I remember reading about a very limited palette of colors that apprentice painters would use in the 16th century ishly. Apparently, it was made of readily available, cheap pigments, which is why an apprentice would use it. However, lots of color was possible by intelligent mixing. I can't think of its name and now any googling turns up nothing.

  • 1
    If you were just asking about what colors might be in that palette, or how to replicate your own for everyday use, this would be topical. However, art history is not a topic that we accept questions on.
    – Erica
    Jun 1, 2019 at 14:44
  • Yes I'm trying to create that palette for my own use Jun 1, 2019 at 21:12

1 Answer 1


Do you remember if it was referring to a specific technique (such as oil painting) or pigments in general?

It could be the Velázquez palette*. This is a limited palette consisting of a blue, an ochre and a yellow pigment (with optional black) - for example ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and yellow sienna. With these pigments it's possible to mix a large number of hues (browns, greens, yellows, blues), enough for example to paint naturally looking landscapes. The lack of bright reds might be a limitation for some subjects, but I'd say you could made do if necessary.

I don't know whether these pigments were sold in sets, but at least both siennas should be really cheap, as it's basically a fancy clay.

The only other named palette I associate with apprentices would be Grisaille, which is a grey/sepia monochrome that was used for value studies and underpainting.

*The linked page is sort of broken; Handprint still uses frames so it's not possible to link to the page properly. Here's the whole palette page with sidebar.

  • It was oil painting specifically, yes. I don't think it was specifically the Valzquez palette, but that certainly has limited colors and would be worth exploring May 29, 2019 at 13:23
  • Can you provide more info than a link? What is the Velazquez pallet?
    – rebusB
    May 30, 2019 at 1:08
  • @rebusB thanks for the prompt, I expanded the answer a little.
    – corvidism
    May 30, 2019 at 10:40
  • @MichaelStachowsky I did some more research and can't find anything. Do you remember what context have you heard/read it in? 16th century would still be the heyday of studio painting, where apprentices would work on the same pieces as the masters, so having a named palette of pigments for them seems odd to me. Not impossible though! Or it could be a art historian label instead of contemporary one...
    – corvidism
    May 30, 2019 at 10:58
  • I only remember that it was composed of Earth tones, black, and a white. Perhaps you are correct though and a contemporary historian just named a common set of colors... May 30, 2019 at 11:24

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