How to Plein Air Paint: What Oil Paint Color to Use

Plein Air and Outdoor Painting Approaches

My Outdoor Painting Palette

There are many great painting palettes. Certain palettes favor earth tones, others favor warm or cool color mixtures. I have used many different palettes, but the palette I have come to use most over the years is a warm and cool primary color palette. I mix secondary and tertiary colors from the primary colors. With this, I find I can achieve the widest range of colors. I can mix color schemes that lean warm or cool. This isn’t just a palette that favors landscape painting. This palette can be used for portrait painting, landscape, or still life. The colors I use for my palette are very intense but I can mix them to create earth tones or grays. The colors I use are Cadmium Lemon Yellow or Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Thalo Blue (Winsor Blue Green in Winsor Newton), Ivory or Mars Black, and Titanium White.

Each one of these primaries lean warm or cool and are almost equally spaced around the color wheel. This way I can mix the most intense secondary and tertiary colors, as well as neutralize the colors into vibrant grays. I lay out my paints starting with white and moving through Lemon Yellow or Cad Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium or Yellow Deep, Cad Red Light , Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Thalo Blue, black and white.

A few more things to keep in mind. Fill your palette with enough paint to finish your painting. I know as a beginner it can be hard to squeeze out a lot of paint. It’s like watching money spilling onto your palette. You don’t want to waste any of your paint because of the investment of made in your supplies. Try to resist the urge to put out little dots of paint. To mix colors you need a good amount of paint. Squeeze out more white; you will use this more than any other color.

If you are just starting out with painting, you may suffer from a little sticker shock when you go to the store to purchase your oil paints. Resist the urge to buy water soluble and student grade paint. Student oil paints are made with so many fillers that it is hard to get any intense mixtures. Student oil paints very quickly become pasty and lifeless when you add white. Water soluble paints don’t have a good working consistency and dissolve into a horrible mess if you are caught in even the slightest rain storm. I use professional oil paints they mix cleanly and hold their intensity when mixed with white and are very buttery consistency out of the tube. There are professional paints that are very price friendly; Grumbacher Pre-Test Oil paint is about the least-expensive professional paint and will work very well for you. There are several other professional brands but the ones that won’t break the bank are Holbein, Rembrandt and Winsor Newton(professional Line not “Winton Series”). Something else that will help you save money is buying your supplies from a wholesale art supply store. There are many stores out there but my favorites are Utrecht, ASW Express, or Jerry’s Artorama. Find them online and you will save a lot of money ordering from these excellent wholesalers. These are the best ways to use the best paint without spending all your hard earned cash

1 thought on “How to Plein Air Paint: What Oil Paint Color to Use”

  1. I have a group of artists here and we do plein air painting, Do you give workshops in the Mesa,az. area in the winter? If so how much do you charge?

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