My Full-Color Palette: Cadmium Yellows

Over the next few weeks, I will cover the different cadmium yellows I like to use.

Each manufacturer has a different naming convention with regard to cadmium yellow. What one manufacturer would call cadmium yellow, another manufacturer will call the same visual color, cadmium yellow deep and another manufacturer may use the term cadmium yellow medium. Because of this variety in the naming conventions of cadmium yellow, I mentally divide my cadmium yellows into three categories: 1) cadmium lemon, 2) cadmium yellow (light or middle value), and 3) cadmium yellow deep (or darker than the middle range of cadmium yellows), with a subcategory in cadmium yellow deep for almost orange cadmium yellows.

Each of these three divisions of cadmium yellow has a place on my palette. I will describe them each in turn, starting with cadmium yellow deep.

My initial color swatches of the cadmium yellows.

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Cadmium Yellow Deep (PY-varies)

Cadmium Yellow Deep (PY-varies)

Information: Opaque
Handling Characteristics: Cadmium Yellow Deep is a rich saturated yellow, warm in color temperature and overall a lovely and versatile yellow to keep on the palette.

In the spring time Cadmium Yellow Deep is an important color to keep on the palette because so many spring flowers are a deep saturated yellow.

In general, I always keep this color out and available, and because I love this color for its rich pigment-dense quality it is important to always be thinking about how to best mix it with other colors. So, there are times when control and moderation must be utilized, or else you will over power the color mixture you are striving for.

I have heard that Salvador Dali did not like using the cadmium yellows because they can be so powerful. Cadmium yellow deep can be overpowering and it is important to always use caution when mixing with this color. When I need to employ control with cadmium yellow deep, I will often dip my paint brush into the pure paint puddle, but before taking this paint and applying it directly to my paint mixture, I will daub the paint brush in a clear space on my palette, right next to the paint mixture puddle, and slowly introduce the cadmium yellow into the mixture. This is the best way to control overly strong pigments and guaranteeing that they do not overwhelm what you are trying to accomplish.

Row 1:
Name: Cadmium Yellow Deep (PY 35)
Manufacturer: Williamsburg Handmade Oil Colors
My thoughts: Recently (like in early 2017) the Williamsburg cadmium yellow deep has become my preferred manufacturer to use. I enjoy its dense pigment, smooth workability, and how even when mixed into a very pale tint the color mixture remains in the warm-yellow color spectrum. This oil color stays open for a long time and over all it is just a fun color to keep out. Especially during the springtime and all the varieties of daffodils and forsythia are in bloom.

Row 2:
Name: Cadmium Yellow (PY 35)
Manufacturer: Winsor and Newton
My thoughts: The Winsor and Newton cadmium yellow is another favorite of mine. I like it’s mixture, it is pigment-dense and uses safflower oil as its vehicle. This makes the paint stay open for a very long time on the palette.

Row 3:
Name: Cadmium Yellow (PY 37)
Manufacturer: Vasari Classic Artists’ Oil Colors
My thoughts: In the autumn of 2016, I had the good fortune to experiment with the Vasari cadmium yellow. I fell in love with its texture and quality, I especially enjoyed its smooth buttery consistency. In its purest form out of the tube, it is my opinion that the color is a cooler and a smidge less saturated than the Williamsburg cadmium yellow deep tints. As this oil color is mixed with lead white the color mixture becomes more vibrant and almost a saturated as the Williamsburg cadmium yellow deep. The Vasari cadmium yellow is slightly cooler in color temperature, however this lends itself well in some paint applications, such as painting lemons, and probably does not make any significant change for other paint applications.

Row 4:
Name: cadmium yellow deep (PO 20, PY 35)
Manufacturer: Winsor and Newton
My thoughts: If ever I squeeze out the Windsor Newton cadmium yellow deep, I will place it right beside my cadmium orange. In fact there have been times when I have use this color instead of my cadmium orange, especially if I am working on a painting where the light is particularly saturated and golden, such as when painting during the “golden hour”. This is a very nice convenience mixture to have, however there aren’t many times when it is specifically needed, so I keep a tube of this paint available as a in special cases only, such as when I’m painting pumpkins, terra-cotta pots, or special hybrid daffodils that have particularly dark-orange center coronas.

Row 5:
Name: Cadmium Yellow Orange (PO 20)
Manufacturer: Vasari Classic Artists’ Oil Colors
My thoughts: This is another Vasari color I got to experiment with in the autumn of 2016, and I really enjoyed it. At times when keeping this oil color out on my palette, I would not bother with putting out cadmium orange, because this was so versatile. This color makes some particularly beautiful light value tints, colors that are just fun to mix and see where I can incorporate them into a painting. Like all Vasari oil colors, the mixture is pigment dense and creamy to handle, a pure pleasure to use.

