View Full Version : Oil Pastel Classroom - Limited Palette

07-14-2005, 12:32 AM
I've been working on this for a couple of days and have had to stop a lot for other activities, but tonight I thought....better get this posted before I forget what I did!! :eek:

First of all, let's consider some things about a "limited palette". When is a palette limited? Well, compared to the soft pastellist, we have a very limited palette already! The variety of color available in soft pastel is ever growing! So, in considering the limited palette, we are not doing a comparison with any other medium.

I know of some oil painters who limit their palette to three colors and white. This means that all values and all hues are mixed from four tubes of paint. I've actually done this a few times on location but was never happy with the outcome because it took me too long experimenting with the colors to arrive at the value or hue I needed, and at the same time, I was thinking about how fast the sun was moving across the sky! But plein air does demand some speed when making decisions about mixing color, so I developed my oil palette around a warm and a cool of each primary, along with white. Depending on the season, I might add a very cool green, like viridian, or a warmer deeper green color - both of which usually went unused!

And that brings me to the next point.....

WHY use a limited palette? And why with oil pastels?

1. If you love plein air, like I do, then you want to pare down the amount of medium you take on location because of weight. If you backpack your supplies, you'll understand the need to leave less sticks at home!

2. Traveling with your oil pastels? A limited palette can really cut down on the need to pack every brand because you need different colors from each set.

3. Want to learn more about color? Limiting the palette will broaden your need to experiment and find how color reacts to other color. What colors become dominant when used together? How do you control that dominance?

4. Want to understand the oil pastel medium better? Limiting your palette will cause you to focus more on how the medium is used in creating the painting. Random trial and error with lots of colors just can't happen.

5. ......this is where you come in! What is your reason for wanting to use a limited palette? I'm sure there are some I haven't thought of. So that's your first homework assignment....make a list of the reasons "you" want to use a limited palette. And please share! The classroom is a place where we can all learn from each other. :)

07-14-2005, 12:47 AM
Part 2

Do not skip the homework just because I'm posting the Part 2 ahead of you!! :D

The Limited Palette

How do I choose the colors to use? Well, since my experience stems from oil painting, I decided to choose colors based on the primaries plus white. I chose a set of three in a warm temperature and a set of three in a cool temperature.


This is one of the sample sets from Sennelier. It's a warm palette and I'll list the colors for you below.


Here, I've laid out the warm and the cool primaries and listed their #'s and color names. I'm using Sennelier's for this but you can use any brand. If you're not sure about a color being warm or cool, lay a stroke down and then use your white to lay a stroke across the color. Compare the two. Does one of the reds have a bias toward warm orange/yellow? or toward a cooler pink/purple? You may have to test several of your reds until you find which are which!

Choose primaries that are as pure as possible. My cool primaries are on the left and my warm primaries are on the right in the image above. (and for the perfectionists among us, I should have put the white on the cool side, but I knew that everyone knew that white was cool anyway)

Homework Part 2

Now it's your turn! Sort out your sticks and decide on your limited palette. This exercise is by no means the only limited palette that we can try out but if you want to follow along with the lesson, do this one first! And you can always pick the same colors that I picked! if you use Sennelier!

Part 3....So now what do I do to achieve enough values and hues to make a painting!!! :eek: Stay tuned.

John B
07-14-2005, 04:23 AM
WHY use a limited palette? And why with oil pastels?

5.. To have the ability at any time to create a painting with little notice and minimum preparation.

6.. As I travel a lot, it would be great to have 5 Oil pastels and a sketch pad in my car glove compartment and have the ability to create a painting from scratch.

7.. To discover how to bring a painting to life with the minimum of colour.

8.. To use a limited palette as a stepping-stone to understand colour and grow as an artist.

I am sure there are other benefits that will become apparent as the classroom progresses; I am looking forward to the experience.


Pat Isaac
07-14-2005, 07:44 AM
Why a limited palette? and why with oil pastels?

1. oil pastel is my primary medium
2. I am not a plein air painter, so maybe this will spur me on to try that.
3. growing as an artist is important and this definitely will help.
4. it will be good to see what can be accomplished with very few colors.


07-14-2005, 09:53 AM

1. I need to learn more about colors and how they interact. I have a very basic understanding of the color wheel, but I've never really "got" how to apply it. I'm hoping this will provide the link between theoretical knowledge and practical application.

2. I too would like to be able to paint "wherever"... it would be nice to have a little pack of OPs to carry around and sketch on my lunch break or while I'm waiting for someone.

