Irrespective of your paint of choice, if you don't understand colour your painting will always look like that of an amateur.  You cannot squeeze paint from a tube and expect it to harmonize with the real thing - you need to know what to do with it.  Whether darker, lighter or neutralized, you need to know how to obtain these mixes and tints of colours by adding the correct colours together.  Knowing how to mix brown or beige won't help you here, you need to be able to interpret it as a whole.

I have a simplified system with a limited palette of around 8 colours to do this with.

Once again, OBSERVATION is key.  You will look with new enthusiasm at everything around you as you discover their inherit combinations.

This is what I teach you first, irrespective paint or preference or knowledge.

COLOUR OBSERVATION - usually 3 lessons

Basics and Practice


           (after colour theory)

There are two options you can choose from.  One is to learn all the techniques oil presents to you - like under-painting, direct painting (alla-prima), texture painting (impasto and palette knife), wet-on-wet painting, and glazing, Or you may want to proceed directly in your preferred subject.  Stills, landscapes, portraits, figures, *abstract (with required studies from you) and all other subject matter can be done.

You need to be able to draw on your canvas without help.  If you cant scale and draw, please consider lessons 1 - 7 of my drawing course.

Please note that oils are the easiest paint medium, followed by acrylics.  Water colour paint has the most complex nature of the three.


Selecting your subject

Your palette

Interpreting your composition

Discussion of style and requirements, steps and process

Mixing the colours you need

Step-by-step instruction and demos


  • Flat palette / disposable palette
  • Jam jar x 2
  • Paper towel or toilet paper 
  • Rags - around 20 x 20 cm square, old T-Shirt material ideal
  • Turpentine (I use odourless artists turpentine) and refined linseed oil for oils and water for acrylics for cleaning and undercoating
  • Brushes - your most important tool.  Use good quality flat or bright bristle brushes, no soft synthetic brushes please, #1,2,4,6,8,10.  Brushes don't last long - accept this.
  • Palette knife, diamond shape # 5 or 6
  • Masking tape
  • Paints - don't go for cheap small tube sets.  Choose larger (economical) good quality student range paints like Daler Rowney or better.
  • The minimum colours you can get away with is white, blue, red and yellow
  • My palette as follows: 
  1. Ivory or lamp black
  2. Pthalo green (or viridian, followed by hookers if you cannot find pthalo) - dark blue green
  3. Alizarin crimson - dark violet red
  4. Cadmium red light (or vermilion) - orange red
  5. Yellow ocher earthy yellow
  6. Cadmium yellow - bright yellow
  7. Cerulean blue - exotic blue green
  8. Titanium white
  9. Sometimes I add Rose Madder Quinacridone and Indian Yellow to my palette, but it is not that important for you
  • Canvas pad A4 - about 5 sheets
  • Canvas - primed good quality
  • Gesso if you like very realistic work - to flatten the canvas surface
  • Easel - with an A-Frame you need to stand or you can sit on a bar stool, with a table easel you can sit down.  I prefer to stand.

  • Welled Palette - larger one is better, even a small muffin pan will do
  • 2 x Water containers - 250 ml or larger
  • 1 x Water jug
  • Brushes - Synthetic rounded or sable-like brushes from fine to large, as well as 2 or 3 flat synthetic brushes from 0.5 cm to 3 cm in width
  • A4 Pad (10 pages or more) with good quality 300 gsm or heavier water colour paper.  There are 2 kinds - HOT pressed which is smooth and hard, suitable for realistic work, and COLD pressed paper, that has a textured surface and is suitable for a more grainy effect
  • Masking tape
  • Paint - I prefer pans and tubes.  Tubes are better for washes because you need more quantities which is hard to do with a pan set.  My palette is the same as with oils with the addition of Paynes Grey.  White isn't used - we use the translucency of the paper for the  lights, except for corrections
  • Masking fluid
  • Edge cutter blade