Mixing Color: Painting with a Limited Palette

Mixing Color: Painting with a Limited Palette

since posting my last video on mixing
flesh tones for painting portraits, I had several artists ask why I use so many colors on my
palette you can see here I have about 15 colors
that I use every day as I’m working on a painting specifically on portraits and a lot of these colors are what I would
refer to as convenience colors in other words they’re not necessary on my palette in order to paint but they
just save me time from having to mix them every time that i sit down to paint so
what I want to do today is I want to show you a very limited palette over here of
just four colors plus white and how you can get a
pretty close or very similar palette to what I
have over on this side what I have here are basically the three
primary colors I have two blues here which I’ll explain in just a minute
but first let me just tell you about the colors the other colors that I have. I
have a a yellow which is these are all Winsor Newton
colors this is a Winsor lemons this red here’s a permanent
throws blue here the darker blue here’s the
French ultramarine blue and this slightly
lighter blue here is is a manganese blue hue and I have titanium white at the top
here now all you really need urs Arthur other the
three primary colors yellow red and blue in order to to mix many of these colors the reason I
had the two blues here is because in order to get some love these colors specifically the this this these ranges
above different Green School I need a little more than just one blue and the
ultra ultramarine blue just isn’t quite enough
on its own and then the manganese blue just isn’t quite enough on its own for
me to get these so so that’s why I’ve
incorporated to hear if you only have one blue you think you
can get pretty close but but this just gets a little bit closer to solve these
greens now love these colors that I have a lie
pallets are cadmium colors in other words they contain cadmium
which really English cities so he’s really bright colors Elise bright
yellows and bright reds and and bright green here I can get pretty close
to submit those colors but as on on some of them I can’t get to quite the brilliance that I but she came
straight out at the two but that’s another reason why are you sum up the a convenience colors another factor is
that say with a loser in crimson or or a lot of times
with this Sat green getting the transparency to be the same is often difficult a specialist at Green which are shown in this test a few
minutes if you try to different blue perhaps she get a a little different result with the blues
that I have here I can be close to this color but but as far as the transparency lets a little more opaque than what I
can actually get straight out of the tube so let’s go ahead and on school and
start trying to mix you all start for love the left ear and kinda work my way
around the first colors that raw sienna so
let’s see if take a little bit %uh that at Windsor
lemonades and that permanent rose mix those two hot together of course that’s too too much on the warm side so it takes a
look that post French ultramarine blue looks at and
they also just still a lot of boiling you can see
him splattering Hollywood palette here’s take a little more or
less us politicos because I’m not only wanna try to get into the the correct color family but also wanna try to I have to get there the correct value as
well as arts get it to look like that that same color skit closer this is pretty close a little dark
someone who had nada just a little bit pls that’s pretty good
for a girls Rossi L so I’ll take then stick that
over here now the next color is that gold OCR I could actually just take a little
bit that it’s a meal color that I just mixed all at more yellow to it every time and
I’ll I’m getting set it to dip into one of
these colors over here I’ll cleaning of my my palette knife cuz
I wanna try to keep it as clean as I can so that I don’t and up getting all these other colors
live to liddy as primary colors that I have we keep the colors here’s a can title or
that reading list just a little blue all to a little bit darker gold OCR is a is a cold but I use quite often they will almost used colors on my palate when paying court rates so now I’m gonna raw sienna gold ok for now the next
colors this was cadmium yellow hey all you can see right here this this Windsor lemon is too late in value so
what i’ll do is i’ll just simply ha at a little more just a little bit
%uh that delivery rose in here and doesn’t take much to to turn it um it’s much easier to add your darker
colors into your lighter colors on the palate Ste because if you do the opposite way in
China about to take this yellow in China added into this from heroes until it
changes color it would take a lot of a lot of the lol get to I wanted to be has pretty good
little unclear this of will step it or back down there so this is our house cadmium yellow pale Lex walls d cadmium yellow which is just we can get that the same way just add a
little more let Parliament rose to get it to China little more towards the east towards the red side day to the next colors was cadmium orange all do is the same thing ha we didn’t
least two separatist will just gradually adding some more said that Parliament Roeselare to get a to get it to go more towards the one
side and you can see also host I have not I’m not touch that weight yet
I love who if I was going to tell you the truth but
will we’ll see I may have to light at a little or that red color now you can see the more I I work on this it’s it’s taking awhile
to get these colors to do I want them to do and
because of that that’s why I have these other his other colors on my palate but is
just to save me the time to having to to do this every time that I but I paint is always a good exercise though dust to challenge the worst challenge
yourself in judging colors it’s a little still a little dark there so I little more yellow just a little
little clayton et al thing about colors that you can you can
not only Clayton value the color by using right
but you can also lately value the color with another color next one is cadmium
Scarlets it now because that was a darker a darker value I started adding more that yellow into this darker color
pleated tulle the lighter values its it’s better just
tough to gradually add a darker color into that’s pretty close just a
little more red also if I was to work this way every
single day just by using these the spell it right
here I would go through a lot yellow halt and sleepy has pretty good cadmium scarlet as well trying to get there the next one
is cadmium red I’ll just do the same thing insist at a little more leverage near compared
to the cadmium scarlet that we just next it’s pretty close are can still little bit later who really picky when it comes to the value from the temperature for color because there so closely related that if you don’t have the right values
for not going to have the right color its better came net next one is gonna be
that cadmium cadmium red deep sources take all this that we have
here clad small that permanent rose chance can be too dark spreads close Kang and then we have the next color
which is a loser in Clemson others were gets a
little interesting or legal aid in clueless palette of real quick okay have gone
ahead and cleaned up my palate a little bit here and then also added
some more yellow or red to to these colors as well so when you get
to listen Crimson’s a little bit different because now you the cialis /url comes as a cool read
