Yellow ochre and red ochre are two of the oldest pigments known to man.
Color: Yellow ochre is an earth pigment that contains hydrated iron oxide. Much of it is found in Roussillon, France. Otherwise, mostly in parts of Italy. It’s a cool, greenish-yellow and varies to orange, slightly.
Uses: Yellow ochre is a common color found on a decorative painter’s palette. It is a very pleasing color for wall glazes. When mixed with other colors like ultramarine blue and raw umber, yellow ochre is used with other colors to create tonalities in faux marble. Because of its opacity, it does not work well with woodgraining (use RS – Raw Sienna instead).
Color: Red ochre is an earth pigment that contains hydrated iron oxide. When you burn yellow ochre in an oven, it becomes red, creating a red ochre. Much of the variance of color comes by how hot/long the burn is as well as where the yellow ochre is from.
Opacity: Very opaque
Uses: Red ochre is often mixed with glazes for a variety of decorative finishes. It is commonly used to create tonalities in faux marble. Because of its opacity, it does not work well with woodgraining (use raw sienna instead). **Red ochre is very strong and can overtake a color quite quickly. Along with Prussian blue, red ochre is the most potent color. That is why you’ll see snap lines made with red ochre chalk ― because it a strong color.
This faux lapis lazuli panel was completed for a specific client. Lapis lazuli is a deep blue semi-precious stone (not a marble). Most lapis lazuli contains calcite (white), sodalite (blue), and pyrite (metallic yellow). Since the stones do not come in boulder sizes (the largest sizes rarely exceed 12 sq. ft.), a larger panel like this needs to be broken up into sections.
In this tutorial, I will demonstrate the step-by step of the center square of this lapis lazuli.
With a 2-headed, pointed marbling brush, a very minimal background is created with a bright, yellow ochre to mimic the bright golden flakes encrusted in the lapis. This is a guideline for the entire composition.
Once dry, a slightly tinted blue, slick coat is applied to the entire surface. With a 2-headed, flat badger brush, add an overall texture of a blue glaze (using a mixture of Proceed ultramarine blue, black and pthalo Blue), leaving about 25% uncovered.
Switch to a samina chiqueteur and chiqueteur or “sponge off” to further soften and change the texture using a simply damp brush.
Deep “white” areas are created by removing glaze in a jagged, worm-like shape. Here, a small, 2-headed pointed brush was used on its side to create this effect. Soften the entire section with a softener (round or square)
Finally, using a 2 headed, flat squirrel brush, dipped in alcohol and on its tip, add some dark areas (black, raw umber, ultramarine blue). Soften and let dry. Step 2 is complete.
Once dry, glaze on a transparent, ultramarine blue and a dash of pthalo blue to give it that extra pop, and break up the glaze with a chiqueteur (we like the samina chiqueteur for small projects like this)
Continue making finer network of veins, connecting the larger fissures, with a small but long veiner.
The square is finished. Let dry very well and reverse the tape to complete the other areas.
Raw sienna and burnt sienna are very versatile and utilized colors in the decorative painter’s palette.
RS – RAW SIENNA
Origins: A mineral pigment from soil found in Sienna, Italy – thus it’s name.
Color: a warm, yellowish, earthy tonality with tones of orange
Opacity: medium transparency
Uses: Raw sienna, when mixed with UB (ultramarine blue), makes a wonderful, transparent green. Some specific woodgrain examples are: pine, burl, satinwood, maple
Used in faux marble techniques such as: yellow sienna and others
BS – BURNT SIENNA
Color: burnt sienna is made by burning raw sienna in an oven at a high degree. An oxidation happens with turns it into a warm, reddish brown (not to be confused with a red oxide (RO), which is red, but a cooler tonality).
Opacity: It is more transparent than raw sienna and less potent
Uses: Some specific woodgrain examples are: mahogany, walnut, pine, rosewood, cherry.
Used in faux marble techniques such as: cloudy marbles (such as rouge royal, cerfontaine, Saint Remy, and languedoc), verronese red, and yellow sienna.
Next to the non-colors, raw umber and burnt umber are two of the most versatile and utilized colors in the decorative painter’s palette. In addition to the specific uses described below, both of these colors make a wonderful grey tonality when mixed with ultramarine blue and white.
RU – raw umber
Origins: Minerals from dark soil. Comes primarily from France, Italy and Germany.
Color: Each country region has different hue varying from warm-ish brown to green-ish brown, but always a medium dark in general.
Opacity: Average opacity often the more green-ish tend to be more transparent (based on my personal experience – perhaps not a scientific fact). In general, most are on the cool side, a grayish, green brown.
Uses: One of the main tonalities for patina or aged look. Many woodgrain techniques use raw umber a primary tonality. Some specific woodgrain examples are: English walnut, oak, grey Hungarian walnut, grey bird’s eye. Used in faux marble techniques mostly as a tertiary color — so bring down the intensity of a stronger color.
