How to Choose a Paint Starter Set for Beginners

(Without making an Expensive Mistake)

dry paint pigment

With so many paint colours available and new ranges being released every week, which colours should you buy when you first start painting?

The overwhelming feeling that descends when trying to buy paint colours either online or in your local art store can often lead to the safe bet…

The pre-boxed starter set.

The paint companies have designed them to help you, right? The best paints for your needs when you are just beginning…or so you would think.

But are they a good choice?

Are you getting the best value for money or are they sending you down the wrong path? I’ve devised a simple technique to help you decide which starter palette is right for you.

Ready for a little paint history lesson to understand what you should be thinking about on your next trip to the art store?…

Boxed starter sets are designed to give you a varied approach, a range of colours that can give you the widest colour gambit with the minimum amount of outlay.

But here’s the rub.

It depends on what you’re aiming for with your end result. If you think about the paintings that you want to achieve, the subject matter you are most drawn to before you actually buy your paints then you can make an educated guess which colour palette is going to be right for you.

The Old Masters

earth colours painting

In Renaissance times, the Old Masters learnt their trade of painting as a craft.

The tradition of the craft had a system of apprenticeship.

Colour mixes were kept secret and passed on from generation to generation, some painters even created their own codes to keep the secret mixes safe.

Working under apprenticeships in individual Ateliers (the French word for “workshop”) was the norm. Artists learnt how to grind their own paints from the natural earth pigments surrounding them. Working from dry pigments, they had to be mixed with oil and then ground into a paste by hand to make paint.

The colour choice was limited and paintings relied on the use of dramatic lighting and tonal value to produce great works. (see: The Importance of contrast in painting)

Working with this limited available palette can teach you a great deal about colour mixing and warm and cool colours. I’ve made a free still life video course that shows you a classical approach to painting using just burnt sienna, ultramarine blue & titanium white.

Masters Palette – Perfect for portraits & understanding the importance of tone.

When the Old Masters were mixing colours, the pigments came from the earth, literally ground up rocks and minerals – hence the muted palette being called the earth colours.

When painting portraits, they couldn’t just go out to buy ‘flesh tint’ they looked, observed and mixed it.

Burnt umber, raw umber, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, red ochre, these are the sorts of colours they would have been using.


Rembrandt, Portrait of Johannes Wtenbogaert, 1557-1644, Oil on canvas

If you want to try and recreate an Old Master-style painting, using the pigments they used, gives you an immediate head start. In my article on ‘How to choose a basic portrait palette’ I use a muted collection of colours.

Skin tones are muted, so start with a muted colour. It seems obvious right? But when you’re painting the urge to try and ‘fix it’ by adding an extra colour is huge.

Don’t feel like it’s only you, I still do it now after 20 years, even though I should know better!

Pro tip: You can achieve the same hues with modern pigments (see videos How to match flesh tones) but it makes it a bit harder. It’s a harder visual jump for your eyes to make a muted skin tone using bright cadmium yellow rather than using a muted yellow ochre.

How to choose a Rembrandt Palette

Masters – If you want a muted classical feel to your paintings this is the best step forward.

A modern version of Rembrandt’s palette should include:

  • Titanium white (a safer alternative to lead white)
  • Naples yellow
  • Yellow ochre
  • Burnt sienna
  • Burnt umber
  • Raw umber
  • Green umber (for landscapes)
  • Venetian red/Vermillion
  • Ivory black

Rembrandt was known for his complex mixtures rather than raw colour (our equivalent of ‘straight’ from the tube) and used a mix of solid painting and glazing to add a variety of hues.

 Monet & the Impressionists

primary colours oil paint

The Industrial revolution was key in the creation of the Impressionist’s painting movement.

Oil paints became readily available so there was a shift from painting as a craft, to painting as art. But with this shift, there was an inevitable gap in technique and colour theory.

Let me introduce you to the artists’ Colourman.

The ‘colourman’ mixed paint and sold it direct to the artist. Some of the colourmen were integral to the rise of Impressionism, with Julien Tanguy nicknamed Pere Tanguy (Father Tanguy) as a nod to his support of the artists. He often used to take an odd Cezanne or Van Gogh as payment for his paints.

