inside an old cylinder from a motorcycle, which keeps it stable.

David Campbell
Flake/Cremnitz by RGH (just started using RGH this year in lieu of Old Holland's discontinuation of Cremnitz)
Cadmium Yellow
Cadmium Red
Cadmium Green Light
Cobalt Blue
Naples Yellow Light
Yellow Ochre
Mars Red
Burnt Siena
Payne's Grey
and sometimes Turkey Umber
I mostly use Winsor & Newton paints. a few are from Williamsburg.

Lin Chen

The following colors are always on my palette; they form my “basic palette” regardless what I paint
cad yellow lemon
cad yellow light
cad orange medium
cad red medium
alizarin crimson
phthalo green blue shade
phthalo blue green shade
ultramarine blue
titanium white
Brand: Utrecht, in 150ml tubes

As a rule, I mix the phthalo green with cad yellow to get a saturated green, and place it halfway between the warm and cool hues.

I keep additional colors on hand depending on specific subjects
cad scarlet
cad green pale
The mixture of these two gives an incomparable flesh tone for figure. Cad green pale sometimes is a stand-in for a particularly elusive yellow; with a bit of cad scarlet added it performs as orange.
manganese violet
The low tinting strength of this color helps me cool/dull the yellows and greens without over-doing it. The result is barely discernible but effective. I often use it when I need a muted white - on either warm or cool side.

I also have a variety of other reds in the studio, and use them when I have difficulty getting a particular version:
cad red deep
quinacridone red
quinacridone magenta
all these additional colors (or “standbys”) are by Winsor & Newton.

BRUSH: bristle, size 6 through 12; flats or filberts; mostly Utrecht brands

KNIFE: sharp or blunt point; 3” or larger.

A knife gets me through a stage quickly and boldly, leaving behind some lively contours and edges. But when I feel relaxed I tend to use the brush more often.

I’m not very careful with the selection of the tools. A long while back I read in a book where David Hockney said that he sometimes intentionally used clumsy tools just to see what he could get out of them. I may change my habit at some future point.

5 parts turpentine or Turpnoid (less odor)
1 part linseed oil
1 or 2 drops of alkyd for dryer
hardware store mineral spirits for cleaning brush

I begin the work with paint thinned in only turp and alkyd, adding the linseed oil as I build up the layers. The alkyd dries the paint at a fairly fast rate, making reworking and layering not only easy, but also a pleasure. I’m mindful that dryers must be used with caution so as not to cause cracking in the paint in the long run.

Christopher Chippendale 
When working with a full range of colors, I lay out my paints along the top edge of my palette from left to right in the order listed below. I generally rely on Winsor Newton colors:
Foundation White
Cadmium Lemon
Yellow Ochre
Cadmium Yellow
Burnt Sienna
Cadmium Red
Alizarin Crimson (Permanent)
Cobalt Violet, or Dioxazine (‘Winsor’) Purple
French Ultramarine
Cobalt Turquoise Light
Cadmium Green Pale, or Permanent Green Light
Sap Green (Permanent)
Raw Umber
Ivory Black
Sometimes I paint with two whites. I lay out some Titanium white just below the Foundation White in the upper left hand corner of my palette.
Other colors I work with on occasion:
Naples Yellow
some kind of iron red
Phthalo Blue
as well as any other color I’m interested in
Paint Medium
My paint medium is a blend of Odorless Mineral Spirits and Stand Oil mixed in ratios of 3:1 to 5:1—depending on the weather and my mood. My palette cup is clipped to the upper right edge of my palette at the end of my line of colors.
I use bristle brushes and prefer filberts. I rely principally on Robert Simmons’ ‘Signet’ series. I do most of my painting using two #8 filberts, but I will range down in size sometimes to as small as a #2, and up to a 40mm flat.

Susanna Coffey

Usually I use a 10"x 24" glass palette
lower right counterclockwise

zinc yellow
cad yellow lemon
perm yellow greenish
cad yellow light
cad yellow medium
cad yellow deep
cad yellow extra deep
chinese yellow
acd orange
alizarin yellow or indian yellow
cad red med cad red deep
cad red purple
quinacridone red
alizarine crimson
quinacridone magenta
egyptian purple
kings blue
ultramarine blue
cobalt blue
indathrone blue
cerulean blue
indigo blue
courbet green
cinnabar green deep
turkey umber
bohemian earth
davys grey
paynes grey
I may add or subtract to these a bit but I do use a lot of colors —
want especially to get temp. in darks and neutrals.