BU – burnt umber
Color: Burnt umber is made by burning raw umber in an oven at a high degree. An oxidation happens which turns raw umber to a reddish brown.
Opacity: semi-opaque to transparent (varies on the hue of RU)
Uses: This dark, reddish brown is used prevalently when woodgraining warm woods such as walnut, cherry, mahogany, rosewood, red oak, and burl. Used in faux marble techniques when mixed with other red tonalities. Some examples are cloudy marbles (such as rouge royal, cerfontaine, Saint Remy, and languedoc), verronese red, and yellow sienna.
This is an example of Saint Remy marble.
Non-colors (achromatic colors) are essentially black and white.
When mixing a color, these non-colors are only used to change the intensity and opacity of a color. It is best to avoid using too much of either black or white and rather try to rely on colors first and add them only at very last bit to get color for a final tweeking.
NON-COLORS for the decorative painter’s palette
W Titanium White, Zinc White
B Carbon Black, Lamp Black
TB Titan Buff (has a slight earthy tonality off white)
White is an invaluable color in the decorative painter’s palette. We use primarily titanium white because it is more opaque than zinc white. If there is an option between 2 similar colors, I always choose the one that is more opaque.
Best Uses: White is probably the most used color for most techniques except wood graining, where transparency is very important. However, an exception to that would be a cerused wood where white is used to finish the wood.
Technically a color, but it’s very close to white, so I place it in the non-color category. Next to white, titan buff is also a big favorite to mix a color or put on a palette.
Best Uses: Great for fissures and white veins for faux marble.
Black has a very valuable use, but is not heavily used. It’s primary use is for increasing the intensity of a color. When mixing colors, black is used at the end sparingly, otherwise, it tends to mud up colors. Expert colorists might disagree but this is the from decorative painter’s perspective and not from the easel painter.
We use carbon black because it is more opaque than mars black. Carbon black is the closest to ivory black which is no longer produced. Ivory black was made by burning ivory tusks and crushing the carbon which gave a very saturate and rich black. Mars is a synthetic black.
Best Uses: Used sparingly to mix colors. Best as a color on your palette when creating wood graining or other dark glazes like shagreen.
GREY – not a non-color
Contrary to popular thinking, the best grey is a combination of blue, brown, and white and not black and white. This is why it is not considered a non-color by the standards of the decorative painter.
The formula for paint and glaze consist of 3 items mixed together.
PAINT = BINDER + SOLVENT + COLORANT
GLAZE = PAINT + BINDER + SOLVENT
The pigment is used to create the most obvious attribute of the formula — it’s color. Pigments are colored powders obtained from a variety of sources, both organic (derived from animal or plant sources) and inorganic (processed from mineral sources). See post: color palette
The binder is the component of the paint/glaze in which the particles of pigment are suspended and that which dries and/or oxidizes (changes from a liquid to a solid) to form the basis of the cured paint/glaze film. This element affects quality, durability, and surface finish. Some examples of binders are; linseed oil, acrylic medium, egg, and beer.
As a paint ingredient, a solvent regulates a paint’s consistency by diluting the binder. A solvent evaporates after the paint has been applied, leaving behind a curing film of binder and pigment. A solvent is called a thinner when it is added to paint in order to thin down its consistency or to reduce its working time, such as when mixing a glaze. Some examples of solvents are; water, alcohol, turpentine, and thinner.
There are many uses for both reversible and non-reversible mediums in decorative painting. A reversible medium can be taken back to a glaze with water (or alcohol like shellac). Non-reversible mediums are far more common and are permanent (unless a solvent is used to remove).
- Gouache Glaze = Gum Arabic + H2O + Pigment (a watercolor effect)
- Beer Glaze = Dark Beer (Binder+H2O) + Pigment
- Fast-dry acrylic glaze =1/2 Fast-dry Medium +1/2 Water + Fluid Acrylic Color
- Medium slow-dry acrylic glaze = 80% Artist Grade Glaze + 20% H2O + Fluid Acrylic Color
- Slow-dry acrylic glaze = Slow-dry Glaze + Slow-dry Colors
- Oil glaze= [3 parts Distilled Turpentine +1 part Refined Linseed Oil + Japan Drier (5%)— more info] +Artist Oil Color in tubes — to adjust the open time, use less linseed oil for a faster dry time.
- Paint and varnishes (non-shellac based)
Here is the color palette for the decorative painter that we use at GIDP to create most of our finishes. Based on my experience in business and teaching, I’ve found these colors to be essential for creating most finishes (with an emphasis on faux marble and woodgraining). See previous posts on our job site kits.
We will be breaking down each color in future posts along with posts on our mixing methods. There are many books on the subject of color in general. So, keep in mind, this palette of colors is for the decorative painter.
