The Perfect Palette


Four masters reveal their secrets to no-fail color mixing.

Whether it’s choosing a favorite hue or developing a method for mixing, every master artist has a particular way of working with color. But the preference for certain colors doesn’t develop just because artists are picky or fighting change.

Decades of color theory, study, patient observation and trial and error go into these palettes in order to find new ways to make a good painting even better. Here are four such palettes created by artist who worked hard to get their color choices just right. Their expert advice will help you find a new way to add life to any painting – no matter the medium.

Michael Shane Neal – Oil

How he mixes:

“I mix my colors directly on my palette as I respond to the color I see. I start new each day, working from my ‘keyboard’ of colors. I always arrange to colors in exactly the same format, although sometimes I may exchange on yellow for another, for example.”

THE ARTIST'S MAGAZINE August 2005Favorite mixtures:

“I find myself using mixtures of alizarin crimson, yellow and white as well as burnt sienna, ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson frequently. Also, I generally mix a violet, such as alizarin, ultramarine blue and white. I find these mixtures frequently fit the bill for what I see, but I believe there should be no formulas.”

Likes and dislikes:

“I can’t live without cerulean blue, I think the phthalos can be particularly difficult to control. My pet peeve is having too many colors on the palette at once. Students of painting often tend to think the answer to better color is more colors. I’ve seen palettes with five yellows, 10 blues, 10 reds, etc. The answer to good color is good value, relating your colors as you work and finding relationships in color no matter the subject. A piece of blue in the shadow of a white shirt cuff might be echoed in the shadow of a head, the background or even on the edge of a finger.”

by Jennifer Ball