In summary, my favorite cadmium yellow deep oil color is made by Williamsburg, and for special times I also like to have the Vasari cadmium yellow orange available.

Here is an image of my original swatches I did of the cadmium yellows before I began to make the graduated swatches. As you can see, the colors and names were all over the board. You also get a preview of Naples Yellow.

These articles about my color palette and the oil colors I use are the result of my experience and continued exploration. I have purchased all oil colors on my own and I have not received any reimbursement from the mentioned paint manufacturers or art supply stores. The usefulness and perceived attributes expressed here in these articles are my personal opinions.

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Cadmium Vermilion/Cadmium Scarlet (PR 108)

Cadmium Vermilion/Cadmium Scarlet (PR – 108)

Information: opaque, lightfast
Handling Characteristics: Saturated red with a shift towards orange when used purely and when mixed with other pigments.

Cadmium Vermilion is one of my favorite warm opaque reds to use. I feel as if I use this color in all my paintings in some form or another.

Like Cadmium red medium it mixes well with other colors, either in two color or three color mixtures, and can make beautiful skin tones. Personally, I find cadmium vermilion to be essential for glowing flesh tones.

Cadmium Vermilion is also important for mixing a variety of grays, when mixed with blues or greens the grays of silver and pewter are captured.

My experience with Cadmium Vermilion, sometimes called Cadmium Scarlet (PR 108), comes from using three different manufacturers’ versions. Each version is a range of warm, orange-ish, medium opaque red. You’ll see from my swatch card that in the fourth row I have included Gamblin’s Cadmium Red Light (PR 108) also. This is because Gamblin’s Cad. Red Light really falls in to the same spectrum as the Cadmium Vermilion examples.

Row 1:
Name: Cadmium Vermilion (PR 108)
Manufacturer: Blue Ridge Oil Colors
My thoughts: Of this range of warm reds, Blue Ridge,s Cadmium Vermilion is one of my favorite oil colors to use. The first reason is because it is almost a spot on color of the red petals of an oriental poppy. Then also because it is so lush, and I particularly like how the color shifts to a pretty delightful salmon pink tone when mixed with whites. Also with this specific oil color, if you mix it down to a very, very light tint you are able to re-create the Old Holland color, Brilliant Yellow-Reddish, a color I used to always keep out on my palette until I realized it is so easy to mix with lead white and cadmium vermilion.

Row 2:
Name: Cadmium Vermilion (PR 108)
Manufacturer: Williamsburg Handmade Oil Colors
My thoughts: the Williamsburg version of Cadmium Vermilion is another favorite of mine, it starts out more red than the Blue Ridge version, thus as it tints down it maintains a pink-ish quality, however there is still enough of a touch of orange in this color that makes it nice to work with.

Row 3:
Name: Cadmium Scarlet (PR 108)
Manufacturer: Winsor and Newton Artists Oil Colors
My thoughts: During my first years of learning how to paint with oils, the Winsor and Newton Cadmium Scarlet was my orangey-red I kept out on my palette. It was the one my mentor, Danni Dawson, used and I did not switch until I began to be curious about other paint manufacturers and what they offered. After trying the Blue Ridge and Williamsburg versions, I quit using the Winsor and Newton one.

Row 4:
Name: Cadmium Red Light (PR 108)
Manufacturer: Gamblin
My thoughts: I have not explored as much with the Gamblin color on this swatch card, however because I had some of this paint I wanted to place it in its place in relationship to my other colors.

Overall, it is a tossup for me in whether I choose to use the Blue Ridge or Williamsburg oil color. For several years I have been only using the Blue Ridge version, however when they had the fire in their factory a year ago and I ran low on my cadmium vermilion, I began using the Williamsburg version a bit more. I find if I start a painting with one version, I prefer to finish the painting with that version. I don’t switch back and forth between manufacturers when painting, especially if I am using the cadmium vermilion for flesh tones, it just becomes too tricky.

Here is an image of my original swatches I did of the cadmium reds and oranges before I began to make the graduated swatches.


These articles about my color palette and the oil colors I use are the result of my experience and continued exploration. I have purchased all oil colors on my own and I have not received any reimbursement from the mentioned paint manufacturers or art supply stores. The usefulness and perceived attributes expressed here in these articles are my personal opinions.

