Living outside my box of paints!
Not sure how many or which paints you absolutely need at a minimum to get started oil painting?
Learn the answer here!
Like many self-taught artists, I didn’t have a clue where to begin when it came to oil painting supplies. My drawer full of never used pigments will attest to that! It can get so confusing figuring out where to get started without spending tons of money on things you’ll never use. I didn’t want to give up on the dream of painting in oils though, so it was worth figuring out. You could start with a very basic set of 3 primaries and a white, but that will take a lot more training on mixing colors, and I’m all about getting you started painting as quickly as possible
Here I break down my edited out list of pigments to help you get started with just what you need and will use for ANY type of painting you want to create. This range of pigments is large enough to get you started quickly but not so big that it will break the bank or start your head spinning.
Classically trained artists will talk about specific names of palettes that have been developed by the master painters. I honestly don’t have any training in this area other than learning from the master painter Paul W. McCormick and following his advice on which pigments to use, and it has served me well!
Also, don’t worry about remembering everything, because at the end of this post there’s a link to a downloadable pdf I’ve created a with all the pigments I mention plus all the other supplies you will need to get started painting. For your convenience, it includes the exact make of each item and a link to purchase the items on Amazon.
Pigments for a Limited Palette
It wasn’t until I took a couple of painting workshops that I got some guidance on how to create a limited palette - one that will provide all the colors you need with just a little mixing know-how. I wish I’d learned this early on, because as I said, there are tons of pigments I purchased that were never used. Basically, this palette has served me well for everything I’ve painted in oils – from landscapes to still life floral paintings to patriotic pinup girls and a very traditional self-portrait that earned a place in the Allied Artist’s annual juried show a few years ago. The colors (in order of placement on the palette) are: flake white, French naples yellow, cadmium yellow pale, yellow ochre, raw sienna, cadmium orange, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, ivory black, burnt sienna, raw umber. French ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, cerulean, viridian green, and sap green.
Some artists work with even fewer pigments and others add a couple additional colors like a violet and burnt umber. I’ve been working with this palette for the five years that I’ve been painting in oils and haven’t had to reach for one other color ever. Not to say that you can’t add to this if you desire, but it’s always good in my mind to know what the essential are and go from there.
Here are detailed views of just a few of the paintings I’ve created – all with different color stories and all using just the pigments mentioned above:
Making a Limited Palette Work
So, you wonder, if those are all the paints you use how do you create so many different colors? It does require a little trial and error to learn to mix the colors you need, but that is all part of the artistry of painting. And it’s a real joy knowing that you have mastered an age old technique in doing so. It would be too much for me to go into here, but there are some basic rules to color mixing that also help out a lot.
To really make it all work, the colors you mix should match the area of your subject that you are painting. It’s a simple concept that just “works” versus trying to learn complicated layering or harmonizing techniques.
Click on the image below to download my Complete Oil Painting Supply List now!
I hope you found this information useful and inspirational!
If color mixing is something you struggle with, let me know in the comments below and I’ll put together a tutorial on the basics.
Susan Heidi Filardo is an artist, illustrator, fitness instructor and aspiring gypsy.