My Palette


My ultra-portable cigar box palette.

My ultra-portable cigar box palette.

I’ve been asked a few times lately what my palette is, so I thought I’d put a post about it.

(Updated in 2020:)


  • Titanium white, from either Williamsburg.
  • Cadmium Yellow Light from Williamsburg.
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium from Williamsburg.
  • Zecchi’s Roman Ochre.
  • Cadmium Red Light (Vermilion substitute), from Williamsburg.
  • Cadmium Red Medium from Williamsburg.
  • Cadmium Orange from Williamsburg.
  • Cerulean Blue, Williamsburg, Zecchi, or Old Holland if I’m felling flush.
  • Ultramarine Deep from Old Holland.
  • Cobalt Blue, either Old Holland, Williamsburg or Zecchi.

Inside I use Lead White, and  Ivory Black for portraits and still life.

Sometimes I glaze my landscapes or portraits with Alizarin, from Williamsburg.

The palette I started with included Naples Yellow, an earth red (Pozzuoli, English…etc), and Veridian. I have also used high chroma purples for specific projects with irises and such.

The importance of bright colors

My ultra-portable cigar box palette.

My cigar box palette.

I just started using a good quality manganese blue again after a 4 year break. I remember finding it essential when traveling but of less use here in Italy. This summer however, there have been a couple of times when I’ve really struggled to get the exact hue I needed. Using the manganese for the last two weeks has made mixing some colors so much easier. I see more colors just by having the capability to get them. ‘Like scales falling from your eyes’ as Gammell said.

The same thing happens every year with my landscape students who bring brand-name yellow ochres outside and fight the chalky color for hours. Its impossible to key your colors correctly with tube paints which are full of extenders which dull the color.

Matching color in nature is hard enough with the right tools, with poor quality paints it becomes almost impossible.