Monday, October 8, 2007

the Ultimate Colorist Palette

Now, I hate the dichotomy imposed that distinguishes the righteous colorists from the stale tonalist painters. It is, rather, an outlook in my opinion; that is, what aspect of nature moves one painter versus another is a matter of taste. Its personal.
One can either pursue nature, try to reproduce it fully, or alter its appearance in some way. A colorist, at least in the impressionist sense of the word, replaces the actual appearance of nature with his or he subjective style, changing this or that, limiting values and enhancing reflections. Most keep their chromas rather low, like Monet. Others, like Soralla, seem to heighten their chromas a lot more. For me, nature is the utmost guide. But I do change the appearance of things to fit my artistic outlook as well.

That said, the following palette represents the full gamut of paint. (only around 17 pigments ) All, and I mean all miracles, styles, of any outlook can be achieved with this palette since it represents painted color space. Now, its not a palette of convenience. One can add anything else for ease of mixing. But to subtract any of this is to compromise, for the most part, what can be painted.

The Rational Color blog, which I hope will become a separate forum, was created to expand and better understand this range in order to revive art training, obviate nonsense and irrationality in the contemporary art world, and grow the possibilities of oil paint as an expressive and considered medium.

The Gamut of Oil Paint Palette.

Napthol Red
Perylene Red
Cadmium Orange
Hansa Yellow Medium
Hansa Yellow Light or Cadmium Lemon (Yellow Light) (Note these seem interchangeable)
Pthalo Green (Yellow Shade)
Pthalo Blue
Manganese Blue (Genuine) (occasional and only for one hue)
Ultramarine Blue
Diox Purple
Manganese Purple
Quinacridone Rose

Alizarin Crimson permanent (the single pigment variety made by Windsor and Newton) or
Pyrrol Ruby (a good replacement for the above )
Burnt Sienna ( for extra chroma in the YR range)
Burnt Umber
Ivory Black (this is the darkest value available in paint)
Titanium White (this is the lightest value available in paint)

One can see if the following help in rare occasions:
Pthalo Blue (red or green shades)
Phthalo Green (green shade)

The red shade seemed to make little difference when I tried it.


Rich said...

Thanks Graydon. Was Perylene Crimson on the list also?

John said...

Thanks for this post!

ewschott said...

Graydon is this in response to the Liberace palette and thoughts?

I didn't see your response there, perhaps I missed it.

Quick thoughts to myself on the first read of your opening here...

Twachtman is one of my favorite tonalist.

Anton Mauve, considered a "gray" painter (part of the Hague School), when looking in person, he was so far from being "gray". It is certainly a study in translating nature.

I can't remember if they were the same time as the Barbizon guys or after. Didn't they both just split off from Beligium following their own lanugages? Likely to simple of a reason.

I'll have to do a hunt for his palette.

I need to look at Rob's (L.) artist illustrations, I am pretty sure he kept it to the older masters in the beginning, then moved into his contemporaries.

graydon said...


This is my response to your post on Liberace and Shanks. My methods don't conflict with theirs. I just ask for greater understanding. Why, for example, put cobalt blue on the palette when painting flesh: permanency, tradition, taste, ease of use, a certain optical effect? It is an expensive pigment that can be replicated easily by cheaper alternatives.

Shanks seems to go into the mystical from time to time. He is a fantastic painter and I have seen many of his works in person. However, I don't see the point to his color exercises. If they are to try and exaggerate color, like the Fauves, then maybe some greater principles can be gleaned. But I cannot see their value, or rather a great value, in using them to paint realistically.

Rich, use Perelyne Red. The crimson seems lower in chroma, but check it out.

Rich said...

Thanks Graydon.

Rich said...

Graydon, what brand of Manganese Blue are you using? Williamsburg doesn't make it.

graydon said...

Old Holland. Thanks to Neal. Although I wish he'd replicate hitting the chroma of 10B. I still haven't got it. Can anybody call Xrite and ask the pigment used; or, is it all in the binder? My student here in Amherst said they make them with pigments used by the automotive industry.

marsha said...

While you are at it - ask if they will eventually tube all of their pigment mixes used to produce their chips for us easel painters!

Thanks for this post, Graydon!

Scott said...

Talked to a Mr. Hernandez at the Munsell phone number, 877-888-1720. He said that the lab manager is out today and will be in tomorrow. He gave me his email addy and asked that you email him, he will get together with his lab manager and ask him if there is any info that they can give us. He wasn't sure, since, he felt that this might all be proprietary.
email addy:

ewschott said...


