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Painting for Beginniners: Choose Your Colours

March 10, 2010

paint palette coloursThere’s all kinds of advice out there for beginners wanting to choose their paint colours. It can be overwhelming, and if you took everyone’s advice, you’d go home with every tube in the store!

Well, I’m going to add my voice to the racket. The palette I am recommending is a very versatile and basic one. You will be able to mix nearly any colour you need. This is the palette I use for my paintings, and while I don’t use every colour in every painting, I have used all of these colours consistently throughout the years.

As you gain experience in painting, you will learn what colours you are more drawn to and can refine your palette accordingly. Your choice of colours might also depend on what you are going to paint. There are recommended palettes for portrait painting and for landscape painting.

For those interested in oil or acrylic painting, but not sure where to start, here is a selection of colours that I’ve found necessary and useful. I’ve also indicated either the warmth or coolness of the paint, or which colour it leans more to.


  • Cadmium Red (orangish)
  • Alizarin Crimson (purplish)
  • Cadmium Yellow (orangish)
  • Hansa Yellow (greenish)
  • Ultramarine Blue (purplish)
  • Pthalo Blue (greenish)


  • Yellow Ochre (warm)
  • Burnt Umber (warm)
  • Burnt Sienna (warm)
  • Raw Umber (cool)
  • Raw Sienna (cool)
  • Titanium White

A Note on Black

Rather than buying black paint, I would recommend that you mix a black. Black from a tube has no colour in it, and is very flat. When you use other colours to mix black, you get a hue that has depth and dimension. Pthalo blue and raw umber mix to create a colour very near black.


I apologize if this seems to emphasize oil and acrylic, with watercolour more like an afterthought. The thing is, I don’t know a lot about watercolour, so I won’t pretend to give advice about it! For those of you interested in watercolour, here is a short article about choosing a watercolour palette.


From → Painting

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