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot
Courtesy Alfred Robaut
1.Cadmium (Yellow) Light
2. Cadmium Citron
3. White Lead
4. Naples Yellow
5. Yellow Ochre
6. Raw Siena
7. Burnt Siena
9. Veronese Green
10. Rose Madder
11 and 12. Laque Robert (probably Brown Madder)
13. Cobalt Blue
14 and 15. Prussian Blue
16. Emerald Green (not necessarily the same as Veronese or Verona Green)
17. Raw Umber
18. Cassel Earth
19. Yellow Lake

Elaine Despins

My regular palette consists of the following colours:
Cadmium Yellow Lemon (WN)
Cadmium Yellow (WN)
Indian Yellow (MH)
Cadmium Orange (WN)
Cadmium Red (OH)
Alizarin Crimson (OH)
Cadmium Maroon  (WN)
Windsor Violet Dioxazine (WN)
Cobalt Blue  (G)
Ultramarine Blue (MH)
Cadmium Green Pale (WN)
Viridian Green (WN)

I am currently trying out the Titanium/Flake white from Michael Harding. I mostly use Winsor &Newton, Old Holland, Lefranc & Bourgeois, some Michael Harding and some Gamblin.
The following colours are my often invited guests (depending on what is needed at the time):
Kings Blue Deep (MH), Phtalo Turquoise (WN), Celadon Green (L&B), Quinacridone Red or/and Magenta (WN), Armor Green (L&B) and Olive Green (G).
The size of the glass palette is 20" x 30". 
I mostly use Kolinsky sable brights since I find them quite versatile. For large canvas surfaces, I used cheap and very wide Nobel brushes.

My preferred medium is Liquin

Lois Dodd
The colors in my folding easel at the moment include:
titanium white
unbleached titanium
ivory black
mars black
cadmium yellows (light, medium and deep)
cadmium reds (light, medium and deep)
cadmium orange
lemon yellow

ultramarine blue
cobalt blue
cerulean blue
pthalo blue
mars yellow
mars orange
mars teal
mars violet
alizarin crimson
yellow ochre
raw sienna
burnt sienna
raw umber
egyptian violet
cadmium green
veronese green
pthalo green
chrome green
olive green
viridian green
(and other greens as I find them)
I have no order as to placement on the palette and tend to squeeze them out as needed.
I have mostly Winsor Newton and Williamsburg, but others as well.
I use stand oil and turps 50%-50% — when the turps evaporate too much, I add a little. I know what I like the feel of in a medium — it’s a little like cooking without a recipe.
My brushes are mostly brights of many sizes, an occasional round and some sable brights as well.

John Dubrow
Simple palette:
cad red light
cad red med
cad red dark
ultramarine blue deep
pthalo blue
cobalt blue
permanent green light
cad orange
cad yellow
cad yellow light
cad lemon
titanium white
I used to use Gamblin and W&N, but recently switched over to Robert Doak paint in Brooklyn. Bristle brushes of all sizes, large palette knives. I buy stretchers and stretch preprimed linen on them. I cannot use medium because of chemical sensitivity, which is why I switched to Doak paint — a little looser and so I can get by without any medium. (I used to use half refined linseed, and half odorless)

Robert Dukes

Titanium White

Yellow Ochre
Lemon Yellow
Alizarin Crimson
Burnt Umber
Raw Umber
French Ultramarine
(all either Winsor and Newton or Michael Harding)

The above colours are always on the palette, on occasion any of the following might be added (but not that often, it has to be said):-
Cadmium Orange (W&N)
Green Light (Old Holland)
Cadmium Yellow (W&N)
Cobalt Blue (W&N)
Cobalt Turquoise Deep (Michael Harding)

Emily Eveleth
Upper left, descending to bottom:
alizarin crimson
perylene red
dioxazine purple
ultramarine blue
phthalo blue
prussian blue
indanthrone blue
phthalo green
sap green
Top, horizontal, left to right:
fanchon red
cadmium red
napthal red
mono orange
cad orange
cadmium yellow (light and medium)
lemon yellow
Upper right:
My medium is one part stand oil to two parts odorless paint thinner.
I use all sorts of brushes, large (22 - 24 size) filberts, big flats that aren't too thick and house painters, 3 inch wide.

