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Color Descriptions & Draw-Down

Here are some written descriptions and images of paint colors that I would consider a standard for a vast majority of artists. The color draw-downs are of Old Holland paints, one of the most elegant and beautiful color paints in the world. Please keep in mind that color in print, computer, and mobile devices will vary greatly and may not represent the color well. You need to see the paint live to get a good visual understanding of the colors.

Alizarin Crimson: Very slow drying, has very strong tinting properties. You could use an alternative to Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Rose, for your basic color palette.


Cadmium Red Light: Very strong tinting properties. This is a good basic red and the most versatile of the cadmium reds (medium and dark).


Vermilion: Cooler version of the Cadmium Red. Can be used instead of Cadmium Red Light.


Cadmium Orange: Very strong tinting properties. Can be used instead of Cadmium Red Light. Mixing it with Cadmium Yellow will give you a good orange. However, it will not be as nice and as vibrant as Cadmium Orange.


Cadmium Yellow Pale: Strong-tinting properties. Similar to Lemon Yellow and Cadmium Yellow Light. These colors vary in warmth and coolness.


Cadmium Yellow: An opaque color, has good tinting strength, is slow drying.


Viridian: The most versatile green – not a natural looking green, but great for mixing a wide range of greens.


Permanent Green Light: Good light green – slightly warmer than Viridian – very useful for subtle areas.


Ultramarine Blue: Good tinting properties – not as strong as Phthalo Blue. Good for mixing.


Cerulean Blue: Fine color for soft light blue. Good for mixing subtle grays. If you can only have a couple of blues make them Cerulean and Ultramarine.


Cobalt Blue: My favorite color – gentle and more subtle than the Ultramarine. It is a middle-value blue, darker and richer than Cerulean Blue.


Yellow Ochre: Subtle earth tone – soft, quiet yellow.


Raw Sienna: Earth color, a darker version of Yellow Ochre. Great for mixing rich dark greens.


Burnt Sienna: A must-have color – not a good color by itself. It needs to be mixed with other colors. It is great for rich dark colors when mixed with Ultramarine, Phthalo Blue, or Viridian. You get dark tones by mixing with blue or green.


Burnt Umber: The darkest brown – redder than Raw Umber. This is a great color for creating rich dark tones without using black. Makes rich grays when mixed with blue and a touch of white.


Ivory Black: Can be over-used very easily. Richer darks can be achieved by mixing other dark hues. However, black is a great color and versatile mixed with yellow.


Flake White (also known as "Lead White" or "Silver White"): These are quick drying, durable, and flexible when used in under-painting. This will accelerate the drying time of colors mixed with them. It should be noted that they both use lead in their formulation, which can be harmful to you with too much exposure.

Zinc White: This white has a cool-white appearance and will not darken over time. Semi-opaque used for glazing or tinting. It is slow drying, not used for under-painting.

Titanium White (also known as "Permanent White"): There isn't anything whiter or more opaque. Dries very slowly to a soft chalky film. Very strong covering power and is useful for mixing tints and also great for final highlights. An inexpensive alternative is "Permalba White", a brand name. It is great for beginning art students as it is inexpensive however, it has very week opacity and a gummy consistency.

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