“Your darkest light always has to be lighter than your lightest shadow and vice versa.”
“Being able to draw what you see is the ultimate skill. Each Evolve student learns to paint from photographs and real life.”
Wondering how to set up your oil painting palette? Then you're in the right place!
In school we're taught that there are three primary colors, but that's not actually the case. Anyone who's taken paint and mixed red and blue knows they don't get purple, they get brown. In order for a palette to work you have to have both a warm and the cool of each color.
In this article, you’ll learn:
The way we set up our palette is white, then Naples Yellow (cool then warm). Next we have two yellows (generally we have a lemon yellow, something really, really rich. After that we have two reds, a magenta or crimson, two greens, blue blues, burnt umber, and then a black. You can see how we set up our oil paint palette below:
#1 - White
#2 - Naples Yellow
#3 - Schev Yellow
#4 - Schev Red
#5 - Terracotta or English Red
#6 - Magenta or Crimson
#7 - Cadmium Green Light
#8 - Phthalo Green
#9 - Cerulean Blue
#10 - Phthalo Blue
#11 - Burnt Umber
#12 - Mars Black or Ivory Black
If you mix a cool red with a cool blue you get violet purple, if you mix a warm red with a with a blue you wind up with brown. The way that we're taught in school doesn't actually work for painting. You have to think in terms of six primary colors: two yellows, two reds, and two blues (one warm and one cool of each). In addition to that, I would recommend white and Naples yellow. Both white and Naples Yellow are both lightening agent; when you mix them into that into paint they will make the paint lighter. They will strip away some of the color too (the white is cool and the Naples Yellow is warm). If you take a neutral red and you mix white into it what you get is a pink and if you mix Naples Yellow into it you get an orange (a delicate orange, but an orange). And then on the far end of the spectrum, I like to have black (a cool black and Burnt Umber which is a which is warm).
Click to enlarge the Old Holland oil paint color chart.
Your palette should be very colorful. We're looking for very, very colorful pigments. We don't want colors that are more neutral because if we need something that's a high color key (something really rich and colorful) you can't create a rich dynamic red from a dull red. You need to start rich and if you want to downgrade, neutralizing it, you mix other things into it and take the edge off.
A well organized and colorful palette will help you create beautiful paintings. Remember to set your palette up with a warm and cool version of each color. If you need help choosing colors check out the color chart on the Old Holland website and read this article that covers which painting supplies are best for beginner artists.
It's easy to get overwhelmed by the huge variety of oil painting supplies found at art supply stores. A beginner artist might wonder which colors to start with and how many tubes of paint to buy? What kind of brushes do they need to buy? Do they need linseed oil? And what about canvas? Here we're going to simplify what a person needs about the kinds of oil painting supplies they need into five basic things.
"If your brush stays dirty and is damaged you’ll end up with an imprecise tool to paint with."
- Kevin Murphy
Keeping your oil paint brushes clean is an important lesson to learn early on as an artist. Paint can easily accumulate and dry near the base of the brush near the ferrule causing damage to the bristles. If your brush stays dirty and is damaged you’ll end up with an imprecise tool to paint with.
In this article, you’ll learn:
Why cleaning your oil paint brushes is important
How to clean your oil paint brush
Why hot water damages oil paint brushes
We're going to use a bar of soap to begin cleaning your oil paint brushes. We don't want the brush wet, we're going to let the soap emulsify (break down) the oil in the paint. That's going to help us to remove and wash away any paint with water. Remember that oil is impervious to water. That means that if you just take your oil paint brush and put it in water, the water is going to bead right off of it. So what we need to do is break down the oil with soap and then wash it away.
To begin, I take my bar soap and I just run it under my faucet and get it wet. I then drag my brush back and forth. I don't have to do anything else. I don't push the brush because it'll bend the bristles. It's always a drag in each direction. You'll see the soap will start to sort of foam up. As I'm working I would roll the brush to get any excess soap off of it.
Your brush is going to get covered with some murky foam which is the soap and paint coming off the brush. Just rinse the brush and then come back and repeat what you’ve done so far. When you're first learning how to clean oil paint brushes you may be tend to stop cleaning before you get every last bit of paint out, so make sure to continue this step until the brush comes clean.
You’ll know your brush is clean when there's no paint coming off it. Nothing at all. It will be completely pristine. When I'm done I would just run everything under warm water. And then what you're going to do is going to take the brush, you're going to just very gently pitch it and make it flat the way it was when you first got it and you get a nice and flat just like that. Let it dry that way and then in the morning, it'll be ready to go.
When learning how to clean oil paint brushes never use very hot water.
The glue that holds your brush together inside the ferrule will break down under hot water and paint brushes tend to stiffen up under cold water. So instead of hot or cold water you want you to use reasonable comfortable warm water to clean your brushes.
Can I use dish soap? It does a pretty good job on brushes but I recommend you purchase a bar of Ivory soap which will last you longer. Be careful what you buy. Ivory soap is probably the best one. If you want to get a liquid soap, you can get like Murphy's oil (no, I don't have stock in that company). But Murphy's oil is a pretty good soap and any dish detergent that you would use to clean greasy dishes. You don't want to use soap that's heavily perfumed if you can help it; it's just more additives in the brush you don't need.
Take good care of your brushes. They're going to take good care of you if you take good care of them. Don't beat them up and clean them well every night. If you do this you’ll be developing good habits. Take care of your materials, which are your tools. Just like you sharpen your pencils, clean your brushes properly.
Let's talk pencil sharpeners for artists...
The recommended pencil sharpener (Staples Heavy Duty Sharpener) is a beast... it's great because it sharpens pencils quickly, and is relatively easy to unjam, however it is not easily available outside of North America.
Unfortunately not everyone can easily get to Staples, or have one delivered to their house, so here are some alternatives from other students as well as tips and tricks for getting razor sharp pencils to work with...