Artists during this period had more freedom and often didn’t have as intense ‘hands-on’ training in colour mixing. There was also a huge increase in paint colours that were readily available.

Paint mills that could mechanically grind the pigment allowed for the mass production of artists’ colours. Matched with an ever-increasing range of man-made colours being developed, the colourman went from a small-scale specialized craft to larger companies looking for a market share.

Just like a director has a cinematographer, an artist needed a good colourman to produce the specific colours he was after. They became an indispensable part of the process.

Pro tip: There is a fantastic shop in London called L Cornelissen & Sonthey have been colourmen since 1855 and it is an Aladdin’s cave of pigments and potions.

Monet’s Palette – Perfect for landscapes, pastels palettes and impressionist techniques.

“The point is to know how to use the colors, the choice of which is, when all’s said and done, a matter of habit. Anyway, I use flake white, cadmium yellow, vermilion, deep madder, cobalt blue, emerald green, and that’s all.”
Claude Monet, 1905 

Claude Monet, Vetheuil, 1879, Oil on canvas

During the Industrial Revolution, there was a breakthrough in colours. Man-made chemically produced paints that had a stronger colour than previously available pigments. This resulted in a huge rise in the use of colours in shadows and an abandonment of black in the painter’s box. Velázquez wouldn’t have dreamed of painting without a black (in fact he used two) but the new era brought new techniques and new myths about black to the art room.

These produced more powerful and permanent colours (Reynolds would have approved as many of his portraits are greyer than when first painted because the pigment he used, faded!)

How to choose a Monet style Palette

Monet – If you want to capture an impressionistic feel to your paintings this creates a lively palette.

  • Lead white (modern equivalent = titanium white)
  • Chrome yellow (modern equivalent = cadmium yellow light)
  • Cadmium yellow
  • Viridian green
  • Emerald green
  • French ultramarine
  • Cobalt blue
  • Madder red (modern equivalent = alizarin crimson)
  • Vermilion


golden heavy body paints

In the 20th Century with new methods of production, the invention of Acrylics and modern chemistry, cleaner more transparent colours could be produced.

These new pigments have an excellent film clarity and a wide colour range. Often they can have a powerful tinting strength which can easily lead to an unbalanced and inharmonious colour arrangement if not treated with care.

The pigments names are often hard to pronounce, like Quinacridone red and Anthraquinone Blue but they provide mixtures of remarkably clean, intense colour blends that retain their brilliance even in the thinnest wash or glaze.

It was during this period that the art scene exploded with Pop art and American expressionism that utilized bright, clean solid blocks of colour.

These new modern colours enabled the artists to express their reaction to the rise in mass consumerist culture and echoed the colours being used in advertising and the mass media.

David Hockney, Three Chairs with a Section of a Picasso Mural1970, Acrylic on canvas

Where Monet and his contemporaries were embracing the natural world and painting Plein air, (a French expression which means “in the open air”) Warhol called his studio ‘The Factory’ reflecting these times.

A Modern Palette – Perfect for vivid mixes, contemporary pieces and experimental techniques.

These can vary depending on how opaque or transparent you want your colours to be. The ones below are all transparent which makes them perfect for glazing and colours like phthalo blue (green shade) are a high tinter, so when mixed with titanium white produce a really vivid blue with a kick!

Check out this video to see the difference between phthalo blue and ultramarine blue.

How to choose a Modern style Palette

Modern – Like bright vivid colours? You’re going to need a modern palette.

  • Hansa Yellow Light
  • Hansa Yellow Medium
  • Naphthol Red Light
  • Quinacridone Magenta
  • Anthraquinone Blue
  • Phthalo Blue (Green Shade)
  • Phthalo Green (Blue Shade)
  • Titanium White
So choosing an effective paint palette is a personal choice.
For absolute beginners, I recommend a limited palette of the following 5 colours.
  • Titanium white
  • Cadmium yellow light
  • Permanent alizarin crimson
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Burnt umber

They are mostly from the Master’s palette and have a good level of opacity and colour range without being too overwhelming!

However, if you want your paintings to go in a particular direction then use the guide above to create your own perfect box set.

This Post Has 78 Comments

  1. Itay Magen

    Hi Will, another great post!