Janet Fish

I use many colors and many brands, a lot of Vasari paints. I do not use a restricted palette and if I see a new color I buy it. Take cobalt violet — it is a very different color for each brand.
I use what works in a particular context.
Medium: 4 parts turpentine to 2 parts oil, unless ground demands more.
Brushes: usually sable but also others and many worn out ones that can still be used for certain kinds of marks
Varnish: Soluvar, one coat.

Diana Horowitz

My palette is as follows:
I use a mix of paint brands -- mostly Winsor & Newton, Blockx, Holbein and Maimeri (Puro).
titanium white (Holbein is my preferred brand of titanium)
blue Black
ultramarine Blue
cobalt Blue
cerulean Blue (I love Blockx but I usually use the cheaper WN)
oxide of Chromium (WN)
yellow ochre
naples yellow (W or Holbein)
cadmium yellow pale
cadmium yellow med
cadmium orange
cadmium red scarlet or cad red orange Blockx
cadmium red deep or cad red purple Blockx
cobalt violet
ultramarine violet (Blockx)
burnt umber or burnt sienna
occasional colors: alizarin crimson or Quinacrodone red
permanent green

Brushes: I use a mix of brushes, including: long filbert bristles (Silver Grand Prix 6, 8, 10)
sables flats and filberts (Italian Art Store brand)
synthetic flats, rounds (W&N, Monarch)
I get 90% of my supplies at Italian Art Store (New Jersey) on-line or catalog.
They have excellent pre-stretched canvases

Alex Kanevsky
Here is the short list of what I actually use every day
in no particular order:
raw umber
raw sienna
vermilion red
cadmium yellow
cadmium orange
ultramarine blue
cerulean blue (french)
cobalt blue
titanium white
titanium buff
alizarin crimson
viridian green
sap green
cinnabar green
naples yellow
transparent oxide brown (several different ones)
permanent madder brown
royal blue light
naples yellow red
vandyke brown
I don't place them in any particular order on the palette.
Whatever ends up in my hand goes on next.
paints are made by Rembrandt, Mussini, Triangle Coatings,
Art Guerra, Williamsburg.
I like to use Raphael
brushes - both synthetic and bristle brights.
Also cheap Chinese flat 2" and 3" brushes.
Liquin is the

Catherine Kehoe
Catherine Kehoe's palette
lower right: titanium white
upper right: palette cups for medium (1 part stand oil, 4 or 5 parts solvent) and solvent (odorless thinner, Gamsol or Turpenoid)
lower left, ascending vertically:
indian yellow (WN)
cadmium yellow pale or lemon (WN, Old Holland or Williamsburg)
cadmium yellow (WN, OH or WB)
cadmium yellow deep (WN)
cadmium orange (WN)
cadmium scarlet (WN)
cadmium red deep (WN, OH or WB)
perylene crimson (Williamsburg)
dioxazine violet (WN)
ultramarine blue (WN, OH or WB)
cobalt teal (Williamsburg)
courbet green (Williamsburg)
cadmium green pale (WN)
new additions:
quinacridone red (WN)
quinacridone violet
pthalo blue
pthalo turquoise
I have no black on my palette, so far.
Brushes:  Kolinsky sable brights, sizes 10-16. These allow for crisp, narrow lines as well as broad shapes of color.

