There’s plenty of variety within the 41 colours that comprise the range of Jackson’s Artist Acrylics, so you’ll need to be selective when choosing your colours. Restricting your palette allows you to keep colour mixing simple and helps to avoid the risk of mixing mud when you want your colours to sing and harmonise.
The Jackson’s Artist Acrylic range has five yellows in it – Primrose Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Pale Genuine, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue, Cadmium Yellow Genuine and Cadmium Yellow Deep Genuine (there’s also Yellow Ochre but we’ll leave that with the other earth pigments for now!) This article looks at the characteristics of these yellows and offers suggestions of what restricted palettes you might include them in.
The Basic Principle of Working With A Restricted Palette
A good way to start thinking about restricted palettes is to select one or two colours to represent each primary colour group, and then allow yourself black, white and maybe an earth colour such as Raw Umber. So you’ll have red, yellow, blue, black, raw umber and white. If you want more than these six, it’s advised to select a warm and cool version of each colour, so you have the potential for a good variety in your colour mixes.
Two yellows – one with a shade of green such as Lemon Yellow and one with a shade of red/orange such as Cadmium Yellow Medium
Two blues – one with a shade of red such as French Ultramarine and one with a shade of green such as Cerulean Blue
Two reds – one with a shade of blue such as Alizarin Crimson and one with a shade of orange such as Vermilion
It’s possible of course to restrict your palette in other ways – taking out a primary group altogether (one famous example of this is the Zorn palette for portraiture, which has no blues and consists simply of Yellow Ochre, Ivory Black, Vermilion and Titanium White, with the Black offering an alternative to the missing Blue). However, the palettes I suggest here each have a primary represented and are sufficiently versatile for most subject matter.
I wanted to examine the Yellows in the Artist Acrylic range in order for the appearance of the hue to determine the colour choices I made for the rest of my restricted palette, and see what mixes I could achieve with the limited 5 or 6 colours I allowed myself.
Pigment: PY53 Nickle Titanate Yellow
Primrose Yellow is a very light-in-tone, semi-opaque creamy yellow. On Handprint.com they say “This is my preferred light yellow pigment for an earth palette“.
When squeezed from the tube as is, it has the appearance of a very light Naples Yellow. As I added water and spread the colour out, I was surprised at how strong the colour was… when diluted with a bit of water it started to have the colour of butter.
I then wanted to see what happened when I mixed it with white. I put roughly a third of a teaspoon of white with the same amount of yellow and mixed with a brush. The strength of the colour was confirmed as the mix produced a yellow, very slightly grey, creamy hue. I then tried mixing more and more white and got some beautiful soft, creamy hues which I imagine could be useful when painting light reflecting from a surface…in landscape, still life or portraiture.
With the Handprint.com suggestion in mind, I wanted to spend a bit of time mixing the primrose yellow with some earthy colours, to give an indication of where this colour could come into its own.
My chosen palette:
Yellow Ochre (PY42) – a darker, warmer yellow to give a contrasting yellow to the Primrose
Venetian Red (PR101) – an opaque oxide red that is like English Red, very earthy looking. I felt this would be a good red to use as it wouldn’t be too primary-red which might be too strong for the Primrose Yellow
Cobalt Blue Genuine (PB28) – quite a primary blue, however as it is semi-opaque I was curious to see how it mixed with Primrose Yellow.
Black (PBk11 PBk7) – again, I guessed I would get some nice muted greeny-greys when mixing with Primrose Yellow so I wanted to see if that was true.
Titanium White (PW6)
The colour mixes I achieved with this palette are definitely earthy, but that’s not to say dull! I love the soft dusty ochre mixes and blue-greys in particular. Because I had a presence of all the primaries (albeit in quite earthy versions, apart from the blue) this palette has a lot of potential and versatility, and I could imagine it being used for any subject matter – portraits, landscapes or still life, although perhaps landscape is the most obvious possibility. The freshness of the green achieved by mixing Cobalt Blue with Primrose Yellow, contrasting with the earthier greens made with Black and Primrose Yellow, give a lot of tonal variation within the palette which could be useful when painting a hilly landscape under afternoon sunlight, where there are lots of shadows.