    I am curious about mixing two secondary colors – is it a good option
    for getting muted primary colors ? – like mixing orange with green to get a muted yellow.
    I thought this may broaden the range of muted colors I use, but didn’t try that.

    What do you think ?

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Itay,
      If you try to mix two secondary colours to get a muted primary colour the results will dissapointing and very muted indeed, you will cancel the colours out and make a dull brown.

      To make a muted yellow, just add a bit of the complementary colour ( the opposite colour on the colour wheel) so in this instance to get a muted yellow add a tiny amount of purple.

      You can mix a purple from the two primaries blue and red, and then use this mixture to tone down the yellow.


      1. Itay Magen

        Thanks Will, I really enjoy reading your detailed posts with your attitude to painting.

  2. Joy

    Hi Will,

    Great post, what a nice overview, real good and useful information. Thank you!

    Just like you said, when I took up painting I jumped to buy my starter set before thinking about what to paint and what colors I would need. Like every beginner, I figured that with the starter box I would have most basic colors at hand when I needed them. Most of the tubes I didn’t yet open, as soon after that I discovered your site and went to the right path. I have been using Burnt and Raw Sienna, Burnt and Raw Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Titanium White. That’s all. If I come to need anything else for a small detail (like that lemmon) I take it from the starter box.

    So, by now I’m still busy learning all I can get out of this palette, but just as a curiosity (for future use, when I’m ready for that), I would like to ask you what type of palette do you think Edward Hopper used to paint his sunlight ?

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Joy,

      Thanks for your kind words, so pleased the limited palette has been helping your painting.

      Hopper didn’t seem to talk much about the exact pigments he used apart from the fact he used predominently Winsor & Newton oil paints. In an interview in commented on his painting process:

      ‘Well, I have a very simple method of painting. It’s to paint directly on the canvas without any funny business, as it were, and I use almost pure turpentine to start with, adding oil as I go along until the medium becomes pure oil. I use as little oil as I can possibly help, and that’s my method. It’s very simple.’

      And when asked about pigments he normally used he replied:

      EDWARD HOPPER: Well, the maker is Winsor and Newton. I can’t remember all the colors exactly. There are about twelve or thirteen of them.

      Not exactly helpful.

      But from my guess to recreate the sunlight in Hopper’s paintings you could mix it with the cadmium yellow light, alizarin crimson and titanium white. But for a more direct approach a Naples yellow would be perfect. Winsor & Newton produce a Naples Yellow deep, Naples Yellow and Naples yellow light, these could all be used depending on which particular painting you are looking at.


      P.S you can read the transcript of the Hopper interview here

  3. Kat

    What an awesome post! Thanks!!!

  4. Tania

    Hi Will,
    I started out a couple of years ago and bought more than the primaries, I bought a paint called ‘Australian sky blue’ because I thought that’s what I needed and another – Australian southern ocean, I even bought a selection of greens, now after a year of professional tuition, I paint with a limited palette and haven’t touched any tube greens or those others. I couldn’t be happier.

    Your article for me was a great read as it took me through my journey so far and helped me see that I have actually learnt more than I realized. I particularly liked how you broke the article down into the old master’s palette, the impressionist’s (my personal favorite) and a modern palette. Great information, something to refer back to when I get lost in the moment! I regularly read your past and current posts, thanks for your generosity and sharing your wealth of knowledge with everyone, Tania.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Tania,

      What a lovely comment, yes the journey of discovering which palette suits you best really is a personal one. Good to here that mixing your own greens have been helpful in your progress as an artist.

      Thanks again,


  5. Steve

    Hi Will,
    Very informative article. Thanks so much!

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Steve,

      Nice to hear from you, thanks for the comment. The history of paint colours really can make a difference when thinking about which colour is right for the job.


  6. Zuha A.

    Hello Will,
    I am kind of new to buying paint supplies as I have always done stuff at school and am ready to do stuff on my own. and so I wanted to know if the colors I chose are good or if Ishould go and exchange them for something better.

