View Full Version : too many colors

11-01-2001, 02:01 AM
I was looking at my big container full of unnecessary colors so I decided to lay them all out and take a picture of them all...just to show how ridiculously many I have. After, I realized that it isn't that many, but still too many. In oils, it isn't excessive, but in acrylics it is.


I made a policy that I can't buy another tube until I finish one...and I'll keep on doing this.

I like Grumbacher MAX oils for their quality, but they are too thin and oily for my syle of painting. So I intend to switch most colors to W&N Artisan. They seem stickier, but they are cheaper
and thicker. Or I might try some regular oils if I can find some really thick ones (I'd appreciate any recommendations here).

The large tubes that you surely don't recognize are Wallack's brand acrylics. This is a very small chain of art stores in Canada. Their jumbo student acrylics cost (by volume) about 1/2 of Liquitex Basics! But I learned they are very sticky, and the paint is very light. So despite their price, they aren't a good value at all.

Many of the colors I bought because I didn't know better, and I won't be replacing them:

raw umber:dirty looking color, much prefer burnt umber

neutral grey value 5: not much use

black: might keep it in acrylics

cobalt blue hue: clearly not as nice as the real thing

yellow ochre: nice color but I expect to be able to mix it with a middle or deep yellow plus burnt sienna...still undecided

opaque turquoise: most useles color I ever bought, and will take forever to use it up...very unsaturated compared to Golden phthalo turq, which doesn't have white added

unbleached titanium: useful color to some, but I find it unnecessary

red oxide: I really like this color for its hue and opacity, but I'm sure a good, reddish burnt sienna makes this unnecessary for me. It won't have the opacity, but otherwise good enough.

Wallack's 'purple': more reddish than diox. purple...only real use so far was for color wheels/experiments. A nice hue, but I'm sure I can approximate it with diox. purple plus magenta.

emerald green: not needed since I have phathalo green YS

I'd love to see other artists' collections of
'weapons of mass destruction' and which of the colors you can't wait to use up so you'll never have to put up with them again.

11-02-2001, 08:44 PM
I agree that all the colors but one on your list could be eliminated without losing much. A true Yellow Ochre is most always on my palette. It's usefulness is not so much as a yellow, but to modify other colors. Its weak tinting strength makes it perfect for slightly warming or lightening darker hues without altering their basic nature. Since I'm primarily a landscape painter, it makes particularly 'natural' mixtures. I've found no substitute for it.

11-03-2001, 03:58 AM
Yellow ochre is still undecided, though I might keep it. I suppose that even if I could mix a substitute, it's a color used often, so this might be one convenience color (like sap green) best to keep.

I'm still hoping someone can recommend a brand
of oils with thick consistency (other than Old Holland).

11-11-2001, 11:42 AM
interesting post. i threw away a lot of oil paint not long ago, not due to color but goo and age. from your list, i would keep red oxide and yellow ochre. red oxide over a dull brown can be quite wonderful...and yellow ochre can give a subtle nuance to surrounding colors.

11-13-2001, 04:32 AM
Funny, I use both ochres instead of both siennas :D
However yellow (and maybe red) ochres have a major mixing problem (for me). They shouldn't be mixed with cadmiums. So, you're maybe right :D
By the way: Golden ochre is a great color. I love to use it for skintones.

Keith Russell
11-15-2001, 02:13 AM
I use three colour systems for my work:

Badger Air Opaque:
Prussian Blue
Emerald Green
Chrome Oxide Green
Yellow Green
Warm Yellow
Orange Red

Golden Airbrush Colours (Opaque)
Pthalo Blue (Red Shade)
Emerald Green
Pthalo Green (Blue Shade)
Quinachridone Red (Blue Shade)

Golden Airbrush Colours (Transparent)
Pthalo Blue (Green Shade)
Bright Yellow
Pale Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Bright Red

and I'm thinking of trying yet another system, by Aeroflash.

(You cannot have too many colours, too much money, too much time, too many CDs, or too many airbrushes--or have created too much art!)


11-15-2001, 04:18 AM
Sergey, that's interesting about not mixing ochres with cadmiums...I never heard about problems mixing these...is it a technical reason (like chemical incomatibility) or for an artistic reason?

Keith...holy smokes you have a lot of colors.
Even though it seems it's actually three seperate palettes. Is the reason for so many because

1) you find they are necessary to get a wide range of highly saturated colors which often cannot be mixed so cleanly by a more limited palette?


2) you could mix all the clean colors you need with a more limited palette, but you just want to save time by not having to mix so often to get the color you want?

11-15-2001, 04:27 AM
It's chemical incompatibility. Many sources say that these mixes can change color in some time.

11-21-2001, 01:45 AM
Hi Patrick, of the colours you listed here I would hold on to Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber and Red Oxide but this depends on your work. If you don't use a colour you won't likely miss it, as I do without Naples Yellow for example - many people rely on it for certain applications but, never having used the genuine article or its hue, I have never come to rely on having it to hand so my mixing routines work around it. The same can be said of many colours, particularly the earths perhaps, but Alizarin Crimson or Vermilion are two of my favourite examples - hard to match but very easy to live without.

