I prefer a classical palette composed of earth colors. David Rourke in his weblog All The Strange Hours wrote an informative post on the classical palette, if you’re a little more curious. My wood palette itself is one designed by artist William Whitaker and manufactured by Real Gesso (who also make great traditional gesso panels).


In the color listing below, I don’t use all of the following colors at the same time. Those with an asterisk (*) are my mainstay colors. Yes, there are some “duplicates” but I get different results from using Williamsburg’s Italian Raw Sienna (grainier and shimmery) versus Michael Harding’s Raw Sienna (smoother consistency); and between Williamsburg’s Italian Raw Umber (greener) and Michael Harding’s Raw Umber (browner). These are subtle differences indeed but important enough to use both versions of these colors.

As evident in the photo above, I don’t premix any colors but mix directly on the canvas/panel. I also don’t use solvent but use M. Graham Walnut Alkyd – not to thin paints (which I never do)  but to serve as a “couch” and “drier” or to seal the very absorbent traditional gesso ground or Ampersand Claybord. I like solvent free putty mediums. My painting method is fairly intuitive and changes daily it seems like. It’s an ongoing learning process, so I’ve stopped posting demos as what I write on any given day can change the next. So in general, here’s my palette:


  • Holbein Ceramic White
  • Williamsburg Unbleached Titanium Pale
  • Michael Harding Unbleached Titanium


  • Williamsburg Black Roman Earth
  • Williamsburg Cold Black
  • Old Holland Vine Black


  • Michael Harding Raw Sienna *
  • Williamsburg Italian Raw Sienna *
  • Williamsburg Green Ochre
  • Michael Harding Burnt Sienna
  • Williamsburg Spanish Earth
  • Williamsburg Brown Pink *
  • Michael Harding Raw Umber *
  • Williamsburg Italian Raw Umber *
  • Michael Harding Burnt Umber *
  • Gamblin Transparent Earth Yellow *
  • Gamblin Van Dyck Brown *
  • Gamblin Asphaltum *
  • Michael Harding Transparent Red Earth


  • Williamsburg Courbet Green *
  • Williamsburg Bohemian Green Earth *
  • Williamsburg Green Earth
  • Williamsburg Terra Verte *


  • Michael Harding Ultramarine Blue *
  • Williamsburg Cerulean Blue


  • Old Holland Gamboge Lake Extra
  • Williamsburg Italian Naples Yellow
  • Michael Harding Deep Ochre
  • Michael Harding Yellow Ochre
  • Williamsburg Lemon Ochre *


  • Michael Harding Crimson Lake
  • Williamsburg Pyrazalone Red Deep
  • Williamsburg Pyrazalone Red Scarlet
  • Old Holland Indian Red
  • Williamsburg Rosso Veneto *
  • Williamsburg Pompeii Red

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