    By the way these are student quality paints. So they are pretty cheap and not super fancy.
    Phthalo Blue
    Ivory Black
    Burnt Umber
    Titanium White
    Deep Red
    Brilliant Yellow
    I was really overwhelmed so I just chose the neutrals and did not really buy anything that I could mix since I am still practicing.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Zuha,

      I think you’ve managed to choose a pretty good palette. You’ll be able to mix a wide range of colours aswell as easily mute specific mixes down.

      Just be careful when mixing green with the phthalo blue and yellow.
      It can easily go very acidic (in colour).

      But mixing the Ivory black and Brilliant yellow with make a lovely muted green. I’ve got a ‘mixing green’ video on my youtube channel that demonstrates the differences in greens you might be interested in.


  7. Yuval

    Hi Will,

    Great post very interesting and useful.

    I wonder why Monet had to include 2 kinds of green in his pallete, couldn’t he just mix that?


    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Yuval,

      Glad you enjoyed the article, Monet’s choice of green gave him a dark blue green with the Viridian and a brighter green with the emerald. When he was painting ‘plein air’ speed was of the essence so a premixed green helped him paint quicker before the light changed. He often painted on numerous canvases at the same time to keep a freshness in his work as the light in the scene infront of him changed.


      1. Yuval

        Thank you Will,

        As far as I understand the Emerald green ceased to be available since it was highly toxic. What would be a close substitute?

        The Viridian hue appears to be listed under “Historical heavy body acrylics” on Golden’s web site but I’m not sure if it’s still available. They say on another page “Hydrated Chromium Hydroxide is a difficult pigment to formulate in acrylic emulsions, and although GOLDEN has made many attempts to do so, it appears unlikely that true Viridian will remain part of our palette”.


        1. Will Kemp

          Hi Yuval,

          The very first “Genuine Emerald green” is no longer produced but Winsor Emerald (artist quality) or Emerald Green (student grade) from Winsor & Newton will be perfect.

          Monet’s palette would have been with oil colours, and Viridian is widely available in oils.

          I’m not sure if Golden are still producing Viridian Green (hue). The (hue) denotes that the paint is a mix of different pigments to try and recreate a single pigment – which, with oil paint is ‘hydrated chromium oxide’


          1. Yuval

            Hi Will,

            Thanks for your answer.
            I just saw Golden have Open Chromium Oxide Green. I use Golden’s paint for the most – the regular not the open. Is there any reason not to use the open acrylics (unless I want the fast dry characteristic for a specific use) or maybe to mix in between a painting?


          2. Will Kemp

            Oh good one Yuval,

            I find the open acrylics to be are slightly less opaque than the standard golden heavy body. They don’t have as much coverage. I’ll be adding an article to the site about the differences between the two in the next couple of weeks.



  8. Diana Lanni

    I haven’t painted in years and want to put together a good Impressionist style palette cheaply (with as few different tubes) as possible.
    I’ve watched all the videos and am confused still.
    My favorite colors are emerald ( bottle? ) and teal greens, and purples.

    It seems that I should buy white, cad yellow light, alizarin crimson perm and ultramarine. Do I also need Phthalo blue and cobalt? If I need a tube purple, how do dioxizine and cobalt violet compare?
    Realism and natural colors aren’t important to me. Do I still need a yellow ochre or a burnt umber? Thanks for your generosity with great info. You have inspired me to return to something I’ve always loved!

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Diana,

      Phthalo blue will allow you to mix bright turquoise and vivid greens, so if your favourite colours are emerald and teal greens this will be essential.

      Have a look at this video to see the difference between phthalo blue & ultramarine blue. Cobalt blue isn’t essential. You don’t need yellow ochre or burnt umber if you want a bright palette. Cobalt violet is slightly pinker than Dioxizine purple.

      Hope this helps,

  9. carol

    Wow! Will, yet again, I have a question ~ check out your site ~
    et voila! The answer :)
    Huge thanks for this article, its very very useful!… and just what I needed right now!
    I was feeling a bit overwhelmed about the whole colour thing, ~ the more I read, the less I realised I knew…. I was veering towards not picking up my paint brush and hiding behind my pencil! ~ but then I checked out your article and it sets it out so clearly! (with very useful links).
    Please leave it available forever as I think I will be constantly referring to it!

