Bill Martin's Guide to Oil Painting
You Can Mix All Colors From These Colors
A rainbow divides the visible spectrum of light into pure examples of light's component colors. All the colors we see are mixtures of just these 12 colors. If the colors on your palette are the same ones, all other colors can then be mixed.
This list of bright, pure, permanent and safe colors are as near to the spectrum colors as currently available. Plus we add white and black. Your colors are: Titanium White • Cadmium Yellow Pale • Cadmium Yellow • Cadmium Orange • Cadmium Scarlet • Cadmium Red • Quinacridone Rose • Dioxazine Violet • French Ultramarine • Thalo Blue • Thalo Green • Cadmium Green • Cadmium Green Pale • Mars Black. I recommend Winsor & Newton Artists' Oil Colors because their quality is higher than their price.
White: Use TITANIUM WHITE, an opaque non-yellowing white. Most brands contain some zinc white to aid in mixing. Pure titanium white is chalky and hard to mix. Pure zinc white is a little too transparent for most uses. Don't use Lead White, Flake White or Cremnitz White, all of which contain toxic lead.
(Each of the following examples is the pure color and then that color with an equal amount of white.)
Yellow: Use CADMIUM YELLOW PALE or CADMIUM YELLOW LIGHT. Opaque.
Yellow-Orange: Use Cadmium Yellow sometimes called Cadmium Yellow Medium. Opaque.
Orange: Use CADMIUM ORANGE. Opaque.
Red-Orange: Use CADMIUM SCARLET. Opaque.
Red: Use CADMIUM RED sometimes called CADMIUM RED LIGHT. Opaque. Cadmium Red when mixed with blue it makes a very dull Violet.
Red-Violet: Use QUINACRIDONE ROSE (Permanent Rose in Winsor Newton paints). Transparent.
Violet: Use DIOXAZINE VIOLET (Winsor Violet in Winsor Newton paints). Transparent.
Blue-Violet: There is no satisfactory "out of the tube" Blue-Violet. Mix DIOXAZINE VIOLET with ULTRAMARINE BLUE when this color is needed.
Blue: Use French Ultramarine Blue and Thalo Blue. The closest to a true blue is a mixture of French Ultramarine Blue and Thalo Blue (3 parts Ultramarine to 1 part Thalo), Transparent. Use French Ultramarine Blue for most instances, but put both blues on your palette.
Blue-Green: Use THALO GREEN (also called Winsor Green, Grumbacher Green). Transparent.
Green: Use CADMIUM GREEN. It is suitable for most situations but is slightly to the yellow side. When a pure spectrum green is needed mix six parts Cadmium Green to one part Thalo Green. Opaque.
Yellow-Green: Use CADMIUM GREEN PALE. Opaque.
Black: Use MARS BLACK. Opaque. Or use IVORY BLACK. Transparent.
The Difference Between Transparent and Opaque Colors
Oil paints are mixtures of dry pigments and a drying oil like linseed oil. Pigments are powdered natural minerals, dyed minerals and occasionally vegetable matter. The powdered minerals, such as cadmium and titanium, when mixed with oil make opaque colors. Pigments made from dyed minerals, (Quinacridone or Dioxazine), or vegetable matter, when mixed with oil make transparent colors. Transparent colors are useful for glazing. When a transparent color is mixed with an opaque color the mixture becomes opaque.