3. I often find myself admiring the intense color in other people's work, and wondering how I could do that myself. I naturally lean toward more subtle, naturalistic colors when I draw, but lately I'm finding myself more inclined to use lots of COLOR. OPs are really good for that, and I think a limited palette could help even more.

07-14-2005, 01:17 PM
Carly this is off to a wonderful start! Thanks!

Why a limited palette? and why with oil pastels?
2 reasons:
1. To be able to travel with a max of maybe 12 pastels.
2. To understand how to "mix" colors in OP.
For example, if I use the three primaries that you showed, how do I blend the yellow and blue to get a beleivable green rather than blue sitting on yellow or worse yet mud!
So far, my solution to not knowing how to mix OPs has been to get more pastels!

07-14-2005, 04:28 PM
Some great comments from everyone and I'm sure we'll hear more as the class continues :clap:

If (and I'm sure you have) chosen your palette, you're ready for Part III!! Ann mentioned in her reply that "understanding how to mix color w/OP's" is one reason for a limited palette and that is what Part III focuses on. Using a sheet of newsprint or other sketching paper, try this exercise along with me and "please" post the results with any comments that you have.

Don't think of this as a 'color' chart because it isn't designed to just see how many color combinations you can make. It's designed to give you experience using a limited palette without the time restrictions or problem solving nature of a painting.


07-14-2005, 05:23 PM
In the above example I've kept the warm primaries separated from the cool primaries and used each set to do this exercise. The primary cool white is the one stick that I've used in both examples. This is the steps and what you want to achieve as you do the exercise.

1. Begin with any color from the warm primaries. Lay down a stroke (doesn't have to be a heavy stroke - just a bit of color) Now choose one of the other warm primaries and lay it from the center of the first stroke downwards. Observe the color created in the center of the strokes. Do the same for the cool primary colors below the warm primaries so that you can see the difference in how warm/cool react.

2. Now using your white, make a stroke across that center color. Observe how the white brings out the bias of the two colors. In my illustration, I laid down the red of both warm/cool primaries. Then in the second strokes, I laid down a warm blue with warm red on top and added white across the center. The Center for that combination becomes a grayed bluish orange/red. Wow! had no idea I could get that color out of just a couple of strokes!!

Now on the cool primary side, I laid down the cool red with cool blue over it and white thru the center. This is easier to see because my lighting was better on that part of the image. With this combination, I have my red, my blue, and a med value purple.

Continue using the warm primaries and then the cool primaries, seeing what colors you can reveal by layering and then using the white to "draw out" the bias of the combination. NAME the colors that you see! Why? because later when you look at the subject and think "I need a grayish bluish orange/red", you will remember how to create that more quickly.

3. Are we having fun yet?!! Toward the end of my rows, you'll see some colors surrounded by other color. The purpose of this is to show how colors relate to one another. On the top row in the warm primaries, notice how the red and the blue effect each other. When the blue is laid down first and the red overlaps it, squint and notice that the value of the blue and the overlapping color become the same value, but also notice that when the red is laid down first and the blue overlaps it, the red does not become the same value as the overlapped color. What does that tell us?

Continue putting down your primary colors as a dot or square and surround them with overlapping colors of the same temperature. Observe how the colors effect one another and also remember to name the colors that you see. For example, the warm primaries in the top row on the end began with a stroke of red and then overlapped and surrounded by the blue. The color created between the two is an orange/green. The blue surrounded by the red in the warm primaries row has an overlapping burnt sienna/greenish color. (How would that look on the bark of a tree?)

4. Staying within your warm or cool primaries...lay down a stroke of red. Along side of it and touching lay a stroke of blue. Now pull your yellow stroke across the two and mix them slightly. A couple of strokes will do it. Keep the color clean. Do the same with the opposite temperature and compare the two.

5. Lay down a yellow with a blue crossing it and use the white over the overlapping stroke to find a clear green. Now lay down the blue first with the yellow crossing it and the white to find another green. :) You might be surprised to see that the warm blue/yellow combinations with white make a cooler green than the cool primaries laid down in the same manner.

By now, you should begin to see how the relationship of colors effects the outcome of your paintings. Also you should be noticing how clean the colors appear when layered cool over cool or warm over warm. How does that relate to the painting?

I hear the word "mud" a lot from artists! Did anyone get any mud in your combinations?

Post your exercises and then we'll move on to a simple subject using our limited palette!