it starts to have it contains more blue in it so I’m gonna do is take a little bit this
our lives rose and Adams a little bit of hope eyelets and said slow this French ultramarine as a result thinking about whether or
not dead this manganese blue or the French
ultramarine is that I think the host French ultramarine is is a little more
transparent so little kinda mimicked that Eliza in crimson and smaller blue mayor this is turning to purple so what I want to do something then
tried this same thing but use some manny’s blue and see what
happens up it’s actually a vault to like to look at that better stick
that up there okay now we get into the cadmium green
pale and that’s always a fun color its just takes a little less wheels a woman with a little bit of laying in his blue Ste doesn’t take a lot of change that color too little and adding more blue because it means to
not be a darker value to my hands also its by getting that darken value by getting
a correct value old end up getting me closer to the correct
color that 10 green pale I’ll it’s probably do it alt just a little bit darker we should be
there see how that looks it’s pretty close so we got our cabin green pale the next
caller is the is the tricky one nets that week Sep green so we going to clear the sauce okay to get that set green needs and
yellow hose and I’ll try a couple different ways that we
tried the the strike he’s in summers French
ultramarine blue put which little bit left permanent rules thing about Sep green is
that it seems it’s a Walgreens a warmer green I should say so finding the right balance when you China next on your list sky tricky see halt it looks like it’s not quite it literally on mister
the manganese blue see if that works different the saloon take a little bit that lewis rose hoops to stick with manganese blooper sex
pretty much kids very similar results so when it comes to
tests at Greenhills it’s pretty similar to that sexy little
bit cooler so difficult again is trying to get that that balance between the want that green a low value that’s at clearing right now if I got darker than this is going to
cool it down using the colors that I have to go had
more yellow let’s go it’s going to warm it up it’s
also to make it lighter so that’s probably that’s probably as good as a mini get so I guess at all 30 I would believe
that this at first one which is the French ultramarine blue to next is pressuring green takes with that ok ok yellow try settling in these blue will try both those against Duke won whistling anne’s blue one with
the French ultramarine blue it’s dark in the value with its not
giving me marina i’m looking for. straddling is Blu homes again and dark in the value here but it’s not giving me most it’s not
being mean that that deep rich sizzling is that deep
rich colors and i’m looking for. they can get
straight at the tubes dreams I find it difficult past when you’re trying to match agreement
comes out August I love the two it’s pretty difficult %uh this is not
the the good value hope that but its would be
hot equivalent I guess if you added late to oppression gridlocked is pressing green wis titanium white you can get pretty close
is pretty close but again it doesn’t give me that deep
value that extra value that I need slitting your thats I’ll that would be about as close as I could
get so that crushing green using these these colors right here okay next color
is blue radiance to battling is blue just a little bit of ok loser lemon know I had a songs that French ultramarine blue into
it as well meridian is a very cool green so I have to keep in mind that it’s
going to be cooler cool Elise grooms over here at least don’t wanna make it to glue the whole again in a run into the the problem but not getting quite deep enough value as I
can get out of the tube which overlooks saying yet said limits the Radian but with little bit
light headed into its could see if I can take off at French
ultramarine blue and sis manganese largest it into it
there and manganese Blue Host can just add a
little bit of the lol see if that gets me closer well to give me a darker value but that’s
more on the blue side I think I can tell with this what I am doing this is
definitely more blue than his green so hall at slowed yellow but the problem
is the more yellow I add the warmer this is gonna get and its
gonna move out of that start to lose out that Viridian family
schools it’s closer but it’s a closer a closer value but I don’t think it’s
closer in terms of the actual color variety in this so i think is more the
Radian just because has more who are blue in it I think but you can set our list you can see the difference in those two
actions to take it off I don’t like that cocaine and of course we have our first elaine is blue which is already here and are French ultramarine which is already
here as well I’m gonna have been cleaned of the
palate and as you can see again all 15 these
colors just by using these colors over here
with this limited palette so you can you can take a smaller palette
an expanded but just since we’re here well let’s
let’s see what these actual colors that i mix using these colors how they mean how
they do in terms of if I was to try to make some some flesh
tones with those Ste to learn more about the the colors that
I use everyday really first painting portrait slicks import routes
you can refer to life my other video on mixing flesh tones
which might be LTS if you’re interested all the great
things about working from a limited palette is that
she learned a lot about colors how it works and if you’re struggling with color are trying to understand it more I would
definitely recommend working with a very limited palette like
the ones I have down here that’s actually how I started out when I
first started painting I wanted to learn as much as I
could about color because I just didn’t have a a grasp on it at all and the best way that I found was to
actually go ahead and squirt from a limited palette because
short I only had so many choices that I could
make it forced me to think in terms of color and forced needed to really memorize the
color wheel and how complementary colors work with each other and if you’re struggling
the with your current pallets are with color
I would highly recommend just trying very limited palette to see what you
come up with is mixing a few different grains could skinny so the more I start to do this the Lord
she kills seen it she collects cost trust owns just don’t like getting a limited
palette like this in an expanding on that limb from that well i would do it looks my normal I
normal colors together legislation idea host what you can do with a a limited palette
says that tell her that I’m next to try to limit
Ross CNN it’s actually pretty pretty close its prettiest transparent as well but see with that crushing greenhill color looks like it’s actually AM it’s actually pretty good color pushing green pression green is more
than the strand is more they’d grayish greenhill sit here that looks pretty good to use as the grain agent and questions anyhow that should give you a good idea
I love how you can take a limited palette a few colors expanded to get a lot in this case 15 colors infernos mix those together in
order to get the different flesh tones as well and adding white
into those also but that is good you a good idea of how
whyyy you so many colors on my ballot because
it takes so long to mix these colors out that is just much easier to put them out
on the on the ballot and then I’m letting go and start painting a
portrait anyhow I hope this helps you out and I wish you all the best in your
art take care do %uh and