Pigment: PY3 Arylide Yellow 10G
On Jacksonsart.com Lemon Yellow is described as always valuable when painting, whether in natural landscapes and flowers or man-made objects. It is also important for mixing light lime greens and greenish yellows.
It is a semi-transparent, moderately staining, very light valued, intense green yellow pigment.
On Handprint.com it says that Lemon Yellow creates brilliant yellow greens when mixed with the green Phthalos, and interesting tan oranges, close to Burnt Sienna, when mixed with Quinacridone Rose, PV19
When squeezed from the tube, the colour was a really bright, pure, acidic primary yellow with the slightest hint of green. When I tried brushing it out with a wet brush the colour was really strong – in its slightly dilute state it is the absolute dead ringer for the skin of an actual lemon (it might be a little dark in its pure state). When I tried to mix with the white the strength of the yellow shone through; the acidity and brightness of the yellow still there when mixed with an equal amount of white and then gradually fading out to a yellow cream as more white is added.
I wanted to try out the suggestion on Handprint.com so for my colour mixing session with Lemon Yellow I chose the following colours:
Rose Madder Quinacridone (PV19) – I was curious about the tan oranges mentioned. This is a beautiful bright magenta when squeezed from the tube, and is semi-transparent and a really exciting colour to mix with.
Phthalo Green (PG7) – a real opinion divider! With a blue tint and transparency, the Phthalos are very high staining, as my results will testify!
Raw Umber (PBr7) – I put raw umber in my palette to act as a warm, gentle earth colour to balance out the strength of the rose and green.
Titanium White (PW6)
Wow! I was not expecting the Rose and Lemon yellow mix to be so zingy! A really saturated bright orange, and when more Rose was added a fiery, transparent orange-red was made. When White is added these mixes calm down to a earthy orange. Similarly – pow! The Lemon Yellow and Phthalo Green mix packs a real punch – a completely synthetic looking, intensely bright green. After mixing these very bright colours I wanted to try and mix some more subtle hues to balance them out. I was glad to have the Raw Umber in my palette, which I mixed with all the other colours to create an array of beautiful, rich earthy hues. Finally I played around with mixing Phthalo Green, Raw Umber and Yellow on the far right of the paper, adding white as well, to make some green-greys. This palette reminds me of perhaps a Matisse interior, or a Fauvist landscape…and would be a really exciting palette of colours to use for a colourist, or abstract painting. However you could mix skin colours of all ethnicities with this palette too.
Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue
Pigment: PY73 Arylide Yellow GX
From Jacksonsart.com, Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue is a semi-opaque, stunning colour on its own and is also useful for mixing with reds to make a beautiful range of oranges.
As I squeezed the colour from the tube I encountered a much much warmer, darker in tone yellow than the Primrose and Lemon Yellows. This yellow is moving more towards orange/red than green/blue.
The colour significantly lightened when diluted to make a very bright, cooler yellow. When mixing with white the yellow wasn’t as strong as I expected and made lovely creamy hues.
There wasn’t a whole lot of information online about using this Arylide Yellow (also known as Monoazo Yellow) as part of a palette, so I decided to trust my instinct on colour selection.
As this is a warm, darker, more saturated yellow, I thought I would go for a warmer palette in general. These are the colours I mixed with:
Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15.1) – As with all Phthalos, this is a very high staining colour. It is transparent, and similar in appearance out of the tube to French Ultramarine.
Orange Red (PO5) – as the name suggests, an orangey red! Semi-opaque and makes a lovely pale rose pink when mixed with White.
Black (PBK11 PBK7) – semi opaque, strong in colour mixes.
Raw Sienna (PBR7) – a transparent yellow-brown, an invaluable earth hue.
Titanium White (PW6)
The presence of the Phthalo Blue Red Shade added a lot of power to this palette, giving saturated powerful greens, that are more naturalistic than the greens mixed in the lemon yellow palette. Added to this some beautiful oranges mixing Orange Red with Yellow and mustards mixing the yellow with the Raw Sienna. When playing around with the black and white I got some earthier greens, as well as pale blue greys and green greys, and a gorgeous mushroom hue when mixing Orange Red with Phthalo blue and white. This is a bright palette that would work well in exotic landscape painting…a half way between the earth palette and the Lemon yellow/rose/green palette.