07-14-2005, 05:38 PM

If you're beginning to notice how many colors you are achieving already by doing this, just think how many more colors you can create by minimizing or maximizing one or the other color in your combinations. The amount of blending can effect the color achieved, the surface you're working on can effect the colors. There are many ways to influence your color choices without adding more sticks :)

07-14-2005, 09:17 PM
First I tried to pick out the warm and cool primaries myself. In Senneliers, I picked the same warm red and blue. The rest of the colors I picked were off by maybe one shade from what Carly picked out. It wasn’t as easy to pick out the warm and cool primaries as I thought it would be.
I switch to the colors Carly used to do the assignment. I did the assignment. Then I wondered if it mattered which color went down first. So I started putting more mixes down.
I noticed a funny thing. When I put down the red & blue and went over it with the yellow, the warm one looked green and the cool one looked orange. I did it twice to make sure I didn’t use the wrong set of primaries. The only reason for this I can figure out is that the cool red I used was a stronger pigment than the cool blue and the opposite happened in the warms. Does anyone have a better theory?

07-15-2005, 02:07 AM
:clap::clap: Ann, you are my star student tonight!!

What makes a color warm or cool? It's the bias toward either the warm side of the color wheel or the cool side.

Michael Wilcox in his book, Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green explains the color bias much better than I ever could! and I highly recommend his book. He recommends a limited palette like we're using for any medium because once understood how the six colors interact with one another, you can mix any color!!

Basically, what happens is the cool yellow's subtractive nature which is orange (remember it's additive nature is toward blue) and the cool red's subtractive color which is also orange become more dominant when they are combined. (To test that, layer your yellow and red!) Now you have a dominant red, dominant yellow, and dominant orange mixed with the blue which is only dominant blue and subtractive green since it's bias is red. If all you did was add up the number of reds/yellows/oranges and compare it with the blue/green in that sentence, you'd come up with an yellow/red dominance.

Whew! did that make any sense at all to ya!!! It's much easier if you make your own color wheel using your cool and warm primaries. I'll see if I can do that tomorrow....but the main thing to find with these exercises is...

the confidence that you can mix the colors that you want to mix with those seven pastels! and to learn more about the oil pastel medium!


07-15-2005, 02:57 PM
I hope everyone hasn't been frightened off with all these dots of color!! You don't have to do the exercises to explore a limited palette, but it will be a big help when you jump into the painting :) And it's not necessary to do all the combinations ahead of time....you can always check combinations on a scrap piece of paper during the painting process. :)

Yesterday, the exercise focused on either the cool or warm colors. Today, let's mix them up some. Here's a chart where I've used my yellow with either the cool or warm colors to create an orange or a green color. Doing this with your own pastels will show you better the rich clarity of the colors or the more dull neutrals that you can achieve.


In the image below I'm layering three of the colors mixing the warm and cools.

Notice my color wheel with the six colors. The dots in between are orange, purple and green. Then I've touch white to each one to see how it lightens the primaries. Create your own using your six sticks and use the arrows to point each color toward their bias :)

The swatches on the right of the color wheel show blue with red overlaid, and lightened with the yellows or with white.


Again, the exercises I've shown are optional and you may find that as you begin exploring a limited palette in a painting that a peek back at some of the exercises will help in solving some of the problems that arise.carly

07-15-2005, 03:51 PM
So....we're ready to paint! now that we've explored the combinations of colors that we can achieve with our limited palette.

Here's the reference I'll be using. These were picked from my front yard and they don't last long so I'll be working more from the photo than from a set up. Working from life is my first choice because the photo reference can't possibly show all the color nuances of light touching the petals or the colors that exist in the shadows. You may want to work from your own set up or use your own photo image....either way, I hope you'll share the outcome!!


07-15-2005, 04:05 PM
I've done a sketch on the same newsprint because this will be an exercise...no pressure! :D

Notice that I've lightly laid in some darks because I want the flowers to pop out more. Using the "cool" blue for the background (cool recedes) and using the warm blue on the table surface. The table plane reflects more light so it will be warmer in those shadow areas.


Pat Isaac
07-16-2005, 11:40 AM
Here are some of my swatches. I haven't tried the white yet, but I did notice that I like the orange and green made from the warm colors and the purple made from the cool colors. I always find it had to make a good purple, no matter the media.I also tried making brown from the compliments. I like the painting we will be doing. I may try more color combos before I start.

07-16-2005, 02:28 PM
:clap: for Pat!!!

