Feb 11, 2012

Know Your Oil Colors!

During my classes I found that students needed to learn the basics of oil colors before they could really create a great painting. I would see them spend too much time mixing and never getting the right colors and if they did never being able to reproduce it. Not to mention wasting paints.

For these very reasons I started having Color workshops in my area for artists who wanted to learn how to mix colors. When I first started painting I spent hours just mixing and learning, I developed a method that was an easy way to learn how to mix colors and eventually I started selling my “So Simple Color Mixing Workbook".

It takes time and discipline to learn how to manage the colors. It is like learning how to read musical notes.

In 2002 I started using acrylics and writing instructional patterns using pre-mixed bottled acrylics. I did this because the general public who wanted the patterns were used to the pre-bottled colors.
Now I have returned to my first love Oils, and have found that I had forgotten some of the mixing knowledge I used to have. I had become dependant on just picking up a color and never mixing.

Slowly the things I had learned have come back but I was in a total state of shock when I discovered how easy it was to become stupid about mixing colors when using pre-mixed colors.

I love to mix colors and if you are an artist just starting to learn color theory I must congratulate you! There are so many artists out there that have no clue as to how to do this nor any desire as they think it is too difficult.
Here is a lesson I shared with my students and I hope it will help you too!

Oil Paints and what you need to know~


Opaque Colors

Burnt Umber

All of the Cadmium colors

Cerulean Blue

Chromium Oxide Green (Opaque)

Light Red

Indian Red

All of the Mars colors Vermilion

All of the Whites

Naples Yellow

Raw Umber

Semi-Opaque Colors

Lamp black

Lemon Yellow

Permanent Green

Light Terra Rosa

Yellow Ochre

Zinc Yellow

Transparent Colors

All of the Ultramarines

Alizarin Crimson

Burnt Sienna

Green Earth

Permanent Blue

Rose Madder


Semi-Transparent Colors

Brown Madder

Cobalt Blue

Gold Ochre

Ivory Black

Phthalo Blue

Phthalo Green

Permanent Green

Deep Prussian Blue

Raw Sienna

Now let's look at each color!
Note: this is not all the colors but the most commonly used.

Reds and Oranges

Alizarin Crimson: this is a cool hue. It is slow drying and more of a dye than an actual pigment. It is great for glazing this has little covering power. Produces shades of violet when mixed with a little white. More white added will produce a cool rich cool pink. Mix it with Prussian blue or Ultramarine Blue and you get beautiful shades of violet. Mix it with Viridian Green and because they are complement colors it will produce a nice rich green.
Cadmium Red Light: this is a warm hue; it is a very powerful color. It is the lightest and the warmest of all the Cadmium Reds. Adding white will cut its brilliance and make it a bit cooler producing a strong pink.
Cadmium Red Medium: this is a warm hue with great covering power. Add white and it produces a peach hue. This a great color for flesh tones. Add blue and it produces a nice brown. Add yellow and you get a very nice orange.
Cadmium Red Deep: Warm hue, this is a dark heavy color almost a maroon. Add white and this will produce a pink with a distinct violet tinge.

Cadmium Orange: Warm hue. I love to use this to produce the effect of interior luminosity in shadows. This is used in flesh tones. It can be mixed by using equal parts of Cadmium red light and Cadmium Yellow light.

Earth Colors

Burnt Umber: warm hue, a dark brown one of the most popular browns used. Great covering power, dries fast and will produce warm grays with white.

Raw Umber: This is not as useful for landscapes because of it’s dull tone. It is really a grayish brown. Provides silvery grays with white. Fast drying.

Burnt Sienna: Warm hue Brilliant reddish brown, intensive color. Add white and you can produce beautiful skin tones. Quick drying. Clearer and less chalky that other earth tones. Produces a salmon color with white. Semi-

Raw Sienna: Warm hue, very luminous yellow brown. Richer then Yellow Ochre. Very useful in landscapes.

Indian Red: Warm hue, Deep; earthy red with slight violet cast. Excellent covering power, fairly quick drying. With white it produces great skin tones.