David Kelley

cad lemon yellow
cad yellow med
cad red light
quinacridone red
quinacridone violet
pthalo turquoise
ultramarine blue
dioxizine purple
pthalo green emerald (I think it's tipped to a yellower version)
Some guests:
Cad Orange deep (a little redder than Cad orange)
Raw Umber
Pthalo blue
Prussian blue
My white is Titanium-Zinc
Mostly I use Gamblin brand paints
I use galkyd lite when outside
and the weber resin gel when inside

Tim Kennedy
My palette stays pretty consistent. Colors do occasionally get added or dropped. These are the colors I am using now:
Cadmium Yellow Light
Cadmium Yellow Medium
Naples Yellow
Mars Yellow
Raw Sienna
Mars Orange
Rosso Veneto
King’s Blue
Raw Umber
Red Umber
Cadmium Red Light
Cadmium Red Medium
Alizarin Crimson
Dioxozine Purple
Thalo Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Thalo Green
Terre Verte
Chromium Oxide Green
Mars Black
Flake White #1
Titanium White
Titanium/Zinc White
I use a combination of Williamsburg, Gamblin and Winsor Newton paints. My attitude toward mixing color has changed over the years. When I began painting I tended to start with saturated color and mix down. Now I will tend to take that natural level of brightness in a color such as Mars Orange and sweeten it if I need to. Very simple tints can have beautiful subtlety that can read completely different in different contexts. Raw Umber is an example of a color like this. I keep two Umbers on my palette. I have a palette for my colors and a palette for mixing. Lately, as I set up I might mix a number of tints using Flake White to keep on the mixing palette and work off of them. I use Mars Black because I have had problems in the past with how Ivory Black effects the oil content in the painting (I have gotten dry spots). It is very seldom that I add black directly to a color but I do mix Mars Black with Cadmium Yellow Light, which produces a beautiful dark green. Flake White is a fairly recent addition for me (in the last five years). I use Winsor Newton’s Flake White #1 which is their stiff variety. It doesn’t have as much tinting strength as the other whites, but it is a beautiful, dense color that gives the paint real body. Sometimes I will give the tint a little extra jolt with one of the other whites if I need to. I paint on both linen and canvas. I use heavy-duty stretchers up to four or five feet, but will build a stretcher for anything larger. I use rabbit skin glue sizing and a Titanium oil primer from Williamsburg, which I apply with a knife. I use a variety of brushes – bristle, nylon, sable. I have been using more soft brushes in the late stages of a painting recently. I probably use more rounds than other shapes. It is difficult to find soft brushes that will hold up – price seems to have nothing to do with whether I find a good brush. I use a variety of knives. A shape called an Eclose knife is particularly useful. A medium I have used consistently for about ten years is made of one part Venice Turpentine, two parts Sun Thickened or Stand oil and two parts Damar Varnish. As a medium it can actually be a little sticky, which in some circumstances can be nice, but can also be thinned further.

Ken Kewley
Painting palette:
titanium zinc white
cadmium yellow medium
cadmium orange
cadmium red medium
alizarin crimson
phthalo green
phthalo blue
cobalt violet deep
ivory black

Brushes: one brush, inexpensive, smaller (round and soft) for small paintings, larger (flat and firmer) for large paintings.
A small palette knife was used to paint my small dessert still life paintings.
Surfaces: wood panels for small to medium paintings, stretched canvas (cotton duck) for larger works. Favorite surface: prior paintings. Oil paint: Vasari, WN, Gamblin, Williamsburg. Acrylic: Golden (heavy body). On paper or wood panel.

Collage palette:
color cut from art magazines arranged
in trays of like colors (thousands of colors).
Glue: Lineco Neutral pH adhesive.

Susan Lichtman
A limited palette allows me to hold together a picture with a lot of disparate elements. My favorite card game is gin – and I think of a limited palette as being like a hand that one is dealt. The challenge is to make something happen with a restriction of possibilities.
I use three primary colors and white for each painting. The Red might be venetian or cadmium, the Blue might be a cobalt or ultramarine or black or even a green; and the Yellow might be yellow ochre or a cadmium. Lately I have been using titanium/zinc white. I might add a fourth hue, i.e. use both black and blue, or both yellow ochre and cadmium yellow light.

For oil painting I use a glass palette, many different brands of paint, and a variety of brushes. What I cannot live without is: my diamond shaped knives and the ingredients of Marogers medium: black oil and mastic varnish which are mixed together to make a gel. Sometimes I mix marble dust and wax into the paint.