You hit on one of the problems that almost everyone has when mixing primaries to find secondary colors. Purple created from a warm red and warm blue will be dull, more neutral, because of the bias of the warm colors toward orange/yellow. Since the cool red and cool blue have the bias toward the secondary - purple, their combination stays cleaner and brighter.

Analogous colors on the color wheel work well as a limited palette because of their bias properties. One of my favorites is a blue/green stick, a violet/blue stick, and a yellow/green stick and white. Notice that I have all the colors from the cool side of th wheel. To me, from violet to cool yellow is one half the wheel - And warm yellow to cool red is the other half.

After this painting, we'll do another one using either the cool half or the warm half and see what happens!!

07-16-2005, 03:40 PM
Hi Carly! There are a lot of interesting things to try! Thanks for the guidance!

I hope you'll excuse my approach to the 'Why' part! I'm going to get through this and find out the answers afterwards :D But definitely I seek deeper understanding of colours more then anything else.

Off to the swatches part now. I wonder do I have all those primaries needed.

07-16-2005, 04:28 PM
What makes a color warm or cool? It's the bias toward either the warm side of the color wheel or the cool side.

Michael Wilcox in his book, Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green explains the color bias much better than I ever could! and I highly recommend his book.
...cool yellow's subtractive nature
Didn't quite understand what a color's subtractive nature was so I went to the library and found the book you mentioned. I also picked up 3 other books on color by the same author.
I've got lot of reading to do! Thanks for for the tip on the book.

07-16-2005, 10:21 PM
Those are my mixing results.
Some observations now. In order to get colours mixed without much fuss it's better to lay darker colour first, i.e. yellow over red and yellow over blue. Blue and red yield darkish colour, which is hard to identify. It's muddy as a matter of fact :D Interestingly, adding third primary - yellow - doesn't seem to darken it further. This is because our mixing is not ideally subtractive as the medium is opaque.

I was mildly surprized that in my test #8 resulting colour is very close between warm and cold variations. I thought it's a fluke and mixed with more yellow (the blob below) and these started to differ at last lol.

This take to limited palette with cool and warm variations of primaries seems a bit haphazard to me. But, of course, I don't have that book on hands. Looking forward to doing this floral perhaps! How's your progress Carly? I wonder how hard this lilac flowers are to get right. My guess is we don't need to achieve realistic colours with limited palette.

07-17-2005, 01:40 AM
Alex :clap: :clap:
You did a great job with the exercises!! Although it doesn't sound like you see a benefit yet, I think that you did find some things about the oil pastel medium that you may not have noticed before. :)

Actually oil pastels can be very transparent. Your cool yellow is probably the most transparent. One of the reasons we can see a new color by overlaying one color with the other is because of the transparency.

I'm glad that you did some swatches alternating your starting color, too :) Your #10a shows a nice violet color when mixed...that might be a good combination for the purples in the flowers.

Take a look at the "Limited Palette" chapter in the Wilcox book, Blue & Yellow Don't Make Green. I had to read the book several times to understand what he was saying but I have several books on color and that one was the one that helped me to figure out how to mix colors without knowing all the names or numbers that some folks use.


07-18-2005, 02:27 PM
Hi Carly!

This is definitely something to come out of the woodwork for! Since part of the reason I got into OP's is to work on my color sense, this is a great exercise! So, reasons for learning to work with a limited palette begin with:

1. Becoming a better colorist!

2. It will allow me to take OP's in a smaller kit - to more places.

3. I can take OP's outside without worrying that I'll melt a whole set in the summer heat! :D

4. Less scanning for the right color as I'll know better how to work the colors at hand.

Here are my swatches - already I've gotten something out of it as I've found some clues to the ever elusive turquoise color I've been looking for at work and at play . . . turns out a cool yellow is key.

Thanks Carly for this thread!


07-19-2005, 12:10 AM
Timidithy!! Great job with the swatches and so glad that this brought you out of the woodwork!! :clap: :clap: On your personal color wheel, you should switch your warm and cool blues so that you can see how the cool blue and cool red are the best combination for a purple. The warm blue and the cool yellow make the best green because they point toward each other. Isn't it fun to see how colors react with one another!!

I apologize for not getting further with my painting. The painters have taken my studio apart to retape the sheetrock in the ceiling before painting. This was an unexpected turn of events and all my materials are covered with plastic until Wed!! I'm so glad I saved out my colored pencils!! :D

That does not mean that all of you cannot carry on with the painting without me....hint...hint! And I promise to finish it asap!!