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re welcome Carol, moving from pencil to paint can be a bit daunting at first, maybe try the 2 colour jug demo, you’ll learn key principles needed when learning how to paint.



  10. Elvira

    Hi Will
    Thanks very much for your lessons and your bright and enthusiastic way of teaching. I really appreciate all your teachings. Thank you for making it simple and fun and informative :)

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re welcome Elvira, really pleased you’re finding the tutorials helpful and the tutorials simple to follow.

      Thanks again,


  11. Teddy

    Please tell us how to put together the Old Masters’ landscape pallete. When we talk about old masters we mainly talk about portraitures, but I’m very interested in being able to produce the background landscapes of old. Thank you in advance Will.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Freddy,

      Thanks for the request on an Old Masters landscape palette. Many of the landscape paintings of old can be produced using a similar palette to portraits.

      To give you a brief idea of Vermeer’s palette here’s an extract from a National Gallery article:

      Vermeer was a master of colouristic effects, but like most 17th-century Dutch painters he worked with a surprisingly limited palette. In these four paintings Vermeer used ultramarine – by far the most expensive pigment available to artists – to the exclusion of all other blue pigments. The only green is green earth, although a range of red pigments was employed: vermilion; red lake and red earth. Yellows identified are lead-tin yellow, yellow earth and a yellow lake pigment. The palette also includes bone black, charcoal black and lead white.

      So with modern day equivalents as ultramarine blue, green umber, red iron oxide or light red, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, bone black, burnt umber and titanium white and you can produce some lovely paintings.

      Hope this helps,


  12. Leslie

    Hi Will –
    I downloaded your Simple Colour Mixing Course. I’ve been learning a lot, you’re a great teacher, and a pleasure to listen to!

    You’ve described a basic palette, as well as a Rembrandt, Impressionist, and Modern. However, I’m interested in trying to paint abstracts. Can you recommend a palette for Abstract?

    I know that abstract could probably be in just about any color scheme… I’m sending a link to show you an idea of how I’d like to paint.

    I like the red-orange rusts, variety of blues, and light earth tones.


    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Leslie,

      Nice to hear from you, so pleased you’ve enjoyed the Simple Colour Mixing course, when designing a abstract palette, exactly the same principles apply. It just depends on the range of colours/style of abstract painting you will be producing.

      So the light earth tones abstracts you would use a Rembrandt style palette, for the blues a impressionist style palette, and the brighter res-oranges a more modern palette.

      For Erin’s colours I would go for a Quinacridone Red or Magenta to achieve the brighter, more purple reds. A Phthalo blue (Green shade), to achieve some of the more turquoise colours, and a Cadmium orange and Burnt sienna for the rust colours.

      Hope this helps,


  13. Sue Callahan

    Will, you often suggest cadmium yellow light in your suggested palettes. I have a huge tube of cadmium yellow medium. Can’t I just add white to get a cadmium yellow light? Thanks for all you help. I am new to painting and new to your art school. Loving both!

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Sue, the cadmium yellow medium will be pretty good for most paintings, unless you’re painting the most lemon lemon!

      If you add white to any colour it cools it, so although the cadmium yellow medium will be brighter in value, you will loose some of the warmth of the yellow colour, so will never be able to achieve the same level of vibrancy and saturation in a lighter tone of yellow, than by using a cadmium yellow light.

      Hope this makes sense,


  14. abdul j.

    Interesting. I’d never considered the colour pallettes used in different periods to be reflective of the ‘technology’ avilable to them then, for some reason. Seems a bit obvious now lol.

    1. Will Kemp

      pleased you enjoyed the article Abdul,


  15. Linda Jo

    Can I mix student grade paints with artist grade paints? Or would I be affecting color too much?


    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Linda, yes you can intermix student grade paints with artist grade paints, you might notice a slight difference in colour shift, but structurally its absolutely fine.



  16. Tina Summers

    Hi Will,

    I wish I’d thought about looking at your website before I went shopping for my palette!!! Now I’m not sure if what I bought is okay. They are student quality acrylics (Chromacryl) because I’m a beginner and it suits my budget :)
    Warm Yellow
    Cool Yellow (Process Yellow)
    Warm Red
    Cool Red
    Warm Blue
    Cool Blue (Process Blue)
    Plus I have a basic white and black but a different brand.

