So many colors to choose from? Keep it simple…

OK, It’s time to buy more oil paints and you walk into your local art supplies store. (Hopefully NOT a Big Box Crafts warehouse) All those shiny tubes of vibrant colors are calling to you. So which green should I buy? Will it be Sap Green, Permanent Green, Viridian and the list goes on. Buying oil paints is like buying shoes, you can spend a fortune, have too many choices and a storage problem.

Here is a photo of my basic oil painting painting palette of colors and their layout.

Simple Oil Painting Palette

3 primaries plus White and a few “convenience colors”.

Remember the KISS method, Keep It Simple Students! Stick with three primary colors plus white and you can save yourself lots of color mixing headaches. Focus on quality paints, rather than price. Save you money to buy quality brushes.
SHOPPING ALERT: If you see large tubes of paint, all the same price, you are buying “student grade” paints filled with lots of fillers, and very little pigment.

My recommended Beginner Oil Painting colors in 37ml. tubes (except White):
Premalba White (150 ml. large tube)
Cadmium Yellow Light or Medium (get the Light if possible)
Alizarin Crimson
Ultramarine Blue

Convenience colors, buy as needed:
Naples Yellow Light ( I use it as a warmer version of white)
Yellow Ochre (excellent landscape color)
Transparent Iron Oxide Red ( base pigment of Burnt Sienna without the chalky look)
Burnt Umber (mix it 50/50 with Ultramarine Blue for a Chromatic Black)
Cadmium Red Light/Medium (not recommended for mixing purples)
Cobalt Blue (very expensive, like 4X,  but a great sky color)

Disclaimer: I recommend buying Utrecht Oil Paints if available, as they are the best quality for the best price. All my teachers at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco use these paints personally and recommend them highly. None of us are getting paid a dime to endorse their great product.  If your local store does not offer these paints, I recommend buying them online at:

My second choice would be Gamblin Artist Oils and their Gamsol Odorless Paint thinner.

Happy Painting!
Michael Rodman – Oil Painter – Art Instructor in San Francisco area.