A minimal palette

I've been dropping tubed burnt umber off of my palette lately and mixing it from the red, yellow, and blue.  I also mix up a chromatic black that way.  I then follow Mark's color matching method to mix my colors. and am quite satisfied with my results.
So right now, I'm using pyrrole red, ultramarine blue, cad yellow and titanium white.  If I want to use something like the Zorn palette, I just mix my ivory black, yellow ochre, and vermillion.  

If anyone else working with a minimal palette like this?  


  • I often use a palette of 3 colours plus white, but generally I go for burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre. I add in or swap out colours depending on the subject sometimes, if I need a strong red or yellow for example.

    An argument for not mixing your own burnt umber or yellow ochre from your primaries is that the pigments you're using to do so are far more expensive than burnt umber or yellow ochre from the tube which are generally the cheapest colours you can buy. It's a good way to learn about colour mixing though...
  • I tried going without burn umber on my palette, but find myself using it only occasionally now.
     For the most part I use 3 basic primaries and titanium white and I mix a total 12 color pallete from that but does not include burnt umber. I rarely use ivory black except in the Zorn pallete. I do this for efficiency in the painting process, it is fast and easy to work with. At some point I will be adding lead white and flake white. 
    A note on my experience switching from one brand of paint to another with regard to burnt umber, these may vary in hue and value. I this case I compensated by mixing burnt umber and raw umber for the depth and richness in color to make up the difference.
     Last note, it is not unusual to use a variety of yellow, blue and red as primaries. Sometimes I will use cobalt blue, or cadmium red or Chinese vermilion as primaries. My painting experience has become more exciting and more interesting as a result.
  • The problem with Burnt Umber for the DMP method is that it's a very fast dryer, even though it's cheap and lightfast.
  • When painting landscapes I use the following palette of colors:  Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cad yellow medium, Cad yellow light or lemon yellow, Alizarin Crimson permanent, Cad red light and white.  If you will notice this gives you a range of colors from dark to light and warm to cool.  I can mix almost any color found in a landscape and keep various shades of green from becoming too similar. It also causes the painting to be cohesive within your color ranges.  This also works well with any other type of subject matter, but I particularly like it for landscapes.  I always mix my own umber as I can manipulate it to be either more red or blue (warm or cool) according to what I will need.  I use Winsor Newton professional grade paint with Mark's medium incorporated into the paint.
  • CJDCJD -
    edited February 2020
    If you're using permanent alizarin crimson or pyrrole, it might be a good idea to use the Williamsburg brand because they are testing the lightfastness of those pigments and will publish the results online. I'm not sure if any other brands are doing this for those pigments. Those two might have already been done actually. They're a trustworthy brand because they actually discontinue pigments they find to be fugitive.

    Some brands of permanent alizarin crimson will have very poor lightfastness, and this might be the case with pyrrole rubine too.

    I've tried using Mars Red recently and am surprised how different it is for colour mixing than pyrrole rubine. It's an interesting colour. The tinting strength is extreme with the Williamsburg brand.
  • Good comments!  
    I realize that using the expensive red and yellow paints are more expensive than burnt umber, but I really like the rich colors I get.  I feel that for me, the tradeoff is worth it for the advantages I get.  One advantage is that it is almost impossible to get dull, uninteresting, muddy colors.  I also get better color harmony.

    Mark apparently put LOTS of clove oil in his burnt umber to slow down the drying time even more.   By mixing my burnt umber and other browns and blacks, I automatically get a more even drying time.

    I've tried the split primary palette that oilpainter1950 describes and it works pretty well.  I'm starting to make my own paint and I like the idea of only having to make four colors!  
  • One interesting reason for yellow ochre is --depending on mfr.-- when mixed with blue it desaturates instead of turning green.  Excellent for warm cloud-tones contrasting with cool grays.

    Since I work with low-chroma neutrals often, I keep paynes gray and burnt umber as cool and warm darks to mix with titanium white.  Graduated neutrals are my foundation on the palette rather than high-chromas for mixing paint-strings.

    Paynes gray and yellow mix a different green than ultramarine and yellow, though for plein air I do palette sap green or chrome green for more mixing flexibility.  I tend to avoid the cadmiums, too opaque.  The phthalos are too virulent, and  I don't need tubed black.  The skies here are quite cyan near the horizon here, almost greenish in hue, not the warmish blue of ultramarine.

    Oil Palette;   This covers me for both interior still lifes and plein air landscapes.
    Pyrrole red, hansa yellow, ultramarine,  burnt umber and lots of titanium white.  (Geneva)
    Plus paynes gray, yellow ochre, and sap green.  (Zorn + green)

     --- Occassionally I'll add cerulean/cobalt blue and an azo orange/vermilion/crimson, or burnt sienna.

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