Cadmium Yellow Genuine
Pigment: PY35 Cadmium Zinc Sulfide
An opaque, bright, mid-light tone yellow, on Jacksonsart.com it is described as being beautifully clear and strong. Excellent for landscape artists. On Handprint.com it is mentioned that Cadmium Yellow is especially affected by Phthalos and creates velvety blends that some dislike.
When thinning the yellow out with water it seems to keep a lot of its colour intensity to begin with and was noticeably stronger than Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue. Similarly when adding white I was surprised at how strong the yellow was in a 50/50 mix with white (see bottom left of image below) and as more white was added the mix became a creamy magnolia-type hue.
As I had already done a bit of mixing with Phthalo Green and Phthalo Blue, I decided to include non-Phthalos in this palette. The colours I chose were:
Alizarin Crimson (PR112 PR12) – red with a blue tint
Cobalt Blue Genuine (PB28) – a ‘pure’ blue, doesn’t really have a red or green bias
Paynes Grey (PB29 PBr7 PBk7) – black with a bluey/reddy tint
Titanium White (PW6)
For this palette I chose cool colours to contrast the warmth of the yellow; the yellow is closer to orange/red than green, and the red is cool with a hint of blue, the blue relatively cool, and the Paynes Grey is essentially a black with a hint of violet.
This palette is a real symphony of delicious colour mixes. The yellow and Alizarin Crimson mix to make sumptuous bright oranges that still feel naturalistic and not too hot. The greens made with the yellow and blue and the yellow and Paynes Grey are also pretty true to ‘natural’ greens. The soft pinks, grey, green-greys and blue-greys made by adding colours to white soften the palette of colours. This 5 colour palette would be equally useful in painting figures and portraits, landscape or still life – I really believe that if you have these 5 colours you don’t really need any others.
Cadmium Yellow Deep Genuine
Pigment: PY35 Cadmium Zinc Sulfide
This deep yellow has the appearance of very concentrated custard! A very deep, warm, yellow-orange. Because it is opaque it maintains its vibrancy when thinned out with a little water, and as more and more water is added the hue gradually fades out…but it is noticeably stronger than the other yellows in the range.
When I tried added an equal amount of white the colour did not become significantly lighter as was the case with the other yellows…which demonstrated how strong a yellow this is. As more and more white is added the mix becomes a soft orangey-pink, which I imagine could be very useful in portrait or landscape highlights.
My chosen palette:
Cobalt Blue Hue (PB29 PB15:3 PR112 PR122 PW6) – I wanted to try the ‘Hue’ alternative to show what mixes can be achieved. The pigment code shows there is a variety of blue and red pigments, although I would say the blue is fairly neutral in terms of whether it leans more towards green or red.
Burnt Sienna (PBR7) – will act as a degraded red in my palette, as I figured the yellow was moving towards orange/red anyway I felt the red could be knocked back too.
Black (PBk11 PBK7)
Titanium White (PW6)
This palette produced some earthy oranges and terracottas, naturalistic greens and bluey and greeny-greys. I loved the soft dusty pinks made when adding white to Burnt Sienna and a touch of Cadmium Yellow Deep. As it is this would make for a great landscape palette and maybe a portrait/figure palette too but I did feel a bit of an urge to add a brighter red into the mix – maybe Rose Madder would be good alongside or in place of the Burnt Sienna.
It pays to know your pigments – to be familiar with how they look and behave. Spending time mixing different colour combinations can really help to further your knowledge and understanding. Additionally, working with a limited palette helps to achieve colour harmony and vibrancy in your work. Within the Jackson’s Artist Acrylics range there are 5 yellows that have such versatility within them – the palettes I have demonstrated here are merely suggestions. You can either choose to be led by subject matter or by the colours that you like. If you wish to work with a largely cool or warm palette, or wish to work with a lot of one particular colour within your painting, think about what palette will enable you to achieve the results you are seeking. If your subject is leading your path, really stop and look and identify what colours you see, and how you might achieve them on your canvas.
Jackson’s Artist Acrylic Paints