Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Buy The Best and You'll Never Be Disappointed

     If I had to choose the two most asked questions I get, it would be these:  What kind of paper do you use? And what brand of paint?
     Let’s save the paper discussion for an entire blog topic.  Today we tackle what kind of paint, and specifically, which colors or palette.
     I have settled on Winsor & Newton for 99% of my paint choices.  Winsor & Newton is, in my opinion, at the top of the pile as far as quality goes.  There are several reasons to choose Winsor & Newton as your paint of choice.  Here are a few obvious reasons:

     1.   Winsor & Newton paints are consistent from tube to tube.  Burnt Sienna in last year’s tube looks exactly the same as paint in a new tube.
     2.   Winsor & Newton is available in every art supply store and most hobby and craft stores.  This helps if you’re a plein aire artist, you find yourself in a pinch and you need paint for a workshop.  Availability counts!
     3.   The color chart we discussed in an earlier post as a “must” item is the best available.  I have yet to see another company with supporting assets for their paints.
     4.   Winsor & Newton Gouache mixes compatibly with their transparent Watercolor line.  The colors from the Gouache line are very close approximations in hue to the Watercolors.
     That’s enough horn blowing for Winsor & Newton.  Let’s move on to which colors I have found useful for a wide range of subjects.

     My palette of everyday colors consists of the following:
-       Ultramarine Blue
-       Cobalt Blue
-       Cerulean Blue
-       Prussian Blue/Indanthrene Blue
-       Burnt Sienna
-       Burnt Umber
-       Raw Umber
-       Van Dyke Brown
-       Indian Yellow
-       Alizarin Crimson
-       Cadmium Red

     These eleven colors are always on my butcher’s tray.  Go back, if you have just joined the blog, and check out the demo painting on Walter.  It shows how I use the above palette to create a realistic flesh tone.

     Here are some other combinations I find useful:
-       Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber makes a wonderful gray.  More blue makes it cooler; more umber takes it to the warmer side.  These two colors make a great atmospheric effect.
-       Cobalt Blue and Raw Umber:  This combination makes a nice gray that eases toward a greenish gray color.  Again a nice atmospheric effect.
-       Indanthrene Blue and Prussian Blue make a good starting point for a jeans color.  I modify this color with a warm color until I get close to what I’m seeing in the subject.  Pick one or the other.
-       Van Dyke Brown:  This is a good color to start with for reins, tack and some horse color variations.
-       Cadmium Red:  This is a fantastic color and modifier. A little goes a long way, but it’s a must in your palette.

     The following colors are in my paint box and see specific assignments based on what the subject dictates:
-       Davy’s Gray:  I use this color for overcast skies and dark atmospheric conditions.
-       Cadmium Orange:  I use Cad Orange to warm areas that are receiving reflected light.  (Check out the demo of Walter again.  I used Cad Orange to warm under the chin).
-       Quinacridone Burnt Orange:  When Burnt Sienna isn’t intense enough, this color will raise the hue a notch.  (Again, a little goes a long way).  This color is made by Daniel Smith, and it is worth tracking it down.
-       Indigo:  I use this when I need dark darks in the blue color spectrum.  This color can be dangerous because it is activated by any new water application.  Be careful and use it late in the painting.

     So, this should give you a good start on your palette.  Don’t hesitate to speak up if you have questions.  Good luck! 

All content and images © Mark Kohler Studio.      


  1. just goes to show that you don't need a fancy pallete and 100 different colors to make a great painting. thanks.

    luis garcia
    mission, tx

  2. so what's the best brush to use any idea's?

  3. Thanks for inquiring, and my recommendation is from a watercolor perspective. I like the Silver Black Velvet brushes that I have mentioned in previous posts. This brush is actually a blend of squirrel tail and taklon, which is a synthetic fiber. Normally I'm not a fan of a synthetic brush. They point well, but they have a poor water reservoir. So they require recharging often. Series VII is always a good choice, but they are expensive, and I wear them out fast. I also like the Isabey squirrel brushes. However they act more like a mop, so they take some getting used to. All in all, I would concentrate on the Silver Black Velvets. In my opinion they score in all these different areas. Hope this helps!