Acrylic Paint Colors – Basic Palette

Acrylic Paint Colors - basic palette from Smart Art Materials

There are dozens of Acrylic Paint Colors and Shades available on the market. Time after time we all have the temptation to buy them all and be the owner of the richest palette ever. But the truth is it’s not only misspent but simple irrationally. Why? To get the answer we need to understand the basics of Color Theory and Color Wheel.

Primary Colors

Acrylic Paint Colors - basic palette from Smart Art Materials

As you know, there are 3 PRIMARY colors: – Yellow, Red, Blue. So you will definitely need this three in your palette because can mix a rainbow from them. But, how to choose even these colors? Obviously, there is more than just one yellow, red, or blue.

Each artist has own preference when it comes to primary colors, there is no "strict law" about it. I like to have following primary colors  – set of warm and cool:

___ Yellow– Cadmium Yellow Med (warmer) and Lemon Yellow (cooler).

___ Red – Naphthol Crimson (warmer) and Alizarin Crimson (cooler).

___ Blue – Phthalo Blue (warmer)  and Ultramarine (cooler).

Having set of warm and cool hues is beneficial. But if you can't buy both right away,  I would recommend starting with warmer colors.

Few More Essential Acrylic Paint Colors

Don't forget about black and white! By adding them to our primary colors palette, we are able to achieve a high variety of different colors and shades with different saturation and value. Also, I recommend you to get some green and brown to enhance colors capabilities and diversity:

___ Black - Ivory Black

___ White - Titanium White

___ Brown – Burnt Umber (warm chocolate brown that’s extremely versatile and provides itself indispensable. It’s great for darkening the tone of other colors).

___ Green –  Phthalo green (bright bluish green; mix it with cadmium yellow medium to get a variety of shades of green).

Let's Summarize

For starter palette, you need 10 colors: 2 achromatic colors (Ivory Black and Titanium White) and 8 chromatic colors (Cadmium Yellow Medium, Lemon Yellow, Naphthol Crimson, Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue, Ultramarine, Burnt Umber, and Phthalo Green). You can get thousands of hues, tints, and shades out of these 10 guys!

___ Titanium White 

___ Lemon Yellow

___ Cadmium Yellow Medium 

___ Naphthol Crimson

___ Alizarin Crimson

___ Burnt Umber

___ Phthalo green

___ Phthalo Blue

___ Ultramarine

___ Ivory Black

Tip: once you notice that there are some colors that you use all the time and they’re not in this palette, for example, orange, it worth buying a tube of plain orange paint, rather than mix it all the time from red and yellow.

Basic Palette Acrylic Paint Set

This is a really good option for a start because all of the paint sets have the basic palette including your primary colors, black&white and couple extra essential once (unless something is specified on the package, eg "landscape set"). You will notice that primary colors vary from set to set, for example for red it can be Cadmium Red Light or Naphthol Crimson hue or Quinacridone Crimson etc. It's not a big deal, they all are great, this variety just gives you the opportunity to try more options, see how they are mixing with other colors and decide what you like the most. I can recommend some of the following:

Artist's Table Book

Talking about colors, I can not pass this book, because I absolutely love it:

"The Elements of Color: A Treatise on the Color System" by Johannes Itten 

Do you want to understand and use the Power of Color? Then you are just one amazing book away.

"The Elements of Color" is a Bible for ANY artist or colorist! It's the most detailed color theory guide that had changed my vision of color as a visual instrument. It has detailed and understandable explanations, descriptions of all possible color contrast with examples, practical recommendations, and excellent color schemes - can you ask for more?

Mix and experiment!

Acrylic Paint Colors - basic palette from Smart Art MaterialsLastly, I want you to experiment with your paint. And by experiment I mean try mixing two and more paints together in different proportions, add black, white, grey. Mix them any way you want. Paint your own Color Wheel and color schemes. Observe the results and enjoy, because this is so much fun!

Please, let me know if you have any questions about Acrylic Paint Colors! 



2 thoughts on “Acrylic Paint Colors – Basic Palette

  1. ZEGU says:

    I love your posts because its so refreshing and talks about a subject that I am interested in but i have very little knowledge about.
    Its so exciting to know about the 3 primary colours and the idea that I can actually add to them Black and White, to create varied colours and shades. This is all new to me.
    I can’t wait to go shopping and get myself some paint and experiment by mixing different paint colours together, to see what happens.
    I have added your website to my Favourite, so that I don’t miss out on any updates. Once again, many thanks for such an informative post!.

    • Olga says:

      Hi Zegu, you are very welcome! These is a LOT of interesting paints and tools posts coming up, so stay tuned, you are going to love it! 

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