07-19-2005, 02:41 PM
just short message.. this classroom is great.. at present I have to travel a lot but I will be back to school by mid next week to catch up.
I have chosen only 4colors/ 2warm+2 cool plus white and grey.
I`ll show some of the mixing possibilities next week.
I am flying to Istanbul tomorrow and will hopefully be back on Monday.


07-20-2005, 01:27 AM
Why do I want to try a limited palette with OP? Frankly, it's about the only medium with which I don't customarily use a very small palette. It's kind of my break from that mode. However, learning more about how oil pastels work best with a small palette will help me work in this medium in a style more similar to my other artwork. I tend not to physically blend much with OPs, at least much less than I do otherwise, and this will give me some more experience with blending and layering. Finally, I'd like to see how my experience with color mixing, placement, etc. with the other mediums, compares to that with oil pastels. For instance, if I mix ultramarine blue with yellow ochre OP in a certain proportion, will it give the result I expect from my experiences in paint?

I'm sitting down right now to do the exercises.

07-21-2005, 05:30 PM
Ok, here are the results from my experiment - I had to work quickly because I've got a big work and travel rush coming.

After switching the blues on my palette (which makes for a much nicer green, thanks Carly!) I picked my subject. I went for vegetables and after a couple set ups went with the one in the picture. (Portobello mushrooms are much easier to cook and eat than match from mixing primaries on the first few tries!)

I sketched an outline and did some swatches to figure out what basic color choices I'd make. Then I did a basic fill with the swatched mixtures and went from there. The background I left rough, I could see the color interactions without it looking too sickly (those portobellos haunting me again!)

For a quick (2-3 hour) study I think it went well; here are my observations:

While doing the swatches I became much more aware of the undertones of colors. The yellow pepper has a first layer of warm red and then yellow, the tomato has an underlayer of cool blue beneath the red. This is the opposite way from how I usually work, which is to use a wash of the closest color and go from there.

Because I'm working with primaries the color seems to work better if I work from duller to brighter. I did this with the cabbage leaf, layering reds and blues until the leaf shape was almost black but the right hue, then going in with highlights in white and red. Shading afterward is a little harder with only primaries.

It was harder to just be "loose" with the limited palette, I had to pause and be more deliberate in my choices. While this is a little uncomfortable if I'm feeling like just having the color there for me, it was good to pay attention and really see what colors I'm using and blending.

I'm seeing more of a painterly effect in the way the colors work together, I'm not sure if this is from the limited palette itself or the fact that it took so many layers to get some of the colors right.

So this was a great experiment and yes, I'm taking a few OP's with me on vacation - limited palette plus a couple ochres and a favorite iridescent. Before this classrom I was only going to take watercolors because I didn't want to take a big kit and risk it melting; now both oilies and watercolors fit in a lunch bag, so I can take them both and decide there! :clap:


Pat Isaac
07-21-2005, 05:42 PM
Wow, :clap: :clap: What an excellent study. Worked really well. Have fun on your vacation. This is hard stuff and does require thinking. I do like your painterly feel, and the purple leaf is great! I find it so hard to get a good purple.


07-21-2005, 08:15 PM
you have just proven that a good student will always outdo the instructor!! :clap: The painting glows with color and harmony! And your comments about how the palette worked for you would make a nice mini article for some magazine.

Like you, I find that a limited palette slows me down but because there are so few sticks, I remember how I use the color much better and with a bit of time, you'll actually get much faster with making the choices and combinations to achieve just the color that you're looking for!

Enjoy your trip and "happy painting"! Hope you'll share more of your limited palette oilies when you return. Will you be using watercolor as underpaintings?

07-21-2005, 10:46 PM
Hi Pat and Carly, thanks for the compliments!

Pat, I have problems with purple too, and I LOVE purple so this exercise will stay with me! :wink2:

Carly, the last trip I took was a weekend and I took about 45 OP's with me. And spent the entire long weekend worrying that they were going to melt. By the time I was somewhere I could use them it was just a 20 minute stop so I just did a little wash/watercolor type thing. My next plan was to leave the oilies at home and just take watercolors on vacation - no melting worries and the kit's tiny (I'm also very shy about painting in public).

So after the exercise in limited palette I think I'll try taking both. Maybe I'll do a watercolor wash first, then work in, maybe even later if it's just a quick stop. Just trying to keep it flexible so I can roll with whatever happens!


07-26-2005, 11:43 AM
I love this thread, and it echoes so much of what I learned in my color workshop last weekend. The instructor said that when she first takes students plein air painting they are only allowed to bring five pastels with them! Red, yellow, blue, white and black.

