A Recommended Full-Palette of Pigments

Many of our readers have asked me for a full-palette list of recommended pigments.  A visit to an art supply store can confront a beginning painter with a daunting array of hundreds of tubes of paint, whether acrylic, oil, or watercolor, some with alluring names like “Horizon Blue” or “Rose Pink.”  Resist the temptation! Below is a list of basic pigments that will provide you a full range of pigments to use in mixtures or as pure hues.

If you’re just beginning to paint, you might decide to start with a very limited palette, say, with Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red Medium, Ultramarine Blue, Mars Black, and Titanium White.  Then, as you see the need for an expanded palette, you can start adding in other pigments from the list.

In terms of purchasing pigments, here are some general suggestions:

  1. Never buy sets.  At least half will be junk pigments.

  2. Be prepared to pay.  High-priced pigments are among the few things remaining where if you pay more, you really do get better quality.

  3. Stick with known manufacturers.  Windsor Newton, Liquitex, and Golden are quite reliable.  As you can imagine, there is a lot of junk paint out there.  How would one know good from awful?  The paint tubes all look the same.

  4. Buy 6 oz. tubes, except for white and black, then buy 10 or 12 oz.  Smaller tubes are very wasteful and frustrating.

  5. Do not buy pigments with the word "Hue" on the tube.  These pigments are watered-down with fillers.

  6. Always buy “Artist Quality” and avoid anything labeled “Student Quality.”

  7. Acrylics have some mixture problems, and you will no doubt later move to oils, which have fewer mixture problems.  However, for beginners, acrylics are best because they are easier to handle, being water-based. 

    Best Paint Starter List:

  • Cadmium Yellow Medium

  • Cadmium Orange

  • Cadmium Red Medium

  • Quinacridone Magenta

  • Prism Violet

  • Dioxazine Purple

  • Ultramarine Blue

  • Thalo Blue

  • Permanent Green Medium

  • Viridian Green Hue (Only "Hue" worth buying)

  • Thalo Green

  • Cerulean Blue

 Earth Colors:

  • Burnt Sienna

  • Burnt Umber

  • Yellow Ochre


Best Basic Colors:

  • Titanium White

  • Flake White

  • Mars Black


Later, you may want to add specialty pigments, but this list will allow you a full range of color.  The same list will work for oil pigments. 

Keep in mind that no pigments are ideal.  They all have their quirks and drawbacks.  For example, Permanent Green Medium and Viridian Green are very dark, straight from the tube.  However, if you add white to lighten, the color goes dull.  Then you try adding a little cadmium yellow to brighten the color, and the result is not the green you want.  So you add a little Thalo Blue, and the color starts to go dead.  You try something else, and suddenly, MUD.

Click the link below to read an interesting article about how artists’ pigments are manufactured.  The company, in this case, is a small, highly specialized, and highly regarded producer of artists’ pigments.  The process is complicated, time consuming, and remarkably precise!  Inside the Painstaking Process of Making Oil Paint

Happy painting! And Happy Holidays!

~ Betty Edwards

Thank you, readers!

One of the benefits of our website and this blog is that readers from around the world have an easy way to get in touch with me. I love hearing how they were affected by Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. When I wrote the book way back in 1978-79, I had no idea the ideas would take hold and have such reach. It is very heartwarming. Below the photo (with my son Brian and daughter Anne) is a letter from Nicole, who recently wrote to me. Thank you, Nicole! And many thanks to everyone who has read my book over these nearly 40 years and felt it enhanced their life in some small way.

~ Betty

Brian Bomeisler, Betty Edwards, and Anne Bomeisler Farrell

Brian Bomeisler, Betty Edwards, and Anne Bomeisler Farrell

 Dear Betty,

I am a 48-year-old artist with four children, and a substitute Art teacher. I see how difficult it is for children to relate at all to what they perceive, how to process their perception, how to connect, and how to relate to it from their own genuine point of view. They also do not know that their perspective is a genuine and a to-be-developed one.