  • Des Berry says:

    Thank you Brian.  Another excellent video which goes a long way to de-mystifying
    the study of colour and flesh tones
    Great work.  Many thanks for the  generosity of your tuition.

  • anche no says:

    Great video

  • M M says:

    Very useful.  Will be referencing this in the future.  Thanks for posting.

  • Les Pringle says:

    Thank you, Brian for posting these informative and educational tutorials. As an enthusiastic amateur, painting has been a source of pleasure over the years even if at times it’s a lonely pursuit. None of my friends paint and as a result I have not had anyone with whom to exchange ideas and criticism. It seems to me that the vast majority of so called tutorials on the web are posted by people whose egos by far outstrip their ability. You, of course are a happy exception. I know that professionals artists like you have to earn a living and are certainly not obliged to pass on their knowledge, but I find it a shame that there are not more like you who are prepared to help out the likes of me and the many others who visit you site…thanks again from all of us.
    Les Pringle. (England)

  • KitinNO says:

    This was wonderful.  I love the idea of a limited palette.  As you said, a bit more labor intensive, but a wonderful exercise.

  • Tony Hopman says:

    Mr . Neher ,  it is because of what I learnt in your last video , that I just finished  the best portrait ( by all accounts of people who have seen my previous work  )i have ever done.  Thank you . ……I am now about to watch this new presentation of yours,

  • Alyson Johnson Creative says:

    I could watch you mix paint all day!  Thanks for posting.  Do you ever use browns?  Raw umber, burnt umber…?

