Core skills: oils
Howard Lyon explains how to arrange the palette and mix your colours effectively.
Let’s start by covering how to get paint out on to your palette. I like to arrange my colours from the most intense to the less intense, grouped into warm and cool colours.
I’ve seen students squeeze out colour randomly and it becomes tricky to keep things organised as the painting progresses. Choose a layout, stick with it and you won’t have to think about where your colours are.
I’ll mix up a pile (or nut) of paint and make adjustments to the pile by mixing colour into a portion of it. If you remix the whole pile it can get away from you and then the whole nut is wasted. For example, if I have a base skin tone that I need to make cooler or warmer, I’ll mix into the left and right sides of it, saving some of the original colour.
Your colours will stay cleaner if you can mix with two or three colours instead of six or seven. It also helps to reduce the intensity of your colours by mixing in a grey of the same value, instead of mixing in a complement or adding black. In summary, mix until you have the right colour. Check it, adjust it and then start painting.
2 Mixing on your palette
Use a palette knife rather than your brush to mix larger paint piles. This will help keep paint out of your brush ferrule (the metal collar that holds the bristles). Keep the mixed paint organised and if you need to, scrape your palette down so you have a clean space to mix colours.
1 Arranging your paint on the palette
It isn’t critical how you arrange colours, as long as you’re consistent so that you know where your colours are. Some artists pair warm and cool versions of each colour or arrange them in a ROYGBIV string with black and white at the ends. I recommend keeping things organised and consistent.