    I have a couple of questions:
    Does the ‘warm’/’cool’ colour have to do with the bias e.g. the warm red has a yellow bias and the cool red has a blue bias???

    What does the ‘process’ mean and will it affect the mixing?

    Plus, you’ve mentioned a few times (and I’ve heard others talk about on you tube) Ultramarine Blue – how would I mix that with the colours I’ve got… I don’t even know what Ultramarine looks like! :) Is it a yellow bias?

    Thanks Will, I love the website!


    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Tina,

      Does the ‘warm’/’cool’ colour have to do with the bias e.g. the warm red has a yellow bias and the cool red has a blue bias???

      Yes that’s right.

      What does the ‘process’ mean and will it affect the mixing?
      It comes from the printing industry using process colours, most process colours are man-made so have a more translucent quality. For example, a process yellow won’t be as opaque as a cadmium yellow.

      Ultramarine Blue – how would I mix that with the colours I’ve got… I don’t even know what Ultramarine looks like! :) Is it a yellow bias?

      Ultramarine blue will be the warm blue you have in your set, it has a red bias.

      Hope this helps,



  17. Tasnim

    Hi Will,

    I stumbled across this website a few days ago and have been watching plenty of your videos on acrylic paintings and colours. They have been so insightful and I’ve learnt more about painting now than I did back during my gcse art lessons at school. I feel inspired again and can’t wait to get back into it. I have canvas, boards and brushes ready, I’m just struggling with paint. I’m hoping you can help.

    Do you think this Winsor & Newton Galeria set ( is good for a beginner?

    Originally I was going to start off with just
    •Titanium White
    •Burnt Umber
    •Yellow Ochre (and possibly cad yellow light), and
    • Alizarin Crimson Permanent
    (And Ultramarine Blue which I already have)

    – but I’m wondering if that set will be okay as a starter? My concerns are:
    •a couple of them say “hue” – will that make a great difference?
    •Is there much difference between raw umber and burnt umber when using it to create a coloured ground? Which do you prefer?
    •The crimson and red in the set don’t say permanent and I recall you talking about fugitive colours, so even though the tube says “permanence:A” I’m guessing it’s not the same thing?

    All in all, do you think that this set is okay to begin with and to try out the extra colours it contains, or should I stick to the basic list I originally thought of?

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Tasmin,

      Pleased you’re enjoying the tutorials, to answer your questions:

      but I’m wondering if that set will be okay as a starter? My concerns are:
      •a couple of them say “hue” – will that make a great difference?

      Not massively, the student grade colours in general just won’t have the same opacity or coverage as an artist quality acrylic paint

      •Is there much difference between raw umber and burnt umber when using it to create a coloured ground? Which do you prefer?

      Have a look at the start of the Cherry tutorial and you can see the difference between the two when mixed with white. I tend to favour burnt umber if you’re after a warm undertone and a raw umber if you’re after a slightly cooler undertone.

      •The crimson and red in the set don’t say permanent and I recall you talking about fugitive colours, so even though the tube says “permanence:A” I’m guessing it’s not the same thing?

      Yes that’s right, the ‘Permanent Alizarin Crimson’ is a different pigment with a bit more punch in the magenta range.

      All in all, do you think that this set is okay to begin with and to try out the extra colours it contains, or should I stick to the basic list I originally thought of?

      It’s a good range of colours to start with, I would add an artist quality titanium white as this will help the most with the opacity.

      Hope this helps,


      1. Tasnim

        Hi Will,

        Thank you so much for your response, it has really helped and I have a much clearer idea on what I need to get now. I’ll definitely opt for the artists quality paints too.

        Thanks again,

  18. Julia

    Hi Will,

    Thanks for this post, it’s really helpful!
    I really like Takato Yamamoto’s color choices in his paintings and I was wondering what colors would you recommend to reproduce his color scheme?

    Thanks in advance,

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Julia, a Ivory Black, Burnt umber, Cadmium Red, a touch of Naples yellow & Titanium white will get you very close.