I am happy to write these lines to you after I found you alive at your blessed age - according to the information my smartphone made available for me. I would like to take the opportunity to thank you. A copy of your book on how to learn to draw, based on the right hemisphere was given to me by my godmother when I was 15 or 16. The German title read: Garantiert zeichnen lernen. This book and the exercises in it helped me to survive many isolated, boring days of my childhood, and what I learned in it stayed with me and alive. I still relate to it in courses and classes, although I learned a lot of other stuff later.

In that way you influenced my life in a significant way;I still have some of the drawings I made back in 1986 and later. So, I hope you are well and receive my lines of gratitude. All the best for you and all the others who pay their tribute to the call of our time.

Resist, conserve, hope.
Nicole D.

___________________________________

Dear Nicole,

 Thank you so much for your lovely and very touching email message.  It’s hard to describe how much it means to me to know that my book has had a good effect on someone’s life.  You were fortunate to have a godmother who was so thoughtful and insightful to give you the book, and also fortunate that, as a teenager, you took the time and made the effort to learn the basics of drawing.  What fun that you still have some of the early drawings!

 Your mention of your brief teaching experience and children’s lack of perceptual skills reinforces my strong conviction that we must overhaul our educational system to include again teaching children how to draw.  As you infer in your message, this may be a part of “the call of our time.”  I do believe that there is hope that change will come.

With all best wishes,

Betty Edwards

____________________________

Dear Betty,

Thank you for your timely response. One thing I forgot to include in my sentence about the children is their difficulty to articulate themselves - in writing, drawing, and eventually in addressing another person with grace and dignity. They are not aware of their lack of form and respect. 

I agree to what you say, Betty, about integrating drawing into children’s education to be a very good idea.  If I may share my thoughts and learning a bit here - on the paper, using pencil, and color you get a direct response of how you 'treat' it. You can see the difference between a line where the one who draws it is present, and a line that is like a symbol of a line. If you are there on the sheet with your attention, or if you are somewhere else: it is visible! Like you wrote, when one uses the symbol of an eye rather than looking at the actual eye, then the code can be decoded easily; but what was there to be seen stays invisible on the work as a  result. 

From familiarizing myself with these kind of stereotypes in drawing or playing during my courses in Intuitive Education, I got a model to observe my own social behaviour and the distinction between my idea about myself and what I actually did. One becomes able to create alternative solutions that are more agreeable. Intuitive Education (which I know and work from for more than a decade now) comes from a Waldorf School in Sweden and was taught mainly by Pär Ahlbom (singing, playing, exercising) and Merete Lövlie (painting). I am sharing my experience with you here - I hope not in too much detail.

Anyway, my best wishes to you. I'll visit with my parents tomorrow, they are 90 and 84, and they will be pleased to hear that we communicated. It is good to know that you are still on track to be interested in the future. What gives you such hope? I have hope, too.  We are not such a little number.

Yours sincerely,

Nicole D.

Our Complex and Remarkable Divided Brains

I have long admired the work of British psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist for his insights into the endless enigma of the human brain.  His book, The Master and His Emissary, a compendium of research and commentary on left-brain and right-brain, has long been a leader in the field.  

McGilchrist’s fast-moving, brilliant, animated lecture is simultaneously deeply informative and great fun to watch, as it unspools at a breakneck pace. 

I urge you to take 10 minutes to enjoy this wonderful animation: Iain McGilchrist: Our Divided Brains.  You won't regret it!

~  Betty Edwards

 

Ian McGilchrist Book.jpg

Summary of the video:  The notion that the brain’s right hemisphere is responsible for emotion and its left hemisphere is responsible for reason has been debunked. But the two hemispheres are indeed distinct, albeit in much more complex ways than we once thought. Animated by the company Cognitive Media, with audio excerpted from a lecture given at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) by the British psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, "The Divided Brain" takes a deep dive into the real differences between our two brain hemispheres.