  • Leonardo A. Sanchez Rodriguez says:

    Thanks for sharing !! This is so useful

  • sakon phattayakul says:

    Thank you Brian

  • Gina Warner says:

    Thank you for the video, very informative and helpful.

  • Karlyn Holloway says:

    I learn so much from you. Thank you. What kind of palette are you using?  What do you do to keep a certain color that you mixed for the next day? I have signed up for you craftsy class and look forward to it.

  • Abbie MK says:

    i learned so much from this amazing video thank you.!

  • Alejandra De La Cruz says:

    Very informative video. Amazing. I learned so much because of your video. Thank you

  • Jacqueline Ibbott says:

    So clever… just starting my learning journey on colour, so thank you!

  • dumontgo says:

    i'm wondering if your yellow isn't transparent enough. could be the reason your greens aren't deep enough.. maybe a hansa yellow might be better.

  • Matias Singheart says:

    Awesome video! Thanks!

  • Cindy Hawkes says:

    So eye-opening! Thanks for posting!

  • David Wood Painting and Plein Air says:

    Brilliant, informative and impressive.

  • Christian Wagenseil says:

    Brian, what material is your palette?

  • Les Pringle says:

    Thanks for your time, Brian…a wonderfully informative video which I would recommend to anyone n interested in learning more about colour.

  • Mars says:

    Once again very interesting, thank you again

  • paramjit singh says:

    Wow I have just taken your craftsy class that is excellent

  • Sarandos Klikizos says:

    This has by far been the most helpful and practical theory/mixing video I've found so far. The keys here are understanding 1) Basic color theory 2) Cools recede, warms advance 3) Transparent vs opaque. By choosing a small, well-thought-out set of primaries, you can cover a very broad gamut. The layout of primaries and final palate creates a natural central mixing area that can easily be cleaned and used when you need to tweak a color or make an altogether new one. I can't wait to start applying the lessons learned here!

  • bugisami says:

    No music. What a  blessed relief.

  • Salvation - Jesus Christ Can Give You a New Life says:

    Thanks so much for this great video. I was relieved to see you use premixed colors. First video tutorial I've seen that doesn't put forward the idea that you should be using the primaries to get your color palette. You have helped me understand color better as I watched you match the tube colors taking consideration of the value and warmth or coolness of each color. Thanks for your time in putting together this very helpful tutorial.

  • Aneta Valentina says:

    This is the mixing color tutorial I've been looking for. Thank you so much. Very informative.

  • C Ciordoni says:

    Thank you! This is sooo what I needed. Have enjoyed discovering your videos; greatly appreciated. Informative teacher…God bless.

  • jessica poole says:

    Informative when paying court rates.

  • Zoila Villavicencio de Muck says:

    Very nice explained, thank you very much!

  • Carl Fratus says:

    I am still confused as to why you need those extra colors in the first place. you can get flesh tones just from the limited pallet without the step of mixing all those intermediate colors.

  • Erica po says:

    Great video well done!! I needed an explanation like this. Thank you for taking the time to make this!

  • Rock Hunter says:

    Where could I purchase a large palette knife the size used in your mixing of paint?

  • peacelrose says:


  • dagoelius says:

    No nonsense, no background music, all straight forward. Brilliant.

  • shu-lin Liu says:

    What do you mean when you say "value"?

  • Guy Perl says:

    Hello Brian , thank you so much for the video. I have a question which is very urgent for me. I can see that in the video you demonstrate the use of comlementary colors and thats what I especially do as well in this days, lately I've started teaching painting and I am a bit confused about a issue in the color mixing theory, I know its worikng the complementary colors but I also learned abount many living artist that prefere to use limited colors of low saturated colors in order to reach any point in the color wheel (and value). this painters mix their colors with neutral grey or less chromatic colors of the same hue (also thats what they do in the academies in Florence). When I think about it more and more I think its a much more intutive and natural way of working (when I think about un-saturated for example reddish- blue I think of red whith the add of some black plus blue and not red plush green-blue). I believe in simplify the method of painting as you can so you can see even the little subtleties. I think that when I paint I mostly use the dark less chromatic colors in order to take off the value but then I am using complementary colors to bring it to the right chroma, If I would paint from imagination I would use the method of less chromatic colors but in real life I am using mostly complementary colors. What do you think about it? do you think its better to teach one of the methods? both? (also when I paint with paint which is not a liquid as color pencils the complemenaty color wont really work so it can get my students confused, ) and by the way I know that with broken colors complementaries can be intersting, but for realism I think it can confuse some people including me. Please let me know what do you think about it?

