Beginner's Guide to Paint Colors

Picking paint colors can be a daunting task in an aisle full of tiny, expensive tubes of paint. Here's an easy beginner's guide to paint colors! What colors to get when you're just starting to paint: Some people, including myself, didn’t jump straight into a full color palette. It may be one of those cases where having too many options can be a bit overwhelming. You might be spending too much time thinking about what colors to use, rather than what you’re painting and how to paint it. So, if you can restrain yourself, consider starting with these three stages:

  1. Start off with the grey scale: Ivory Black and Titanium white.
    1. It can be a bit difficult a first, beauce contrary to most initial assumptions, mixing equal parts of black and white will not give you middle grey. Certain colors are stronger when you mix them, so this is a good practice to train your eye.
      1. Tip: Black is MUCH stronger than white, so when mixing colors, add a little black at a time to the white, as opposed to the other way around.
    2. Just using black and white is great because you can get a handle of the material first. It also provides an interesting challenge, because, if you are painting something you are looking at, which i recommend, you’ll have an interesting challenge of how to translate different colors into greys. You think in tones, paying attention to light and dark.
  2. Expanding to the Earth Tones, pick up Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna. If you’re up for a challenge, take away black. And if you really want some more variety, add Ultramarine Blue and Naples Yellow.
    1. With this palette you’re going to have to start thinking, not just tone, but also temperature.
      1. Tip: Paint the Siennas and Umbers right next to each other in different combinations. Which is warmer? Which is cooler? Placing contrasting temperatures will make the colors appear more different (Watch Why!). Warm Siennas will look more red, when placed next to a cool burnt umber.
    2. Mixing colors can be really fun but also kind of overwhelming, so experimenting with a smaller selection of colors can not only be a bit more manageable, but also force you to be a bit more creative in thinking about how colors mix and interact.
      1. Mixing:
        1. Need a pale, muted green? Try Mixing Naples yellow with a teeny tiny bit of black!
        2. Stumped on how to make a black without black? Try mixing the ultramarine blue with a Burnt Umber or Sienna for a deep, rich color
        3. If you opt to skip the Naples Yellow and Ultramarine blue, I'd recommend keeping the black in to achieve some cool, darker colors (while a Burnt Sienna can give you a warmer, dark color).
  3. Finally, all the Colors!
    1. Now, at this point you need to assess what your needs are. If all you want to paint are naturalistic still lifes and landscapes, the colors you’ll need will be very different from what you’d need if you want to paint, say Hockney-esque, or Fauvist inspired paintings.
    2. If you want to go with more naturalistic colors, add Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow Light into the mix. Along with the previous colors you’ll already be able to mix a surprisingly large range of colors. If you find yourself looking for more, try Yellow Ochre,Cadmium Red or Vermillion red, Prussian blue or Phthalo Blue. Need some puncy greens? Try Phthalo Green or Viridian Green.
      1. Yellow Ochre vs. Raw Sienna vs. Naples Yellow: In the video I placed them side-by-side for a comparison. Some may find them similar enough to skip out. Yellow Ochre is a more muted, cooler yellow that's more opaque, while Raw Sienna is a warmer brown. Some find Yellow Ochre to be a bit too grey/green and stick to Naples Yellow, especially for flesh tones. Alternatively, you can try Yellow Oxide.
      2. Cadmium Red vs. Vermillion Red: Both are very bright and intense medium reds. Cadnium red is a great, standard medium red that's strong, warm, and opaque. Vermillion can be more expensive, unless you buy it as a hue.
      3. Prussian Blue vs. Phthalo Blue vs. Ultramarine Blue: Prussian blue is a cool, more muted blue compared to Phthalo blue. Phthalo is a very strong, color with high tinting strength. Ultramarine is a transparent color, great for glazing.
      4. Phthalo Green vs. Viridian Green: Warning: at first sight, Pthalo green might cause a panic attack as you wonder how you'd ever use such an insane color! It can take a bit of practice, but with some mixing this can be use the go-to you're looking for. Mix in small quantities, as it is very strong. Viridian is a warmer, more muted alternative that's great for more natural world greens. Can be more expensive, so I'd recommend trying Phthalo first (Remember: teeny tiny bits at a time!)
  If you're learning how to paint, I have several other videos that may be of help! Check out these links: On Choosing Materials: Painting on a Budget (Cheap Art Set for Beginners): http://littlearttalks.com/techiniques/how-to-save-money-on-painting-supplies/ Oil Paint vs. Acrylic Paint http://littlearttalks.com/techiniques/oil-paint-vs-acrylic-paint/ Student Grade Paint vs. Artist Grade Paint (Why some paints are so expensive) http://littlearttalks.com/techiniques/student-grade-vs-artist-grade-paint-acrylic/ Acrylic Paint Buying Guide (Brand Comparison with Demo) http://littlearttalks.com/techiniques/acrylic-paint-brands-golden-liquitex-blicks/ How to Store and Clean your Paints and Brushes: http://littlearttalks.com/techiniques/how-to-clean-store-and-care-for-your-brushes/ On Mixing Colors: Intro To Color Theory http://littlearttalks.com/theory/intro-to-color-theory-terminology/ How to Use a Color Wheel http://littlearttalks.com/techiniques/use-color-wheel/ How to Paint Colors (Color Optical Illusions) http://littlearttalks.com/theory/how-color-optical-illusions-work/ 5 Facts about Colors http://littlearttalks.com/theory/5-amazing-facts-about-color/


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