Dik F. Liu
Titanium White
Cadmium Yellow
Cadmium Orange
Cadmium Red Light
Quinacridone Red
Alizarin Crimson
Dioxazine Purple
Ultramarine Blue
Thalo Blue
Thalo Green
Ivory Black 

Paint brands:
I look for paints on sale. Otherwise, Utrecht is a lot of bang for the buck. Gamblin's Dioxizine Purple is my workhorse purple. Brushes: For the past year, I use mostly number 8, 10, and 12 flats; all bristle and natural curve. They are usually Princetons, Utrechts, and Robert Simmons. Medium: Safflower oil, with a few drops of clove oil in the summertime to extend the drying time. When I feel like getting fanciful, I add some stand oil to the mix.

Sangram Majumdar

Cadmium Lemon
Indian Yellow
Lemon Ochre (my favorite new color!)
Yellow Ochre
Cadmium Red Light
Indian Red
Pyrol Red or Quinacridone Red
Cerulean Blue
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue

Nancy McCarthy

WN Foundation White
WN Ultramarine Blue
Utrecht Cerulean Blue
Williamsburg Turquoise (cobalt)
WN Diox purple and/or WB Egyptian Violet
Williamsburg Courbet Green
Williamsburg Oxide Green
WN Cadmium Green Light
WN Cadmium Lemon
WN Cadmium Yellow Medium
WN Cadmium Yellow Deep
WN Cadmium Orange
WN Cadmium Red Medium
WN Alizrian Crimson
WN Burnt Sienna
WN Burnt Umber
WN Raw Umber
WN Yellow Ochre
Sennelier Peach Black

George Nick
Since I am right-handed I have the palette cup with medium in the upper right corner. In the upper left corner I have my white and below that I have my warm colors and to the right of the white I have my cool colors.
The white is Old Holland, Lead White
Warm colors in order from white:
Lasur violet, translucent violet (Mussini made by Schmincke)
Burnt Carmine (Rembrandt)
Cad. Red Deep Rembrandt or Gamblin
Persian Rose (Williamsburg)
Cad. Red Light (Rembrandt)
Gold Ochre (Rembrandt)
Indian Yellow (Mussini)
Cad. Yellow Medium or/and Light (Rembrandt)
The so-called cool colors to the left and in order from the white, are:
Radiant Green (Gamblin)
Yellowish Green (Mussini)
Emerald or Veronese Green (Rembrandt)
Thalo or Prussian Green (any)
Cobalt Turquoise Light (Winsor Newton)
Cobalt Blue Deep (Rembrandt or Williamsburg)
Ultramarine Blue Deep (Rembrandt)
Ivory Black (Rembrandt)
PLUS: I will add any color anytime that catches my fancy.
medium is stand oil (1 part oil to 4/5 parts good turpentine) depending on season, and/or temperament. The medium is put into the palette cup and mixed into the white according to viscoscity needs and the season.
I also use alkyd resin and put a little poppy seed oil (to slow up the drying process)
This is ONLY put into the white mixture every morning for the days' painting.
Brushes: I only use one brush. Actually I end up having several, because as they wear out they become another brush. It is the #8 Filbert, pig bristle — Edgar Degas (Grumbacher)
(Winsor Newton) (Unknown Italian)

Richard Raiselis

I start with a few colors and expand as needed: white, black, ochre, dull red (roman palette).
white in the left upper corner, then along the top edge after white:

cad yellow
cad red
oxide reds (PR101)
black spinel
left side vertical from white:
chromium oxide
cobalt teal
WN winsor blue red shade
ultramarine violet
maybe quinacridone red or magenta
Medium is stand oil and solvent, in various proportions
Canvas is linen with oil ground
brushes are Simmons Signet bristle rounds, but I buy really crummy kids' brushes too, and cheap Asian hog brushes, as well as excellent housepainters' flats for painting and varnishing.

Harold Reddicliffe

My palette is as simple as I can make it.
Most of my painting is done with white (Permalba) and a primary triad (cad. yellow med., cad. red light, and ultramarine blue).
I augment that when necessary with cool varients of each of the three (cad. yellow light, cad red med., and phthalo blue (actually Winsor blue, cool shade). When specific local colors in the set-up I'm working from require them, I also might also add viridian, phthalo green, Winsor blue (warm shade), and quinacridone red.
The brushes I paint with are Utrecht Rhenish Kolinsky red sable rounds in a range of sizes.