  • Magic11 says:

    This was VERY helpful! Thanks so much!

  • Tarma Vaughan says:


  • Lytton333 says:

    This is all pretty good sense when it comes to colour mixing. The limited palette problem child is of course, burnt umber. The best burnt umbers can't be created from the three primaries, leastways not in terms of undertone, (not that I've found anyway). The chalky drying of manganese in the brown tends to offset the oilyness of the rose red and ultramarine, thus evening out the overly oily passages created by using transparent colours as bulk mixers , and conversely, the oily blue and rose offset the tendency of burnt umber to 'chalk' when dry. Mixing a burnt umber and permanent rose with white does elicit some excellent flesh tints for the more smokey pink hues of the hands and face etc, and mixing the umber with the primary yellow does give some interesting olive greens also for use in flesh tones etc. I think you're correct about using the extra cold blue as mixing just ultramarine and the primary yellow can't approximate to something like a primary cyan -i tend to use a mid to dark pthalo for that – something like a W&N pthalo turquoise as it has the added advantage of being darker than a manganese blue (for very dark, cold cyan blues), but can be lightened to get closer to the mid cyan. My limited palette is therefore : cadmium yellow lemon, permanent rose, ultramarine blue, burnt umber and pthalo turquoise, plus I use a W&N flake white hue as it tends to be less oily than titanium. I need no medium with these colours as they have enough oil in them already, so that lessens the need to trade off archival paint film integrity for ease of working properties. Using a quinacridone red such as permanent rose is obviously more lightfast than using the alizarins, and I find it yeilds a cleaner , brighter pink, even though it's somewhat colder hue and strong chroma and has to be constantly tempered.

  • Cinder Block Studios says:

    I'm mostly here for the heavenly sound of knife to palette.

  • Sydney Ellen says:

    Yeah! 💪🏼

  • Maysoon AlDooriaines says:

    Most useful and informative video. Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful experience and for your time. One of the best I have ever watched

  • Russell Ricks Books says:

    Good to know. Thanks!

  • Clyde John says:

    I'm color challed or Color Blind. When you said you could make those colors on the pallet, then with those 5 ingredients you actually demonstrated. My Hat of to you Good Sir. Colors appear differently. Pink, Orange and Red, are the colors that Incan uss as an example so people see what I see. As a person painting for 3 to 4 years. The only thing I can do is buy the premixed colors in tubes. Now I can see that you meet the challenge and simplyblend the shade. I know it not easy and takes a real artist, as yourself. Again I salute you…

  • Burak Hightower says:

    There is only 4 essential color in my palette and it is very similar to yours; translucent magenta (pr122) by schmincke’s mussini, winsor lemon (py3) by winsor&newton, pthalo blue green (pb15:3) by rembrandt (same pigment with w&n manganese blue hue but this one doesn’t contain any white i guess, it is much more darker) and titanium white bye winsor and newton

    I can mix ultramarine blue (not exactly but sooo close) with adding just a little magenta into pthalo blue green

    Yellow and white the most consumed paints, unlike magenta and pthalo blue green (cyan). Especially cyan pigment is so stronger and dominant compared to yellow and white thus i need it only a little drop when im mixing greens.

  • Stratt Gatt says:

    The yellow you start out with has a blue bias so when you mix it with the red that also has a blue bias you get an orange that is more grey then the orange you are trying to match. Why? Because red yellow and a small amount of blue make a slightly muddy orange. I think only your oranges would be effected with your color palatte. The two blues go a long way in getting you close to a split primary palette.

  • Evy Maya says:

    Thanks for your art!

  • محمد القحطاني says:


  • Brian Ross says:

    Glad I found this tutorial on colour mixing so much easier to understand than some of the other colour tutorials that I’ve seen on YouTube. Thank you Brian

  • Ruthie Miners says:

    Brian I use acrylic golden, Liquitex and matisse paints. What color would be used in place of your basic yellow? Cad med yellow? You're red? I am not even sure which way to go on your red! lol Sure would appreciate it. Thanks Brian

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