She also said that as a plein air landscape painter she deplores the term "mud" and prefers to say "earth tones", and that she thinks the earth tones are among the prettiest you can produce. :D

Debbie C.

08-02-2005, 05:02 PM
I would just like to thank you Carly for a very instructive thread. I like to use purples for shadows and I will remember how to mix them now. I think the same rules will aplly to almost any medium :D

My reasons for using a limited pallete, is simple the fact that I have only just started buying them. I am a total novice with op's, and I then I bought skin tones because I have been atending life drawing classes.

So now I will buy the primary colours, and practice hard before classes start again in September.
:clap: :clap: :clap:

Pat Isaac
08-02-2005, 05:16 PM
I started my little piece using a limited palette today, :( HARD. I tried to do something that wasn't just the main colors... :eek: It is all orange and green, no purple. That is so hard.
Anyway, it is good practise. Thanks.


08-02-2005, 08:51 PM
Pat, no fair....you don't just get to tell us about it. We wanna see! :)

Now that my house is finally painted except for one more bathroom that I'm working on, and the workshop in North Carolina is behind me....I can get back to painting. Now all I have to do is figure out where I put the limited palette of oilies that I took out of my box!!

Let's get some paintings in this thread!!

08-02-2005, 09:00 PM
Debbie and Steph,
thanks for joining us in the classroom! Hope you'll have an opportunity to share some of your limited palette attempts. Doing the exercises is just a way to warm up and better understand how the colors effect one another when layered or blended.

Hope to see some paintings, too!

Pat Isaac
08-03-2005, 08:48 AM
Okay, Carly. There wasn't enough to show yet. Maybe by Friday as I won't be at the studio today and tomorrow one of the artists in the building is having weekly uninstructed life classes, so I am going to be doing that on Thursdays. Promise, I'll post it soon.


08-03-2005, 03:11 PM
Hi Carly

I've printed off the lessons & am about ready to start on them.

Looking forward to joining in & learning more about mixing OP's.

Thanks for all your hard work !


My OPS apron arrived safely & now I have to get it suitably messy :D

08-03-2005, 04:26 PM
I don't have those primary colours Carly or I would join in, but I know know what to buy next time I go to the shop I buy them from. But that won't be a while yet :(
It means a whole day out when I go there, and I just don't have the time now.

Like I said I only have skin tones at present. But your lesson as helped me understand where I've been going wrong, with my other paints.

08-03-2005, 09:45 PM
Hi Nina!
Enjoy getting that apron "oily"!! Mine looks like a flower garden with lots of lovely finger smudges :)

Steph, so glad the lesson has been helpful! Studying how your colors effect one another is good to do with any medium :)

08-04-2005, 02:48 AM
yesterday afternoon I did this study with limited palette,which was good experience. I used caran d`ache, which can be laid down very nicely in many layers. I was astonished how many option there are to mix colors. I have a
12 color set which is easy to carry and now I feel even that is too much !

I am not satisfied with the tonalities in this exercise so there will be some more studies to improve.


Pat Isaac
08-04-2005, 05:06 PM
No fair, Martin. Did you use more than 3 colors????
Here is my offering so far with the 3 primaries. I really don't like some of the values, but actually some are getting better as I keep going. Ths is a lily flower. I have to say that I hope I never get stuck with just primaries. lol, I always told my students that every color was made from some combination of these colors. It s a matter of finding the RIGHT combination. Onward.......


08-05-2005, 02:41 AM
Hello Pat
ooops it seems I got it wrong.. after seeing Carly work with 3 warms and 3 cools I thought 6 colors were the limit. :eek:
Well then back to start again.

08-05-2005, 03:26 PM
Hi Carly,

Here are my test samples ...

These are my Daler-Rowney OP's as my Sennelier pack had only one red !!!!

I have to admit that I didn't like the "warm" selection at all & felt much happier with the cools.

I felt that the most I learnt from this experiment was the effect of running lighter colours over the top of darker ones - it was completely opposite to everything else I have experienced with any other medium.

The result of using pales over the other darker colours - both pure & mixed - is a unique feature of Oil pastels !!

Thank you for encouraging us to be so analytical.

Onward now to another OP limited palette selection ....


Pat Isaac
08-09-2005, 04:04 PM
Hi Carly,
Here is another upgrade of my limited palette piece. It is getting easier and I am finding out a lot about warm and cool colors. A mix of both seems to work best for me. The compliments don't seem to work well, at least, I feel like I always get mud.
Won't be back to studio till next week so I will finish it then.


