The Carder Method Palette

I'm not normally a fan of limited palettes. They're useful for pedagogical purposes, and for creating sketches and underpaintings, but I've never cared for their use in finished work; my own full palette has about 70 paints.

As a rule I find it too difficult to get a decent saturation across the spectrum with a small palette; the results often seem to be a series of chromatic grays. The values may be correct, but the chromas are often too low. It yields a certain type of work, and although I have seen beautiful results in the hands of skilled painters, I usually find it lacking something.

A friend recently suggested that I look at the palette advocated by Mark Carder ( as part of his method. It consists of Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Burnt Umber, Permanent Alizarin, and Ultramarine Blue.

I decided to try it on a few small pieces, and I was surprised its usability and flexibility, and was pleased by the results; the image is both the palette and one of the small pieces I painted with it.

I found it pretty easy to move around the temperatures that I wanted, and could create saturated versions of most of the colors I wanted. The exception seemed to be a good strong higher value red. The addition of a Cadmium Red to the palette would fix that.

Though I'm certainly not going to replace my full palette with this minimal subset, I do see it's use for some of my smaller works, and also plan on using it for a few of my first-pass underpaintings. I'll do another post when I do that.