Lots of pigments are not needed for landscape painting. During my plein air painting expeditions, I use only a limited palette of six colors at the most. In any palette, there are dozens of reds, yellows and blues to choose from, not to mention earth colors. But you don’t need them all for landscape painting.
Essential Pigments for Landscape Art
Blue can be a problem color, for the stereotypical notion that you just need to glob on a lot of ultramarine to conjure a convincing blue sky. This is not always the case, as ultramarine contains a lot of violet, which is not good if the sky to be portrayed is wintry blue. However, ultramarine has great luminescence and warmth, ideal for the zenith of a clear summer sky or a sunset, so is a useful inclusion on my art palette.
Types of Blue for Art
Blues the landscape artist can live without are the following: Indanthrene, cobalt-turquoise, Prussian blue, Indigo and Winsor blue (red shade). Although I use just two blues for my painting, blues worth exploring are: ultramarine blue, pthalo blue, cobalt blue, Winsor blue (green shade), cerulean and Manganese blue. But this entire range is not needed, just a ‘warm’ blue and a ‘cool’ blue. I will favor ultramarine for my warm blue, ideal for the aforementioned sky, and pthalo blue for a ‘cool’ blue. Manganese, Winsor blue (green shade) and cerulean blue are cool blues, but pthalo blue has high tinting strength.
With a cool blue and a warm blue, crisp greens can be mixed as well as an array of sky shades for any landscape painting.
Best Yellows for Painting Grass and Trees
Some yellow pigments contain too many impurities to be of any use (some are not strictly yellow). Such yellows are: yellow ochre, Naples yellow, Bismuth yellow, gold ochre and cadmium yellow (deep). Yellows that will provide clean color mixes for greens and foliage worth exploring are: lemon yellow, cadmium lemon, lemon yellow (pale) and Indian yellow. I get by with just lemon yellow and cadmium yellow (pale). A bright, sharp yellow will enable the artist to mix brilliant greens and crisp oranges. This might be ideal for painting a field of daffodils or golden autumn leaves. If the color is too brilliant, it can always be toned down with a little complementary or earth color, but a dull yellow cannot be made more brilliant. This is why I will include bright, clean yellows in my art palette for landscape painting.
Green for Foliage and Forests
Another color, viridian is worth mentioning, as this green has an extraordinary tinting strength, not to mention brilliance. On its own, it is garish and impractical for a vista with realism, but mixed with blue, yellow or an earth color can produce lovely muted greens, as can be found in coniferous forests, distant woods or cabbage fields. Viridian mixed with other pigments makes the following green colors unnecessary: olive green, sap green and chrome green.
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