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Setting up a double primary palette in my new brass paintbox!


Faced with my new handmade brass paint box I have sixteen paint wells to fill, so what colours am I going to use?

I have decided to go with a double primary pallet with one or two extras that I like to use and find useful and a couple of special colours which have an edge.

Dioxazine Violet. Ultramarine Blue. Cobalt Blue Cerulean Blue

Alizarin Crimson. Pyrrole Scarlet. Mayan Orange Hansa Yellow medium

Viridian. Sap green. Burnt Sienna light Yellow ochre

Empty. Neutral tint Lavender. Turquoise

My palette layout

Dioxazine violet – Cool - this provides a very strong almost black violet. I can add it to Ultramarine blue to intensify it or to Orange to make a grey. It makes great clouds as a very thin wash, can be used in floral paintings or added to neutral tint to shift shadow colours

Ultramarine blue – Warm - Most of my skies start with Ultramarine usually with a bit of Neutral tint or Burnt Sienna to just cut the blueness and dirty it up. It makes great greens with yellow ochre

Cobalt blue – Cooler – Summer skies when there is no haze, great greys with Burnt Sienna light. Colder greens with Yellow Ochre or Hansa Yellow.

Cerulean Blue – A cool colour with a lot of white in it great mixed with lavender to put reflections on window wet in wet in the backgrounds I don’t use it much for skies.

Alizarin Crimson – Cool – With a blue tint it works well with Neutral Tint on building shadows, great in florals washed out with lots of water and interestingly small touches wet in wet with Viridian on water just makes the water judder because of the split complimentary reaction.

Pyrrole Scarlet – Hot – Great for those eye catching accents and details makes great greys mixed with Viridian and Neutral tint and of course florals. Constable and Turner always liked a spot of red so does Alvaro, if its good enough for them its definitely good enough for me.

Mayan Orange – Hot – This orange is so strong it is almost red when used as solid pigment, but the strength of the colour allows a lot of dilution before it gets anywhere near Cadmium orange and will need a little of the Hansa Yellow to push it into the yellow orange shade.

Hansa Yellow Medium – Warm – Hansa Yellow behaves differently from Cadmium yellow for me it is less flat it will take a lot of dilution and still have a good intense colour.

Viridian – Cool – I love this colour for inclusion in painting water and for mixing interesting greens with Yellow Ochre. The blue cast always helps in shadows with neutral tint under foliage.

Sap green – Warm – This is a colour which I have tried to mix and never got it right yet it always ends up muddy. Sap Green is great for fresh foliage, spring grass and light shining through leaves or sun lit meadows. It’s a convenience colour that I like but you won’t find it on Alvaro’s or Steve Hall’s palettes.

Burnt Sienna Light – Warm – It is almost red when used in concentration but as water is added it slides through terracotta to pale pink. It is great in the UK for roof tiles brick wall and those dreaded pink Suffolk buildings. Used in more concentration it matches the wall colours of Spain or Italy so well.

Yellow Ochre – Warm – The running joke on Alvaro’s course was that every painting started with Yellow Ochre. But it is true Yellow Ochre creates light it is a bit like Indian Yellow in oil paint it is light in a tube. Used in pale washes in the sky across buildings and on the street as soon as you cast a shadow across it it becomes a pool of light. Used in the sky it lends a glow to the sky. Place a wash of Yellow Ochre wet on wet on a darker ground and the YO has the amazing property of driving out the darker colour leaving light.

Empty – This is where my thumb goes when I am holding my “heavy” brass palette when painting plein air at an easel.

Neutral Tint – This is another favourite of Alvaro. But it takes some control to master it when I first started using it my paintings became too dark, it needs restrain! Used with care it works well with all colours to subdue and darken them. It can be used diluted in the sky, a little darker for clouds to create sparkle on water.

Lavender – Cool – Holbein are the maker that I buy this paint from and I haven’t found anything similar it has a lot of white in it so is fairly opaque and doesn’t dilute to a pure colour. It will cover most things and like Yellow Ochre used wet on wet it will drive out the colour underneath. One great use is suggesting window panes on background buildings just a dab of dilute Lavender and when it dries you will have a hint of a window.

Turquoise – Cool – Like the Lavender it has a lot of white and will cover most things it is painted on top of so long as it is not to diluted. This colour I use as accents in all sorts of places, I use it when I just want a small spot of colour to make a painting jangle.

One last colour that I only use straight from the tube is Chinese White it makes great smoke when diluted and applied wet on wet or wet over dry and mixed with a bit of the colour being reflected I use it for highlights so that I don’t spoil a good wash with fiddley brush work trying to reserve white paper. The white paper is never the right colour any way and always needs a little yellow or blue or burnt Sienna wash to pick up the adjacent reflected light.

Here is a short video about double primary palette set up

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