Experimental 5-Color Palette

Close up shots of Heading Northeast, a 36×36 painting on canvas created from my most recent 5-color palette

Over the past year and half or so, I have been on a quest to find the perfect five-color limited palette. A limited color palette is when you use a very small number of colors straight out of the tubes, and mostly create all of your colors by mixing the manufactured tube colors. I talk about limited palettes in my upcoming book, Abstract Painting for the Absolute Beginner. But I’m sharing a little here too, and if you like this post, you would probably enjoy my book.

There are many reasons to use a limited palette, including efficiency, pocketbook savings, and helping you create artwork cohesiveness. I also believe mixing your colors makes your work look more unique.

For months I was using six tube colors, which included:

titanium white
cadmium yellow light
quinacridone magenta
turquoise
ultramarine blue
burnt sienna

Just in the past month, I’ve dropped the turquoise and replaced it with phthalo blue, because I can create a turquoise color by mixing the phthalo blue with a litlle cadmium yellow light and white. So I found turquoise (my favorite color by the way) taking up a spot on my palette that was unneeded. Now my palette consists of:

my new 5-color palette

From left to right:

titanium white
cadmium yellow light
quinacridone magenta
phthalo blue
burnt sienna

Did I mention I am testing my palette out to see if I can drop ultramarine blue? šŸ™‚ We’ll see how it goes. I might still need to use ultramarine blue on occasion, but honestly the main reason I was using it was to mix it with burnt sienna to get black. I’ve found, however, that I can get nearly the same color by mixing equal amounts of phthalo blue and burnt sienna, as shown below. It does have a tiny bit of a green shade as the phthalo blue has some green in it, but it’s pretty close to black.

If you’d like to try using a limited palette, I recommend you use white, a yellow hue, a red hue, a blue hue, and a brown like burnt sienna. Play around with the colors and enjoy creating new colors. You’ll want a yellow, red, and blue hue (primary colors) so that you can create your secondary colors (orange, green, violet).

I love experimenting with color and think it’s simply amazing how many different colors you can mix with just five out-of-the-tube colors. Are you using a limited palette? I’d love to hear about it.

Be on the lookout for Abstract Painting for the Absolute Beginner to be available on Amazon by March 15, 2021. If you’d like to be notified when the book is available (it might be sooner!), sign up for my mailing list.

~ Lori

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3 thoughts on “Experimental 5-Color Palette

  1. Yeah. Or you may find that you like the more muted violet.

    Cool that you’re experimenting with such a limited palette. I’m still very much in the learning phase and using a split complimentary palette.

    Liked by 1 person

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