  19. Valeriya

    Hi Will,
    I find your articles very helpful and inspiring! Thanks a lot! Do you have a website with more of your works? I really like the few ones I saw especially the colours you use for water.
    I used to paint with oils or watercolor but a couple of weeks ago i stumbled in acrylic seascapes of John Horsewell and really liked them. I would be very grateful If you could tell what color palette he uses for his sea landscapes in blue and how do you think should I use retarder or any other tools?
    Thanks again,

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Valeriya, pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons. I don’t currently have an online portfolio site of other works, for John Horsewell’s palette it’s hard to give you a definitive guide, but a Naples yellow and a Cobalt blue would be a great start for some of his seascapes.


  20. Ting Cheung

    Just getting back into painting after a seven year break… (!) Just wanted to say thanks for all the useful tips. Great website :)


    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks for your kind comments Ting, so pleased you’re finding the lessons helpful.


  21. rod

    hello will, i’m learning so much from your website.I’d like to try painting and i’m looking to buy my first colors so that led me here. However I couldn’t find any cadmium yellow light in any of the online stores I’ve visited so far. Does it come in other names in other brands? Do you have an effective substitute if I can’t find it?

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Rod, you can try looking for a ‘Hansa Yellow Opaque’ or sometimes it can be called ‘Cadmium Yellow Pale’

      Hope this helps,

  22. Candace

    Hi’. I am an absolute beginner, just about to purchases first palette, and your writing here has been a tremendous help, so thank you. I chose the modern pallet and going to start with gelli prints,

    1. Will Kemp

      Good one Candace, pleased it helped.

  23. Peter

    I know flake white is usually used for oil painting, but I like it because I find sometimes titanium white is a bit harsh. Would it work to make flake white by mixing in a certain amount of another colour, like a tiny bit of yellow, or would that have ramifications if you wanted to add white to blue or purple, if you put on a thin glaze of home made flake white, for example?

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Peter, yes adding a tiny touch of Naples yellow will produce a very pleasing white, the effects when mixing other colours will be minimal due to the small amount needed to take down the intensity of the pure Titanium white.

  24. Neil

    Just getting started in painting, and chose acrylics because they can be used in so many different ways. Really enjoying learning from your videos. I have been trying to figure out if you are mixing your palettes on paper with a hole in it (why) or is that some sort of plastic tray you wash clean?
    Thanks so much for your fun way of teaching,

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Neil, pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons, the palette I work on is called a ‘tear-off palette’. The palette is usually held in your hand and the hole is for your thumb to go through, easy sheet is disposable after the painting.


  25. Carl John Gemarino

    Hi Will!

    Lately, I’ve been watching your tutorials on YouTube on how to paint using acrylics. The reason is that our we have to make a painting for our final examination in school. And so I watched your tutorials and found it to be very interesting and so I decided to paint using acrylics. The problem is that I haven’t found stores in our city that sells acrylics. I lost hope. With the exams getting nearer, I’ve eventually decided to use watercolors. And so the exam passed, I’ve successfully painted a piece using watercolors, but still I wanted to try acrylics. And so I searched again on stores and found an acrylics set, with eight colors, 290 PHP (About 7 USD) but each tube is just 12mL. I wondered how much space will it cover? I know it depends on the usage of each color, but depending on your experience, I want to know your answer.


    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Carl, with the 12ml paint tubes you’ll be able to paint a few smallish paintings (about 8x 10 inch) depending on the thickness of the paint. White is the colour you’ll use the most so if you can find a bigger white the 12mls will work fine for your exam. Hope the tutorials help.


  26. Xue

    Will, your tutorials / articles are super helpful! As someone new starting on acrylics, what surface would you recommend working on? For watercolors, I have a little sketchbook so I can track my progress. For acrylics, canvas feels a little too ‘wasteful’ for the type of practice pieces I’m still doing. And I guess coming from watercolors, watercolor paper is still too ‘extravagant’ for me! Would you recommend using a sketchbook? How did you start practising?

  27. Marilyn

    Thank you so much for this article – indeed all of the material here is incredible. I’ve always wanted to paint but dabbled here and there, mostly in folk art and crafts. Your website is enabling me to paint “real” art for the first time, something I didn’t think I could do. Huge thanks.

    1. Will Kemp

      Great to hear it Marilyn, really pleased you’ve been enjoying putting the techniques into practice in your own work.