08-09-2005, 07:18 PM
:clap: :clap: :clap: and ***** Stars for everyone!!

Martin, you can choose how many sticks to use in your own limited palette. There is no firm rule on how many colors you need. Using a warm and cool of the primaries with a white will give you a broader range of value possibilities and more variation in mixing clean colors :)

Pat, I really like the colors you're achieving in the lily!

Nina, it's interesting to see how the Daler Rowney primaries compare with other brands. Your yellow and lemon yellow appear very close in color. You might try another warm yellow in the palette for more variety.

I'm painting walls now....soon the house will be finished!

Ana Durão
08-15-2005, 06:52 AM
Hi! I'm new in OPs and have just bought a box with lots of colors... I guess this would be a good exercise for me since I have no idea how to mix them... I have no idea how to pick the warm and cool primaries, but as I have Caran D'ache I'll just copy the choice of stonewhiteclown. Hope I can do this...

08-15-2005, 12:38 PM
Welcome Ana!

To tell whether a color is warm or cool, compare it with other colors. For example, compare a red with a red and see which leans more toward orange or toward purple. If it leans toward orange, then its a warmer red. Check out the color wheel exercise and make up your own color wheel with your sticks testing each color for warm or cool. This will help you to know which colors will mix to create clearer hues.

Also, we have an index in the Library here in the Pastels forum for the Oil Pastel Studio. There are a number of classroom lessons listed that you might like to try out with your new sticks to give you a feel for their texture and blending possibilities.


Ana Durão
08-16-2005, 07:43 AM
Thanks for the tips carly... I'm sure going to try those classroom lessons. I have already done one color wheel but I'll try with diferent sticks to see the diference...
Thanks again!

08-17-2005, 05:25 AM
WHY use a limited palette"

It can get you through the times when you really need to order more pastels.

Great lesson, Carly.

08-22-2005, 10:48 PM
Hi Preston! I've missed your oil pastels....has the summer heat melted all of them? :D

02-24-2008, 07:58 AM
This is my humble attempt to at least bring the limited palette thread up to the forefront as requested by Beate. I'm guessing that by making a reply in the thread itself that it will reappear on page 1 of the OP page:cool: .

If this thread can be resurrected, I'd like to ask earlier participants, if they could post some of their work done with a limited pallet in the years since first adapting or experimenting with the techique in plein air excursions:heart: .

Carly, I've looked at your website and am wondering if your beautiful plein air paintings are mostly done with a limited pallet:confused: ? I realize at the same time that you may not have the time to host the thread again but even involvement by other participants might be sufficient, now that your groundwork has already been laid.


02-28-2008, 06:29 AM

and thank you, Leo, for your post here. I donīt know if this is the thread Pat was talking of in the other thread. I would be happy if there were more people interested in on-going with these exercises.

So see you soon,

02-28-2008, 07:35 PM

in the last days I had fun (really !) doing these mixing exercises in various ways. I am surprised what can be done with only a few colours :clap:

Inspired by a watercolour book I had done similar mixing exercises with watercolours before, thatīs why I liked to use the wheels here too. They look a bit strange as Iīve put a white layer onto each mixed colour. The lines in the middle of the first picture show the mix of all 3 colours again to better see those broken colours and their mix with white. In some places I blended a bit. The photos donīt show the colours correctly, esp the browns and greens come too dark.

I used the following Neopastel colours:

1) yellows - Lemon Yellow and Yellow
reds - Carmine and Scarlet
blues - Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue

2) Golden Yellow - Carmine - Cobalt Blue

The fourth photo shows an orchid that is an exercise inspired by the above-mentioned watercolour book "Aquarellieren mit Effekt" (Watercolouring with effect) by Barbara Eisenbarth (last photo is the original for reference). Iīve chosen this because she also uses this very limited palette and I liked her orchid so much. She only gives a loose guidance, so one has to look at the photos carefully and guess the proportions in the mixes. The differences in the mediums made it a bit more difficult to get a result near to hers. Of course(?) in my exercise I had to use white oilpastel. For her painting she uses Indian Yellow, Krapprot Deep - a cold red and Coelin-Blue - a cold blue (Iīve got problems with translating these names correctly, sorry). I could only substitute them hoping to come near the original:

3) Golden Yellow, Carmine and Cobalt Blue

Mostly I only blended with the oilpastels themselves.