Raw Umber: useful for hand-mixing neutral greys with Titanium White and Bone Black. Useful for matching the hue found in nature in dirt, rocks etc. Good basis for a typical concrete colour.
Neutral Grey 5: useful keystone grey if you want to use them instead of complements for neutralising. You can of course mix it yourself very easily.
Black: I use a lot of black in my work and I consider it indispensable but this is a classic example of personal preference, I can see how you could work without it.
Yellow Ochre: valued for its opacity and subtle hue. A cornerstone of many flesh mixes (Sanden's for example) and useful for subdued light greens and other landscape colours. BTW most examples are quite different from a typical middle-yellow mixed with BS, this would usually be far too orange - closer to many Mars Yellows/Gold Ochres.
Cobalt Blue Hue: agree 100%. You probably have the colours they used to mix it anyway! The genuine pigment is not an essential colour as it is, I use it occasionally but you could easily mix around it if you had to.
Opaque Turquoise: ? If you don't want to waste it try and consider a subject that might use the hue and opacity, like a few seascapes. Alternatively something with its complement so you could use it up in this way (see below on Emerald Green).
Unbleached Titanium: ditto. So easy to mix (Titanium White and Raw Umber with a spot of Raw Sienna is often perfect). If you want to use it up try it as a lightening colour for an entire canvas, unifying the highlights. Or try it as a toner for your canvases, the hue should provide a nice base for many subjects.
Red Oxide: I value this for exactly the same reasons you do. Again, the hue-angle might be the same as other earths but it is completely different in how it might be used. A cornerstone of traditional flesh technique along with Yellow Ochre. BTW a nearly perfect match can be made from Cadmium Reds and Chromium Oxide Green.
Wallack's 'purple': as you say good to experiment with and therefore not a waste but when it's gone you won't miss it.
Emerald Green: also a colour I bought before I knew better. Now that I have confirmation of the lightfastness of the pigments in my example I am using it as a foil for Cadmium Red Light. Obviously very easy to mix oneself.

Earths are a good example of colours possible to mimic by mixing if you so choose (see below). You can probably mix exact hues in masstone but you would likely not match particular handling characteristics which relate also to opacity, undercolour and tinting strength. This basically comes down to something we have discussed before, that purely in terms of hue it is possible, even easy, to mix certain colours but in terms of actual painting this is not the whole story. As an aside, my Yellow Ochre (W&N) is quite staining so it is obviously very different from TPS's, which is not at all surprising as being a natural product it varies enormously from supplier to supplier, possibly even from batch to batch. Additionally this colour is very frequently now made from synthetic iron oxides as natural supplies have been depleted or are simply not cost-effective any longer.

Mixing Experiment
I tried some mixing experiments recently using some of the new colours on my palette to see if I could achieve acceptable alternatives to some of my much-loved earth colours, not because I'm phasing them out but because I was curious how close I could get. I used Azo Yellow Light, PY3, Quinacridone Violet and Phthalocyanine Blue GS for the first batch and Bismuth Vanadate, Quinacridone Rose and Phthalocyanine Blue GS for the second batch (BTW neither form of PV19 that I have is close enough to function as a magenta - one is too red, the other too violet as you would probably suspect).

With the first trio I got a pretty good Raw Sienna, a close match in all characteristics including transparency. It also mixed a pretty good Burnt Sienna; I couldn't match my one but it was very close to some I have seen although a touch too opaque perhaps. I could not mix a good Burnt Umber, but I did get an almost perfect match (from memory) for the masstone of Benzimidazolone Maroon, the undercolour was quite clean too but the tint was dull.

The second combination mixed a very good Yellow Ochre in masstone but its chroma was a bit high, pretty good though and a very nice colour; no surprise then that these colours also mixed a good match for Mars Yellow. They also mixed a respectable Raw Umber, not the slightly greenish shade that I prefer but an attractive hue all the same, warmer and a bit more opaque which might be useful. Between these last two was a very nice mid-brown that I could see using in the future instead of relying on my earths as a starting point.

Neither combo was capable of mixing a really good black (I didn't expect them to) but they both produced darks of interesting character. The first tended to shy towards violet but the result was a hair darker in value for the obvious reason. The second was easier to control because of the higher tinting strength of the bismuth yellow, producing a good dark with a slight blue leaning in masstone and a neutral violet undercolour.

BTW the PV19 had a tendency to separate when thinned in all of these mixes, probably because of the very light nature of the quinacridone pigment, worth noting for thinner applications.


11-21-2001, 02:06 AM
Originally posted by Sergey
[However yellow (and maybe red) ochres... shouldn't be mixed with cadmiums] It's chemical incompatibility. Many sources say that these mixes can change color in some time.
I have never come across any mention of an incompatibility between these two classes of pigments Sergey, any references?


11-21-2001, 02:11 AM
The sources aren't in English. However it's mentioned, that if both pigments (especially ochres) are extremely pure (that's a very rare fact), this problem can be avoided.

11-21-2001, 05:33 PM
Hi Einion, nice to hear about you own mixing experiment.

