What Acrylic Colors to Buy?

Tosca, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

This is a very practical blog post but let’s start it with my recent artwork, called “Tosca.” It is inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s opera. I went to see the opera last week and it was an experience that I wanted to communicate visually. The drama has always appealed to me and the contrast between the most beautiful sounds and the big emotions, often agony, was unforgettable.

Before the evening at the opera, I had just realized that I need to buy some more acrylic paints. I had run out of almost all the basic colors. I love Golden Heady Body Artist Acrylics, so I went to a local art supply store to get some. I know there are lists of what colors you should buy when buying the basics, but as my selection is a bit different, I thought I might not only share it but also give some general guidelines of what acrylic colors to buy. These can be applied to colored pencils and watercolors as well.

Guidelines that I Follow when Choosing Acrylic Colors

1) Always buy basic white and black. They give contrasts and are great for color mixes.
2) Never underestimate the amount of yellows you need. I use yellows for everything. I love the color itself, and use it a lot for color mixes as well. I often make a mistake of adding too much another color with yellow and then I need to add some more yellow to get the right tone. So I need a lot of yellows!
3) Warm and cold tones of each primary color are usually enough. I don’t buy browns and greens unless I find a specific tone that I fall in love with.
4) Always include some personal favorites. When I open the box where I store the tubes, I want to become happy. Cerulean blue reminds me of the time when I painted icons. I think of the sky when I see it and it makes me feel creative and happy. Whatever the current color trends are, cerulean blue always feels great. When I buy colors, I think about creating as an experience and don’t just focus on what is generally recommended.

Cerulean Blue acrylic paint tube, read more about what acrylic colors to buy!

My Basic Collection of Acrylic Paint Colors

A basic collection of acrylic paints, by Peony and Parakeet

Basic Colors:
1) Titanium White – because it’s basic white
2) Mars Black – because it’s basic black
3) Quinacridone Red – because it is great for mixing pinks and purples
4) Pyrrole Red– because it’s fiery and pure warm red
5) C.P. Cadmium Yellow Primrose – because it’s ideal to get beautiful greens but it is still a strong pigment, not a mix
6) C.P. Cadmium Yellow Medium – because it’s the most beautiful warm yellow I know
7) Primary Cyan – because it’s basic and more affordable than many other blues
8) Ultramarine Blue – because I have used to using it for decades

Extra Colors:
1) Medium Magenta – because I like pinks
2) Hansa Yellow Light – because it is an affordable extra yellow
3) Cerulean Blue Chromium – because it makes me happy
4) Manganese Blue Hue – because I like turquoises

I also have some special effect tubes, for example, gold and silver and some odds and ends. The more I paint, the more I rely on basic pigments and don’t like to spend money buying color mixes in tubes or jars.

A Red Day

Sometimes one color seems to be more appealing than the others. This happened to me last week; it was “red red red” that I thought all morning.

Three red acrylic pigments: magenta, pyrrole and quinacridone

Even if I had the new tubes and all, I started with watercolors and 12-by-12 inch watercolor paper. Playing with water is so liberating!

Painting a background with watercolors

Then I changed watercolors to acrylic paints and turned the music on.

Adding acrylic paint over watercolors

Puccini’s Tosca was playing in the background but as I had not visited the real performance yet. So I put this away to wait for the more detailed insight.

Colored Pencils Make the Details

A couple of days after seeing the opera, I was ready. I continued with colored pencils. They are wonderful art supplies. They are brilliant with watercolors, but they are ok with acrylics too of you create thin and even layers.

Tosca, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Let me be your art teacher: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

Tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to What Acrylic Colors to Buy?

  1. joanne says:

    I always look forward to your posts — they are beautiful — and I always learn something new –looking forward to your next online class —

  2. Mary W says:

    It appears you are painting your thoughts in color, line, and shape. A new look for you but still so very interesting. Love that bottom left corner with the tiny black lines and curved white stripes as if those thoughts are written on the wind. Can’t wait for another new class. I still love your first one – still so much to learn and practice. It will take me a lifetime to exhaust all those possibilities. You are amazing.

    • Päivi says:

      Thanks, Mary! Yes, maybe this is a bit different than what I have done previously! Great to hear that Inspirational Drawing still inspires you.

  3. Molly says:

    Your posts are not only fun but informative for this fledgling, and I love looking at your beautiful results. You seem to know all the right questions to ask and to have all the right answers! thanks so much…

  4. Karen Nowviskiwe says:

    Thanks for the great post. I needed that reminder about black and white — especially the white, which I know I use too sparingly. This will help me in purchasing colored pencils, too. I find I want ALL of them!

  5. Thank you so much for another wonderful post, Paivi. I am going to check my acrylic inventory to see what might be missing-I am ready for your next course! I would like to ask about music to play while creating-I want to explore some opera, as I enjoy them, but wonder which ones to buy for my art time-maybe you have suggestions of opera selections or other music, as well? Thank you.

    • Päivi says:

      I love Puccini so I often listen to Puccini’s La Boheme or collections like Best of Puccini. With opera, the best way is to go to see one and then start listening to it!

  6. Monicca says:

    What a gift, to enjoy music and to paint it. It reminds me of a prompt this week, what makes your heart sing.

  7. Lou Downing says:

    Thanks for the ideas on paint colors. I am new to the mixed-media world, so I always stand and stare at all those paint colors in the craft store. Thanks for your help. Enjoy your posts every time!

  8. Francine says:

    You’ve inspired my artwork, now you are inspiring my music choices! So much to learn from you, Paivi! I loved colored pencils as a child, and now I am revisiting them in a new and delightful way. Thank you so much!

  9. Deb Weiers says:

    What wonderful information Paivi and a wonderful painting to go along with it!! I look forward to your next class!!!

  10. Carrie Lynn says:

    I always look forward to your post. Your art stirs a lot of emotions in me and I am slowly welcoming them. Thank you for sharing this valuable information about acrylic paints Paivi. I am slowly building up my professional grade paints.

  11. Sue Fujii says:

    Good Morning, Paivi….you never disappoint me. This piece is just gorgeous!!! Looking forward to your next online class…it sounds amazing! Hugs

  12. Susie H. says:

    So glad I found you! Love your art and techniques.

    Cheers! Susie