Things Iīve learned:
-It does matter which colour is laid down first.
-Itīs a difference if I blend or not. (For a newbie important "discoveries")
-Using only 3 colours + white made it difficult for me to get all the shades.
-I would have difficulties to mix greys with the 3 colours from the painting.

I will go on with that discovery tour. Hope others will join.:clap::clap:

Pat Isaac
02-29-2008, 07:37 AM
What a great job you did with this, Beate. The flower is wonderful. I agree with all the things that you said and when I did it I found it very hard and hoped never to stuck with just those colors....:lol:


02-29-2008, 11:56 AM
Hallo Pat

and thank you. Though I have the 48 Sennelier box and also more Neopastels I will hold back for a while to use them all. I really like these limited palette exercises - they teach me a lot.

Today I had a call from my son who is preparing for studying art. We are having painting-"talk shops" on the phone which is great fun to both of us (and when we go to the local art stores it means disappearing for hours:D). He is doing similar exercises with colour charts and mixing at the moment. Itīs fantastic: When he described how he had mixed a wonderful green I was able to really see it in my mind just because my imagination of colours has grown:clap:.

Iīm enthusiastic about this wonderful colourful world

Pat Isaac
02-29-2008, 03:11 PM
Your excitement is infectious, how nice to be able to share it with your son.
For me, going into an art supply store is always like going into a candy store.


03-02-2008, 06:08 AM
Hmmmmmm :wink2: In ours you can also sit and get a coffee while trying out materials

Pat Isaac
03-02-2008, 11:11 AM
What a great idea....I don't of anything like that here. It would be a good thing for the art stores to have.:D


03-02-2008, 12:01 PM
Itīs fun to buy there but also dangerous (for my purse).:rolleyes:

BTW - in the other thread I asked about those oil pencils. Maybe you could tell what kind of pencil that is. In the art store they didnīt know them.


03-02-2008, 02:24 PM
Beate: Sorry to lead you to believe that I would be participating in this limited palette thread. Upon you making known your wishes that it be revived, my impulsive reaction that I'd be an eager participant, as I was unaware that such a thread existed and the idea of learning a minimum pallet really appealed to me - both as a learning experience and practical application for plein air work.

Unfortunately, some reality had to set in. I do have a bit of a show coming up and because it's a large space to fill, I will need to pump-out more work in short order. My practical painting time is already very limited and so as much as I'd like to participate, I'll have to put it off for at least a few months.

Good luck, I'm sure you'll learn lots and I like what you've done so far:wave: .


03-03-2008, 11:58 AM
Hi Leo,

no problem for me - on the contrary - thank you for helping and good luck for your preparations. :thumbsup:


An Old Lad
01-06-2009, 03:37 AM
OK I'm guessin that Ultramarine is warm and Cobalt is cool... Prussian I assume is also a cooler blue. Where as my light blue/Pale blue is deffinitly warm. I like the excersise but I just can't make up my mind on the temperature of a few colors!

Pat Isaac
01-06-2009, 08:17 AM
Color temps are difficult, but I would say that you have those blues right.


09-02-2012, 06:15 PM
What a great idea....I don't of anything like that here. It would be a good thing for the art stores to have.:D


Definitely. Here in MA the art community, as it pertains to the stores, isn't what I imagined it would be. The art stores that I've been to here in Western Massachusetts are snooty and they carry more garbage than anything really useful. I don't like being cynical (just good at it, lol!!!!), but it is shocking. It just doesn't seem like 'art' is the number one priority here.

Pat Isaac
09-02-2012, 07:01 PM
You are right.....I get most og my supplies on line.....


09-03-2012, 09:12 AM
Valiant, I purchase all my art supplies on line as well:

Dick Blick, Jerrys Artarama, Art Supply Wharehouse (ASW), or Cheap Joes.

01-10-2017, 09:46 PM
Just checking in. Christel was suggesting someone else take a peek at the OP classroom.

11-24-2018, 12:10 PM
Just checking in. Christel was suggesting someone else take a peek at the OP classroom.

I did! :)

These are great exercises! I did those along with finding nice greys while mixing my Mungyos (the professional ones).

I didn't have Cadmium Red in my 48 set, so I was doubting between 208 Scarlet and 209 Carmine, they are both cool though Carmine might be a little cooler.
Anyway, so I had 8 colors (2 yellows, 3 reds, 2 blues and 1 white) - and that got me around 70 different hues (if we count mixing red + yellow + blue of both cool primaries and warm primaries and the lighter value of them, and also lighter values of the primaries).


11-29-2018, 10:28 PM