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First Day of Spring

Happy First Day of Spring!!!

I thought I would share some of my favorite springtime images from last year in my old garden.

Early March, when the bulbs were just beginning to peak out.  Those yellow daffodils are some of the earliest bloomers, if the winter is mellow they sometimes bloom the first week of March!

And my back boarder with some “bouquet” tulips.  I loved them in the garden, but they did not ever make it into the studio for a painting.

I have been busy digging up my old garden and enjoying all the time in the sun.  I will be recreating a long row of purple bearded irises in the new garden, I always loved this view.   However I now realize that irises need to be dug up every 4-5 years or they get out of control!  Even though it looks fantastic.

Sweet William, and Centura in the foreground.  The really tall, fun architectural green stems on the left was a rogue bunch of goldenrod.  At first I did not know what it was, but I allowed it to grow because I like how tall and structured the vertical stems looked,  and they looked great in late August, though they are aggressive and choked out my seaholly and echinacea in this bed.

…and my beloved nicotiana.  I love this plant and its beautiful scale, I think this year I am going to plant it with my dahlias.

Wishing you a very happy Spring season!


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My Full-Color Palette

Today I am starting a series of articles that will focus on the individual oil colors that make up the full-color palette I use on a regular basis.

You may wonder why I have so many colors on my palette and why I do not use a limited color palette. This is because I have chosen to paint with oils in the colorist tradition of striving to capture the visual impression of color and light, versus focusing mostly on depicting form and letting color play a minor role in my artistic expression. By using the colorist methodology of painting, I have found that I need the most saturated version of the colors available, I then have the option to desaturate my mixtures as the situation in the painting warrants. Some of the oil colors on my palette are pure pigments and others are convenience mixtures.

Let me share a bit about my painting process. I use layers of color tints (one or two colors mixed with white) to build up the three-dimensional illusion of space, mass, and value in my paintings. Often I start with pure, intensely saturated color tints, and then refine and desaturate these initial layers of color as the painting evolves by laying additional layers of paint on top of previous layers. I look for color compliments and ways to enhance the visual impression of color and light in my paintings, however I also strive to always maintain a strong feeling of form in my work. This means that modeling and getting the values accurate is equally important to me as it is for accurately capturing the color passages in my paintings.

Because when you’re painting you are using a physical thing, pigment suspended in linseed oil or another medium, some colors do not mix like they are expected to if you follow the rules of color theory and because of that some pigments/oil colors are better than others when working and interacting with other oil colors.

As part of my studio practice I believe in exploration and experimenting with my results and testing what different oil colors interact with others. In this past year I have decided to go back, really investigate the oil colors I use on a regular basis. In the beginning of this investigation, I just painted out a pure from the tube swatch next to a 50/50 mixture of the paint with white and labeled them. Quickly I realized this was not providing me with enough information that I was seeking, so I began to make graduated scaled swatches of each color.

These upcoming articles are my way of organizing and listing out all of the relevant information I know about them. All information is derived from my own experience. I will also share tips and opinions about why certain pigments have a constant place on my daily palette. I will be comparing paints from different manufacturers and I’ll explain which one I prefer and why.

This is going to be a long series of articles and I hope to post a new article each week. However at times, lulls in the frequency may occur, so I hope you will be patient. These articles on the oil colors that make up my color palette is something I’ve been working on already since June 2016 and I look forward to sharing with you some of the discoveries I have found.

So let’s start with a list of the colors I keep on my palette all the time.

This is my daily full-color palette set up. The first column of color swatches are the oil colors straight from the tube. For the next columns (two through five) I mix different whites I use on a regular basis with each color. In each of these columns, for each of the color tints, I tried to mix consistent volumes of white with pigment. This way it would be easier to discern the pigment density of each color and the tinting strength of the whites. The second column of color swatches are made with a mixture of Rublev’s Lead White#1. The third column uses Rublev’s Venetian White. The fourth column uses Gamblin’s Titanium White, and the fifth column uses Williamsburg’s Zinc Buff White. (Eventually I will have an article that is just dedicated to the different whites I use, these four whites are just a few of what I explore and work with.

I know that there are many colors out there, however for this project, the oil colors I personally use and have explored are going to be written about. It is my goal with this project to share with others what I have learned from the different oil colors out there, hopefully you learn something as well and make better and more specific decisions about the oil colors you choose for yourself.

Let’s begin (in no specific order) with a color from my palette.

Cadmium Vermilion/Cadmium Scarlet (PR 108)
Cadmium Orange (PO 20)
Cadmium Yellow Deep (PY-varies)

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