Joseph Ryan

Drawing has always come before color for me, largely because I am red/green colorblind. So I took great comfort from Titian's statement, “A good painter needs only three colors: black, white and red.”

I start with few colors, a limited palette of:
Titanium White
Yellow Ochre
Burnt Sienna
Raw Umber
Ivory Black
So that I have an equivalent yellow, red and blue, but the palette remains relatively close. Sometimes I might need an extra ‘push,’ so I might include one of the following where necessary:

Cadmium Yellow
Alizarin Crimzon
Ultramarine Blue
But I generally try to stick to the original ‘Brown’ palette, and just modify the temperatures very slightly since colors are so elusive to me, and concentrate mostly on light and line.

John Singer Sargent

Flake white
Naples yellow
Yellow Ochre
English red
Ivory black
Prussian blue

Stuart Shils
Earth red (maybe pozzuoli, venetian, or english red light)
Quinacridone Red
Winsor Red
Permanent Red Medium
Cad Red Light
often, Raw Sienna
Yellow Ochre
Yellow Ochre Light
Indian Yellow (W&N)
Permanent Yellow Deep
Permanent Yellow Medium
Perm Yellow Light
Hansa Yellow or Winsor Yellow
Ultramarine Deep
Cobalt Blue
Cerulean Blue
Ivory Black

Maggie Siner

The photo shows my portable french easel palette rather than my regular table palette which is  also wood but twice the size, but I only use the same six colors in any case:

White: Mixture of Titanium, Zinc and Lead
Cadmium Yellow Light (pure)
Cadmium Red Light (pure)
Alizarine Crimson
Ultramarine Blue
Cerulean Blue Hue (phthalo & white)
Raw Umber

This is a simple balanced palette of intense colors, arranged from light to dark and in order of the spectrum. Since the spectrum is the absolute source of light and seeing, it is the best way to understand color.  Having so few colors means mixing is everything.  There are two yellows (one light and one dark), two reds (one toward the orange, one toward the purple), and two blues (one toward the purple, one toward the green).  The last two colors are only separated from the others on this palette because it is convenient to place my brush washer over the thumb hole. Otherwise they would be placed in sequence.  Having two of each primary color means I can get equal intensity throughout the spectrum.   By that I mean, a palette with only cad red medium as the pure red, does not make oranges as intense as cad red light, nor purples as intense as alizarine crimson.  Having two of each primary color means one is lighter and one is darker.  Raw Umber is dark yellow, Alizarine is dark red, and Ultramarine is dark blue. That means shades of black can be mixed through the whole spectrum.  With these saturated pigments I can make very bright colors, and can also use complementary mixing for infinitely nuanced shades of grays and less intense colors. 

This is also an harmonious palette in terms of materials;  the characteristics of the individual pigments work well together and they are all permanent (permanence meaning the long life of the painting.)  Of course, some dry faster than others (raw umber and ultra blue dry much faster than cadmiums), and some have a higher oil absorption index (meaning they should not be used in the first layers of painting to maintain the ‘fat over lean’ rule of binding layer to subsequent layer) but the range is not extreme and it is easy to keep track of so few colors.  All are about the same saturation and make strong flexible paint films.  Alizarine crimson and ultramarine blue are more transparent than the other colors, and dry to more brittle paint films, but I rarely use them by themselves.  In fact, all my colors are mixed and it is rare for me to use any color straight from the tube except for white.

Even though color is relative and one can make colors look different by the other colors placed around them, it is still nice to have the full spectrum of possibilities that I have on this palette.   Occasionally I paint with only three colors - red (burnt siena), black and white — and use the range of warm to cool for full color.  Here is an example:

Mostly I use Old Holland paint, as it seems to be the only paint left that is still made with cold pressed linseed oil.   Some other paint manufacturers still use linseed oil but so highly refined (“alkali refined”) that resemblance to linseed oil is all but lost.  Many other manufacturers have switched to safflower or other oils which I avoid because they are inferior in their drying properties.  Having been trained in the chemistry, materials and techniques of painting, I stick to the traditional materials as much as possible.  Of course, it is very difficult to find good lead white paint and many other materials have been replaced with cheap alternatives but I won’t get on my soapbox about that here.  Labeling has also become tricky as some brands no longer list the actual ingredients on the tube. 