Cadmium Yellow Lemon: Cool hue, palest of the cadmiums yellows. This is a sunny, intense opaque color. Retains its brightness even when mixed with white. When mixed with black it produces very interesting olive greens.

Cadmium Yellow Light: Warm hue, darker and warmer than lemon. Intense color. Approximates the primary yellow. When mixed with shades of blue it produces beautiful greens. It is best not to use this color alone, is much better with a touch of white added.

Cadmium Yellow Medium: warm hue, more of a yellow-orange. Darker and warmer than the other Cadmium yellows. When added with white it produces a delicate yellow and the orange is toned down a bit.

Cadmium Yellow Deep: Warm hue, Slightly orange right out of the tube but turns to a strong sunny yellow with white added.

Yellow Ochre: Warm hue, mixed with white it produces a golden yellow. Very opaque. Used in portraits.

Naples Yellows: Warm hue, this is made with lead so care should be taken when used. Very opaque . Creates pale yellow tones when mixed with white.


Viridian Green: Cool hue, little covering power. Used with white it produces beautiful tones of turquoise. Mix with Alizarin Crimson and white it produces shades of violet green. This mixes with all the yellows very well.
Green Earth: Cool hue, soft very subdues color. Limited tinting power. Add white and you get a wonderful atmospheric grayish green. This is a great color for shadows in portraits.

Phthalo Green: Cool hue, bright stunning color. Transparent. Retains brightness when white added. Makes intensive greens when adding yellow. It is the strongest green we can buy.

Permanent Green: Warm hue, composed of Viridian green and Cadmium Yellow Medium.


Ultramarine Blue: Warm hue. Adding lots of white produces an airy delicate blue. Great for landscapes. semi-transparent. Tends to lean toward purple.

Phthalo Blue: Cool hue, very powerful color. Use very sparingly. Very good color mixed with yellow to produce beautiful greens. Used for water. porcelain, glass and any surface that has a high sheen. Usually not used alone, add a touch of white for better result.

Cobalt Blue: Cool hue, soft, airy with a touch of warmth. Moderate covering power. Useful for sky.

Cerulean Blue: Cool hue. Beautiful blue with a faint green cast. Very good for atmospheric tones in landscapes. Mixed with white it creates a clear blue that has the brightness of a sunny day.

Prussian Blue: Cool hue. Very strong tinting power. A little goes a long way. Produces beautiful skies, mountain colors. Mixed with yellows is produces great greens. It is an older color and I personally feel that Phthalo blue is much cleaner and brighter. It has the ability to overpower every color that is used with.


Titanium White: This is the most popular white used. Cool.

Zinc White: This has a little less covering power than other whites.

Flake White: This is an old color and has lead in it so it is best not to use it.

Black and Gray

Lamp Black Also called Carbon Black
Lamp Black is the oldest pigment made by a deliberate industrial process. It is one of the slowest drying pigments in oil and should never be used underneath other colors unless mixed with a fast drier such as Umber.
Ivory Black: A good, Slightly warm all-purpose black that's a solid choice for mixing grays, tinting, and mixing with other colors. Semi-Opaque.

Mars Black: Slightly warm in its tint, this black dries more quickly than Ivory Black. Though not as black as Ivory Black, Mars Black has approximately three times the tinting strength. Very opaque.
Oil paints dry as different speeds.

This is really helpful when you want to have something dry faster or slower. Here are the colors and their drying speed.

Drying time:

Fast drying:

Mars black, Naples Yellow, Umbers, Sienna’s and Iron Oxides, Manganese Purple, Phthalo Blue, Prussian Blue and Phthalo Green.

Medium drying:

Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Mars Red, Cobalt Violet, Cobalt Blue, Chromium Oxide Indian Yellow.

Slow drying:

Zinc White, Titanium White, Ivory Black, Cadmium Yellows, Cadmium Reds , Alizarin, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Viridian Green, Green Earth.

Sharon Teal Coray

New Free Pattern Blog

New Free Pattern Blog
Sharon Teal Coray has a new blog offering free patterns! Updated often! Check it out!