Art Supply of the Week - Traditional Landscape Palette

A simplistic and easy to use palette for landscape colors that yields beautiful results.

Above from Left to Right: Rublev Oxide Black, Michael Harding Cerulean Blue, Raw Umber, Viridian, Transparent Oxide Red, Cadmium Yellow (Medium) and Rublev Lead White #2 with Vasari Titanium White.

  • Greens:
    • One can achieve an incredible variety of greens by using different proportions of Viridian, Transparent Oxide Red and Cadmium Yellow and when appropriate the white. Above is an extremely small subset of the different possibilities.
  • Browns:
    • The same goes for browns as an incredible variety of hues falling into the brown category can be achieved with different proportions of Viridian, Transparent Oxide Red and Cadmium Yellow and when appropriate the white. I sometimes also use burnt umber depending on the subject.

Creating my browns and greens in this manner yields landscape colors that are very harmonious to one another and are easily replicated when necessary. While one can certainly make green from blue + yellow or yellow + black there is something intangibly beautiful about the Viridian + Transparent Oxide Red + Cadmium Yellow color combination suggested above.

  • Sky and Clouds:
    • A combination of Cerulean Blue, Oxide black and white. When I need a bit of low chroma purple for the underside of the clouds I add in a touch of terra rosa.
  • Horizon:
    • The area of sky just above the horizon, in the vast majority of cases, should be very light and near white in value. For this color I take the mixture for the sky and add quite a bit of white. You may also need to add red or another color depending on the geographical location and time of day (or to account for smog). One example of this would be a sunset.
  • Mountains:
    • For the blue undertones I used Cerulean Blue, Oxide Black, Transparent Oxide Red and White and Raw Umber.
    • For the green undertones I used Viridian, Transparent Oxide Red, Oxide Black, White and Raw Umber. As the mountains recede it is important to also add in some of your blue mixture to the green as well as the below adjustments for distance and atmosphere below.
    • As the mountains recede into the distance I combined the two mixtures above with an increasingly greater proportion of the high value, low chroma sky color I mixed for the horizon. 
  • Underpainting:
    • For landscape it is important to complete an underpainting. This underpainting gives a unifying basis for the painting and also allows for the initial establishment of the value structure of the painting. With this underpainting, it is possible to leave some of it peeking through the top layers of paint for a nice effect and additional color variety. Through years of experimentation I found the below underpainting combination to be my absolute favorite. It gives life to the blues of the sky and supports the greens in a very harmonious way.
    • For the underpainting of the below painting I used Italian Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber and Raw Umber. See the blog post that covers this topic more thoroughly here: My Process

What about sunsets and flowers? Simply add the necessary colors such as cadmium red, Quinacridone Rose, Cobalt Violet and or Cadmium Yellow light to expand your color range for these types of subjects. 

What about seascapes? This palette works like a dream for this subject matter as well - beach and water included.

Feeding Love 54"x90" Oil on Aluminum Panel