White:  I use a combination of paints: Old Holland Titanium/Zinc Mixture is very dense and a bit stiff so I usually mix it with another brand of Titanium/Zinc that has a higher binder to pigment ratio (i.e. something a little oilier, such as Gamblin or Harding) and I also mix in some lead (Flake) white.  Lead white has the lowest oil absorption index and dries to the most tough and flexible film of all the pigments, so it is absolutely necessary, but it has become nearly impossible to get in quantity or quality.  Now I have gotten used to the more intense opaque white of Titanium/Zinc so my best solution is to make a mixture where I can also control the texture.

Cadmium Yellow Light: cadmium sulfide. This is a slightly different shade in each brand.  In Old Holland it goes toward green so I use their cadmium yellow medium.  My cad yellow has to be a pure yellow, not toward green or orange.

Cadmium Red Light:  cadmium sulfo-selenide.  Also different shades in different brands.  In Old Holland I use Cadmium Scarlet because their cadmium light is rather dark.

Alizarine Crimson: 1:2 dihydroxyanthraquinone on alumina.  This is the only questionable color on my palette - questionable in the sense of not being 100% permanent, and alien from the other pigments in being a lake, but I can’t live without it.

French Ultramarine Blue: sodium aluminosilicate  Light or dark doesn’t matter.

Cerulean Blue Hue:  Instead of using real cerulean blue (cobalt stannate), which is a very weak color, I use the ‘hue’ which is made from phthalo blue mixed with white.  It is much more saturated and compatible with the other intense colors on the palette as well as being permanent and in no way inferior to real cerulean.  Note that the word “hue” is not always a bad word.  It just means different pigments have been used.

Raw Umber: Iron Oxide.  This is also a slightly different color in every brand.  Like the pure light yellow, it should be central - not toward green and not toward orange.

MEDIUM: This is my basic medium which I mix myself
1 part damar varnish
2 parts stand oil
3 parts turpentine (not paint thinner or mineral spirits or god-forbid odorless)
few drops of Venice Turpentine

It is a fairly lean medium.  The painting usually starts with no medium at all - only turpentine.  If the painting goes on for a long time I make a slightly fatter medium. (such as 1:2:2)

I usually need retouch varnish to bring back the gloss and always apply a final layer of varnish (damar) before the painting goes out into the world.

Good quality hog hair bristle brushes which I wash every day in soap and water.  I’m not in love with washing brushes (a job for my studio assistant whenever possible!) but I do need clean springy brushes which respond to my touch.

PALETTE KNIFE:  As long as it’s a trowel shape with a bent handle, the size doesn’t matter.  I use it constantly to scrape the paint off the canvas and to clean my palette.

100% COTTON RAGS: Couldn’t live without these.  I clean my brushes constantly and have to get the dirty thinner out of the brush.  It’s much nicer to hold a soft piece of absorbent old flannel for all those hours - my security blanket!

Peter Van Dyck
My palette is always changing but right now it is as follows:
White (any white with lead in it, usually flake white, windsor newton or even..........winton!!)
Naples Yellow (windsor and newton)
Cadmium Yellow Medium (williamsburg)
Cadmium Red Medium (williamsburg)
Alizarin Crimson (williamsburg)
Radiant Red (gamblin)
Kings Blue (williamsburg)
Cerulean Blue (williamsburg)
Ultramarine Blue (williamsburg)
Radiant Green (gamblin)

Susan Jane Walp

Here is my palette, all Old Holland oils:
titanium white
naples yellow
cad yellow lemon
cad yellow deep
cad red scarlet
cad red deep
yellow ochre deep
light red
caput mortem
terre verte
ultramarine blue deep
manganese blue
ivory black
I usually start with a very limited palette (titantium white, yellow ochre, light red, caput mortem, terre verte, ultramarine) and bring in the other colors only as needed. I use a Swedish cold-pressed linseed oil from Kremer Pigments mixed with turps or Gamsol for a medium. My preference is to use as little as medium possible. I use a variety of brushes--I tend to start the painting with large bristle flats and filberts and end with kolinsky sable rounds (# 4 and 6) and sable flats. I do find these preferences are always a bit in flux.