One of the things that distinguishes one artist from another is their palette – the colours they use to create their paintings. It is often a good idea to limit your palette to just a few colours, I would suggest five. The reason is twofold, one you really have to learn and be creative with your colour mixing and secondly, your paintings will take on a unique character of their own. Every artist will choose a different set of colours, but as a guide I would suggest, a yellow, blue, red, a white and an earth colour like burnt sienna. The problem is which colours to choose. The first consideration is not to choose colours that when mixed together create mud. Mixing permanent rose with ultramarine will create a great purple, but mixing vermilion red with Prussian blue will create a browny mauve.
When mixing colour remember to mix the weakest first – usually the lightest – yellow first with a touch of blue will make a green, but start with blue and you will need a large amount of yellow to attain the same tone of green. If you find some of your colour combinations don’t work or you don’t like them swap one of your colours. This often has the effect of invigorating your painting.
Remember that you can tone down any strong colour by mixing in either a little of the earth colour or a little of the opposite colour on the colour wheel, a little red to tone down a green, or a little blue to tone down an orange.
Using a limited palette will force you to consider an object’s local colour and to find a way to adapt and interpret that colour with one of your own. It might seem a little odd to do this, but remember that is how Matisse created such wonderful paintings by painting his equivalent of the local colour.
Finally, it is more important to really get to know what happens when you mix your limited range of colours together. This is much easier than having lots of colours in your palette, which tends to lead to having less of an idea of what the outcome of mixing a particular set of colours might be.