Limited Palette, again.

“Mercy” oil on Gessobord, 4×4″.

This is what I’d call an extreme limited palette! It can work, but boy is it a challenge! I only used two colors (and white) in this one.

I did this little mini painting with just three tubes of paint:

  • Alizarin Crimson Permanent
  • Sap Green (permanent)
  • White (in oils that would be Titanium White or Titanium Zinc White)

You can do this exercise with other types of paint (watercolor, acrylics, etc) but make sure that your Sap Green and Alizarin Crimson colors are the PERMANENT variety. (Some are, some aren’t.) Otherwise, your work will fade over time.

Wow, was this tricky, but it was fun! I used a lot of Alizarin Crimson Permanent and White for the flesh tones, with a little added Sap Green to tone down the pinkness a bit. For highlights on her face, more Sap Green (in a subtle tint) was used. For the dark tones, Sap Green and Alizarin Crimson were mixed together, straight from the tube (no white whatsoever!).


I’m not sure I’d recommend using this limited palette if you are newer to painting and/or color mixing, but it’s a worthy challenge and can really make you work and think about color in a different way. Color choices in a painting composition are relative. The somewhat odd color mixtures in this painting can work—if you keep your whole color scheme consistent. A limited palette (in this case it’s pinks & greens, and mixtures thereof), can help keep the whole color scheme harmonious and natural-looking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *