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The Painter’s Palette

How the painter’s palette is organized can make a difference in efficiency for the decorative painter.  Learn about common tonalities and organizing your palette for efficient decorative painting from Pierre Finkelstein of Pierre Finkelstein Institute of Decorative Painting below



There are many books on the subject of color in general.  So, keep in mind, this palette of colors is for the decorative painter.  Pierre always uses the abbreviations for his colors when he writes a recipe.  The color abbreviations are listed below.

NON-COLORS: Classified as “non-colors” that are not used to mix a hue, but to change the intensity and opacity (typically the last step of mixing).

  • W – Titanium White / Zinc White
  • B – Carbon Black / Lamp Black
  • TB – Titan Buff (has a slight earth tone in off-white)

EARTH COLORS: These colors actually come from the earth.

  • YO – Yellow Ochre / Yellow Oxide
  • RO – Red Ochre / Red Oxide
  • RS & BS – Raw Sienna / Burnt Sienna
  • RU & BU – Raw Umber / Burnt Umber
  • VDB – Van Dyke Brown / Cassel Earth

WARM COLORS: Generally yellow, orange,  red, and purple — although some tones are cool.

  • HY- Hansa Yellow / Lemon Yellow
  • NY – Naples Yellow
  • NA – Nickel Azo Yellow Gold (transparent and greenish)
  • DY – Diarylide Yellow / Cadmium Yellow
  • O – Orange / Cadmium Orange 
  • PR – Pyrolle Red / Cadmium Red / Napthol Red
  • AC – Alizarin Crimson / Carmine Lake / Crimson Lake / Magenta
  • TRIO – Transparent Red Iron Oxide (transparent warm red)
  • P – Dioxazine Purple / Violet (cool purple)

COOL COLORS: Generally blue and green — although some tones are cool.

  • PB- Prussian Blue
  • UB – Ultramarine Blue
  • PhB – Phthalo Blue 
  • CB – Cerulean Blue (warm)
  • CT – Colbalt Teal (warm)
  • PhG – Phthalo Green
  • G – Permanent Green (medium green)
  • GG – Green Gold (transparent yellow-green)
  • COX – Chromium Oxide (warm)
  • JG – Jenkins Green
  • PG – Paynes Gray


How the painter’s palette is organized can make a difference in efficiency for the decorative painter.  Use a consistent arrangement to organize the colors on your palette:  Place the white in the upper left-hand corner, then align warm colors in a row to its right, and cool colors in a column below it.  Keep a palette cup filled with glaze by the thumb hole. Of course, if you’re a lefty, you’d flip this organization to suit you.

Organizing Your Palette


Pierre Finkelstein - Breche marble palette
Ornament Palette
Mini palette for adding fissures for Green Campan marble
Oil woodgrain palette for mahogany
Pierre and the power of the palette!