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Oil Painting Crash Course Part 1: The Best Oil Paints For the Apelles Palette




If you're new to this, no need to worry, I've got your back. This is made with beginners in mind. By the end of this series you'll have a solid grasp of the basics and be ready to start making your very own oil paintings.


In this part I'm going to offer some oil paint alternatives for the Apelles palette, including cheap options as well as the ideal option in my view as an experienced painter.


A shelf holding many tubes of oil paint with a variety of colors

You Need a Strategy to Choose Your Oil Paints Whether You're a Beginner or Advanced


There's an infinite amount of colors out there for you to choose from so you can't possibly make a decision without having a plan first.


Step 1: Choose a Palette


I recommend the Apelles palette. It's a simple palette that's going to help you to learn the basics and give you a solid base to work from so you can create any colors that you find in nature.



The apelles palette shown with just the four main colors


What is the Apelles palette?


The Apelles palette consists of only four colors: white, black, yellow, and red. It's simple. That means it's going to be easy to learn color mixing and you're not going to overcomplicate things. So you're going to be able to get a grasp on some of the basics quickly. In addition, it's going to force you to mix and blend colors together in order to achieve a full rainbow of colors. The learning that comes with this is extremely helpful in understanding color theory.


The apelles palette mixed to give a variety of colors including a full rainbow

For A Complete Guide to The Apelles Palette:


How The Apelles Palette Leads to Harmony


Compared to many other palettes the Apelles palette remains more harmonious even if you use a little bit too much of one individual color. The colors are easy to balance out in total. So the overall harmony is much easier to achieve compared to a palette with yellow, red, and blue for example.


Step 2: Determine Your Goals and What You Want to Achieve With The Palette


Rodin's the thinker - a man his hunched over in deep thought

Is This a New Weekend Hobby?


If this is a new found hobby that you might drop in a month, then maybe you should test some cheap paints out first and see if you still like painting after practicing a bit.


oil paint spread out into a small value scale of 5 values

Is Your Primary Goal to Learn The Basics of Oil Painting?


If you are just starting to oil paint for the first time then you don't need expensive colors to practice getting familiar with how the paint mixes, blends, etc. With that said, high quality materials do make an impact on the quality of your paintings and your ability to learn. Higher quality paints and materials make it easier to improve.



So when should you upgrade your palette?


A brush picking up paint on the palette

You Should Use High Quality Paints as Soon As Possible! Here's Why...


Do You Want to Sell Your Paintings?


If you want to sell your paintings then I would definitely recommend using higher quality oil paints. It will not only enhance what your abilities, but it gives you a stronger value proposition for potential collectors too. It literally adds value to your painting!! So any additional costs required to get yourself higher quality materials will be directly connected to your ability to make better paintings and sell them for a higher price.


a young man reaching for the golden cape

The Golden Cape by Odd Nerdrum


Consider Your Long Term Goals


You need to think about your long term painting goals. If you want to make a masterpiece then you should be making the process as easy as possible and using the best quality materials you can buy.



Don't Be Penny Wise and Dollar Foolish


In the long term, the amount that you spend on higher quality materials is incredibly insignificant compared to the value that it provides you in return.



self portrait by Rembrandt as zeuxis smiling

Self Portrait as Zeuxis by Rembrandt




The Difference in Quality Between Oil Paints


oil paint is being squeezed out of tube onto palette

1. Pigment Quality


Pigment quality is a major concern because many of the cheaper paints will change in color in a drastic way. Even once it just starts to dry to the touch it can look different compared to when it was fresh and wet.



comparison shows oil paint fading over time

2. Dry Time


Generally, cheaper paints are 'intentionally' made to dry slower. It's supposedly motivated by this strange idea that beginners need more time to blend paints..? I would assume that is just a way to cover up for their bad quality, because seeking slow dry time doesn't make much sense. Slow dry time is particularly a disadvantage if you're trying to paint like the Old Masters. Think about the flip side, if the paint dries quicker then you can work on your next layer quicker... very simple.



a man lays stranded in a boat in the middle of water

Man in a Boat by Odd Nerdrum



Cheap Oil Paint Suggestions For The Apelles Palette: Click Here To Get The Full List Using My Amazon Affiliate Link



1. Titanium White: Winsor & Newton or Gamblin.


Winsor and newton titanium white oil paint tube



2. Mars Black: Gamblin.


Gamblin mars black oil paint tube


3. Yellow Ochre: Winsor & Newton.


Winsor and newton yellow ochre oil paint tube


4. Alizarin Crimson: Winsor & Newton or Gamblin.


Gamblin alizarin crimson oil paint tube


The Ideal Oil Paints For The Apelles Palette: Click Here To Get The Full List Using My Amazon Affiliate Link


These are the oil paints that I use every day and that I believe provide the highest quality! I've found them to be extremely consistent and reliable for the long term life of my paintings.


1. Titanium White: Sennelier or Old Holland.


Sennelier titanium white oil paint tube



2. Yellow Brown or Yellow Ochre: Old Holland.


Old Holland yellow brown oil paint tube


3. Chinese Red Vermillion: Sennelier.


Sennelier Chinese red vermillion oil paint tube


4. Mars Black: Old Holland.


Old Holland mars black oil paint tube


Thank you for reading! If you found this helpful, I would really appreciate it if you share this blog post with a friend who you think will get value out of it. I'm trying to provide the best resources I can, and word of mouth will help me more than anything to keep growing so that I can improve and offer even more!



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