  28. Carol

    Hi Will,

    I’m so glad I found your site…I am a newbie and am trying my first painting using acrylics on plywood..massive in size, because I don’t know what I’m doing! lol

    I’ve gessoed in white, penciled out my plan, and have started painting. Problem is the brush strokes show a lot (as in streaky), the paint dries flat & really quickly and there are some large areas that I had wanted to have kind of softly blended & semi transparent. Could you offer me any guidance? Hope it’s not a bother. Ta.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Carol, Nice to hear from you and pleased you’ve been enjoying the website, for large scale pieces it can be harder to blend acrylics due to the fast drying nature of the paint, you can use a glazing medium mixed with the paint to slightly increase the working time, but it won’t give you the same working time as with oils (which can be hours or days depending on the pigment). You might find this article of interest


  29. Dina Godinez

    I would like to attempt to paint the Golden Gate Bridge on canvas. If it’s done well enough, I would like to hang it at home. I am not sure what type of paints to paint with as a starter and what color pallete.

    Would you be able to guide me on this?

    Thank you, Dina Godinez

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Dina, acrylics would work well, you could use a palette of white, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue and a cadmium red to create a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

  30. Tanya Du Preez

    Hello Will
    I have just found your website and have signed up. I am keen to learn more about painting seascapes and fisherman cottages etc. I have looked through your courses offered. Do you have any other lessons on how to paint waves, beaches, cottages and boats? And do you only do on line courses or do you have a studio where we could take actual lessons in a classroom?


  31. Jan Davies

    Hi Will I’ve just subscribed to your art classes. I’ve started to learn watercolours over 2 years ago. I have been to a summer school art course for 4 days on Acrylics and I am hooked. I went down the road of buying every brush and colour pallette with my watercolour classes so curbing my enthusiasm I have watched your videos on Y-tube. and I am very impressed with your techniques and very straight forward advice. You make it look so easy.
    Can you recommend a range of brushes , especially the sizes as sometimes I work on large boards. Only cheap ones at the moment!
    I have a few synthetic brushes, Flats and Rounds but no Filberts. What sizes could you recommend for a beginner. I just started to use Acrylic beginners paints and I only have 5 colours as you suggested so that was a lucky guess. I am excited by Acrylics , I have used them in mixed media as I love abstract techniques.
    Thank you for all your encouragement Will, your enthusiasm will encourage would be artists like myself to go for it. I never had the chance to go to art school so I feel this is going to be an exciting journey.
    Thank you Jan

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Jan, nice to hear from you and so pleased you’ve been enjoying the video lessons. I don’t currently have a specific beginners list for brushes as I tend to vary brushes depending on the size and nature of the subject (I list all the materials under each lesson demo on the blog) I like a size 6 filbert shape brush from Isabey Isacryl which you could still work a fair size with, Rosemary & Co in the UK also make some lovely brushes.
      Hope this helps,


  32. Bob

    I was starting to get frustrated until your last comment for absolute beginners. Thanks

    1. Will Kemp

      My pleasure Bob, hope you found it of help.

  33. Kathy

    Hi Will, I turned 70 last october, have always considered myself a fiber artist-I wanted to try something totally new and out of my comfort zone-painting with acrylics-glad I found you with all of your helpful tutorials thank you

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Kathy, so pleased you’ve been finding the lessons helpful in your new journey with acrylics!

  34. Susan

    Hi Will, I just purchased your beginners acrylic course and can’t wait to get started. I looked at the material’s list provided and was wondering if you could advise on any alternatives for some of the more unsafe pigment’s mentioned in the list such as ‘Cadmium Yellow Light’ by Golden.

    I’m keen to avoid Cadmium colours and maybe even the Phthalo Blue due to the possible inhalation of dust. Could I perhaps use ‘Opaque Hansa Yellow’ by Golden instead of the Cadmium Yellow Light? Is there a known safer alliterative to the Phthalo Blue?

    Many thanks in Advance.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Susan, Bismuth Yellow is a good alternative for Cadmiums, it has nice opacity and is the closest I’ve found to Cadmium. In terms of dust inhalation, that would only happen if you where sanding the surface of the paint.

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