"obalt blue on the palette when painting flesh: permanency, tradition, taste, ease of use, a certain optical effect? It is an expensive pigment that can be replicated easily by cheaper alternatives. "

Which Blue would you replace this with?

I did make the mistake on my palette by not saying it's my almost everything palette, except when something is called for.

The turquoise light is actually a lovely way to keep the Chroma intac and lower the value.

I really know nothing of Shanks. I know Rob teaches at his school a lot but it's mainly sculpture. I do know they know him well enough to tell little sublime secrets about his work, I also know he thinks highly of him but I haven't really heard is comments reguarding his paintings - granted he likes his palette.

Shanks does his paintings almost with too intense chroma for me. (Rob's are not near as in your face as his). The figures in the paintings I like.

Shanks backgrounds - other than the Pope with the - well thing on his robe, the background is awesome - most of his other backgrounds I don't care for. I believe it is also him that uses his own hands in his work a lot.

One tid bit I thought was amusing... when painting Clinton, he did have a mannequin with a blue dress for a bit of reflective color. HA!

graydon said...

You are using the Cobalt Turquoise to lower the chroma of which color? For flesh, it might pull the mixture too far toward green.

ewschott said...

The turquoise has to be used in the balance needed or you are right it will become to green.

Mix for basic shadow, adjusted for skin and light of course is a mix of Cad Yellow Light, Ruby and the Turquoise light.

So since these are all falling basically as complementary colors - even though used out of the tube, you would still consider it "graying" down in value instead of keeping a high chroma? Whites are never added to this.

Breid said...

I so love this idea for a blog, so much helpful information, but, I'm finding the white text on black a little hard on the eyes. Maybe it's just me?

Scott said...

I agree.

Rich said...

How's that?

Scott said...

darn! You are quick! It's so awesome!

Rich said...


RichardTScott said...

I heard through the grapevine that Old Holland is going to discontinue Manganese blue because they're no longer producing it for automobiles.
The demand for artist pigments isn't high enough for the factories to continue making it.

Very unfortunate. Soon we won't have Cadmiums either.

Tristan said...

Manganese blue manufacture stopped a few years ago, primarily I believe due to environmental/health concerns for the factory workers. OH bought up the remaining stockpile, and has been the only company offering the genuine pigment for quite some time.

mikemlz said...

THis past year I've substituted Robert Doak's Algiers blue for OH Manganese mostly for landscape and seascapes. It has excellent tinting strength and comes real close to Manganese with a touch of cad lemon yellow.

Rich said...

I looked at the sheet for OH Manganese Blue yesterday and it's a combo of five colors now. Hey Tristan!

graydon said...


Dave said...

On OHs website they still list Manganese Blue as PB33 Barium Manganate:

Cornellisens in London has tubes of Robersons Manganese Blue PB33 (I suspect the Robersons paint may be made for them by OH) - and they also have PB33 as dry pigment.

kmonroe6 said...

I believe Vasari still has the genuine manganese blue. Gunzorro would probably know better...

Breid said...

Thank you!

Now on to reading...

Paul F said...

>I suspect the Robersons paint may be made for them by OH

That's interesting Dave, is that based on how you find it in use?

I've got a couple of tubes of Robersons (from Cornelissens) and it seems fine to me, but I haven't much experience of different brands. I'm used to Michael Harding and the Robersons is a bit stiffer - like the OH titanium white I got recently.

graydon said...

Make sure you test the brand and its corresponding Munsell notation. The reason I added it to the palette, is that Neal demonstrated that the Old Holland brand helps raise the chroma of 10B or 5B (I don't have my notes with me at home so I am not sure which it was) This is a rare use, a very high chroma blue. However, if needed, its good to know how to mix it.

Manganese Blue substitutes likely won't help.

Gunzorro said...

Old Holland, Blockx, Vasari and Doak all make current manufacture Manganese Blue.
Sennelier, Holbein, and Da Vinci all list it, genuine, not as a hue.
Mussini makes a combination Manganese/Cerulean.
There may be more I'm not aware of.
Personally, I'm not a fan due to its low tinting strength. It has occasional uses, like Cobalt Violet, but I can easily live without either.

graydon said...

I found it useful, or perhaps essential, just for the chroma at value 4 or 5. Jim, have you tried different brands, and if so, which is the more chromatic?

painterdog said...

Manganese Blue is very good for landscape painting.

I just bought 4 tubes of OH from the Italian Art store $19.25 each. Even with shipping it was cheaper than Blicks which is asking $22 + tax.

graydon said...

The Italian Art Store seems to consistently have the best prices.