I'm wondering if you could make closer matches
overall if you used 3 primaries closer to the RYB rather than MYC. I have a feling that since RYB generally (if not alwys) allows mixing cleaner oranges (and I would guess darker blacks) then it should make cleaner, more intense browns. Do you agree? I have yet to paint a painting with only 3 primaries plus white, though I want to try it eventually and I don't want to choose 3 colors that make greyish browns.

About quinacridone violet...that's a color I want to eventually try when I run out of quin. magenta.
From my knowledge it it almost identcal in relative hue, but darker and lower chroma. Can I assume that it would make even less clean (more brownish) reds and oranges when mixed with yellow?
Would it mix cleaner purples? I would think that
it would be worse than quin. magenta if mixing clean reds/oranges and violets is your goal. Am I right? Even if it's not such a good mixing color, in some ways it might be a betetr
landscape color.

11-24-2001, 12:06 PM
Hiya Patrick, if one chooses specific primaries tailored to a given gamut you could quite easily mix better matches to specific colours and if you think about it this is essentially what we all do to mix given colours in a composition anyway (assuming at least a twin primary palette).

If you choose three primaries that mix clean oranges they would yield good browns but you could certainly achieve the same hues using different starting points (with differences in chroma and how clean the undercolour is). Remember that in addition to being darker-valued, browns are generally also more neutral so the 'clealiness' of the base orange is not necessarily that critical. As a result RYB v. CMY should not make a huge difference with regard to mixing good browns, the results will depend on the specific choices in each case and the colour(s) one is aiming for. In addition to hue and chroma, transparency can also be important and obviously two or three of the primaries need to be transparent to mix colours like Raw and Burnt Sienna and the opposite for Yellow Ochre and other opaque earths for example.

Other than that CMY should, actually will, mix better darks because magentas/red-violets are darker-valued than any red one would likely choose as a RYB primary. Also the yellow choice is critical as the more opaque it is the greater the lightening effect.

As far as three-primary painting goes, while I admire the results others achieve, the few experiments I have tried were not satisfying, probably because I just don't see the world in that way, but also because I didn't have good CYM primaries to try it with (and despite my reservations they do mix a wider gamut than RYB). You're in a good position to try a three-primary painting: you have Quinacridone Magenta, Phthalo Blue GS and a choice of light-valued yellows so give it a whirl. One thing to bear in mind, from the examples I have seen this works better in watercolour IMO as in oils and acrylics masstone becomes more dominant and as I've said elsewhere the undercolour of magentas and cyans is much closer to the theoretical ideals - mix PB15:3 and PV122 together and the result will be very like PV23, i.e. close to black. Remember also, tints are not as clean as when the white ground shows through so in oils or acrylics it might be a good candidate for a glazing experiment.

I have not used Quin. Magenta but from quoted hue angles (Golden quote both as being 10.0RP and it looks exactly the same in their HPCC) it is either very close or identical in hue to Quin. Violet and higher in chroma as you say (usually the same value though). As a result PV122 will give higher-chroma mixes and should mix violets with cleaner undercolour (although I suspect in masstone one would not be able to discern any differences) plus brighter reds and oranges. Of the two, I suspect that PR122 is actually more useful than PV19 if you want a single example of this approximate hue position - one can always lower chroma. Have a look at the comments on the Handprint site in regard to <A HREF=http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/waterc.html#PR122>PR122</A>, some interesting points with regard to the choice for this approximate hue.


11-24-2001, 01:21 PM
Originally posted by Sergey
The sources aren't in English. However it's mentioned, that if both pigments (especially ochres) are extremely pure (that's a very rare fact), this problem can be avoided.
Purity is a relative term with regard to ochres, although yellow ochre is usually quoted as being simply hydrated iron oxide in reality it is much more complex. In order to be lightfast impurities of organic residues and sulphates in the natural pigment have to be removed. Since the resulting pigment is regarded in all media as being absolutely lightfast you can take it for granted that the pigment is processed properly, i.e. 'pure'.

With regard to cadmiums, the only real issue of note with regard to their purity is unreacted sulphur left over after the formation of the pigment. This used to be more of a problem but virtually all top-rank paint manufacturers now get their pigments from suppliers who process the pigment specifically to remove such impurities - hence warnings about possible reaction with lead pigments that used to be fairly commonplace are now rare (and probably unnecessary).

So all in all I would treat such a caution with more than a pinch of salt :)


11-26-2001, 12:57 AM
Maybe, maybe ... I didn't have a chance to check the compatibility myself. I don't remember the exact quotes with chemical explanations. I'll bring them later.

11-26-2001, 08:42 PM
My babies are burnt umber, raw umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue, naples yellow, titanium white, veridian green, alizaron red, naphthol red, and cadmium yellow. Now just last week I bough cadmium orange (inspired by Cindy's pumpkin painting) and cobalt blue.....but I haven't gotten the chance to paint with them yet.
My most useless colors? Payne's grey and raw sienna.
You know, though, that rack with all the different colors of paint on it at the store is just mesmorizing. I'm truly happy that I have a relatively limited palet, because I think it really helps me paint. But if I had the bucks.....man, on man, my palet would be madness, sheer madness. :D