Also, we’d like to take this opportunity to introduce our color abbreviations that are (will be) used in future posts.
Palette of colors for the deco painter
*** I recommend that you find a manufacturer that you like and stick with them as colors vary from company to company. We use fast-dry, slow-dry acrylic colors and mediums by Golden Artist Colors, so their color names are most often listed first. We use Sennelier (from California based, Savoir Faire) for oil colors and those are listed as secondary color options.
Classified as “non-colors” that are not used to mix a hue, but to change the intensity and opacity (typically the last step of mixing).
W Titanium White, Zinc White
B Carbon Black, Lamp Black
TB Titan Buff (has a slight earthy tonality off white)
These colors actually come from the earth.
YO Yellow Ochre, Yellow Oxide
RO Red Ochre, Red Oxide
RS Raw Sienna
BS Burnt Sienna
RU Raw Umber
BU Burnt Umber
VDB VanDykeBrown, Cassel Earth
Generally yellow, orange, red, and purple — although some tones are cool.
HY Hansa Yellow, Lemon Yellow (cool)
NY Naples Yellow
NA Nickel Azo Yellow (Very transparent and greenish)
DY Diarylide Yellow, Cadmium Yellow
O Orange, Cadmium Orange
PR Pyrolle Red, Cadmium Red, Napthol Red
AC Alizarin Crimson, Carmine Lake, Crimson Lake, Magenta
TRIO Transparent Red Iron Oxide (transparent warm red)
P Dioxazine Purple, Violet (cool purple)
Generally blue and green — although some tones are cool
PB Prussian Blue
UB Ultramarine Blue
PhB Phthalo Blue
CB Cerulean Blue (warm)
CT Cobalt Teal (warm)
PhG Phthalo Green
G Permanent Green (medium green)
GG Green Gold (transparent yellow-green)
COX Chromium Oxide (warm)
JG Jenkins Green
PG Paynes Gray
This is a 2-step, Satin wood faux bois. Even though some of the movements take practice to master, the process is very fast and it only needs 1 glaze color.
Below is a step-by-step explanation of how it was done on a baseboard sample.
Stretch the glaze with a spalter. First against the grain, then with the grain to finish. Use a very light hand so you don’t wipe off the glaze.
With this small sample, a round softener was used to stipple the glaze. This may not be realistic when graining a large space. In that case, a large or small codtail brush would stipple nicely. The goal is to stabalize the glaze while trying not to remove it.
Have a slightly damp spalter (size 100) and a slightly damp, clean sea sponge ready for the graining marks of the first step. Moire’s are made by clamping the spalter so the fingertips are aligned to control the bristles. It’s a pull, drag, release pressure motion all while zig-zagging across the grain of the wood (how-to post here). It’s important to wipe the accumulating glaze off tips of the brush with the damp sponge.
Keep the rhythm random but consistent. Work in overlapping columns to complete the entire area.
Soften gently in direction of moire, using the tips of the badger softener. Side to side and then a final pass from the bottom up (in the direction of the wood grain). Don’t over soften. Let dry.
With tooth veinette dipped in same glaze as moire, use a comb to open up the hair. Finely and gently vein in parallel columns, reloading the brush as needed (always run through a comb). Follow the movement of the moire (darker areas of the moire would warrant a bigger movement). Giggle up and down like a motor cycle riding over bumps.
It’s very important not to cross over previous veins.
Varnish as needed.
Here is a how-to for Ebony woodgrain. It is a 3-step process to create this rich and heavily-grained wood. If you use a fast drying medium like matte medium, it’s possible to do all 3 steps in one day — or at least 2.
The example in this post had an satin oil basecoat. However an eggshell latex (like BM Aura) is perfectly fine. Sand and dust before glazing. The first step is in this particular wood is the flogging. We’re missing pictures, but check out this flogging video for a tutorial. This step adds the look of wood pores which instantly gives a “woodsy” appearance. The whipping motion of the flogging brush is the only tool that can achieve this background. Mix a glaze: fast dry matte medium plus colors; raw umber, black, and touch hansa yellow to brighten.
Once dry, the major grains are painted (wet-on-dry application) with a heavily pigmented glaze mixture: slow dry low-viscosity medium plus colors; black, vandyke brown, and touch trio (transparent iron oxide) to brighten. The applied grain must be parallel lines (but not perfectly straight) and the grains should be varied in size and distance between. A brush like the tooth veinette with a sparse amount of long, stiff hair is the best tool. For a better visual on this technique, see this veinette video to see how the tooth veinette brush makes this prominent but delicate print. It is important to fully load the brush for such a large print.
Soften the grains with a badger softener. It is very important to soften in a thoughtful manner. Soften in one direction at a 70 degree angel to get the desired effect. Don’t over-soften.
Pass over the surface with the same brush one more time using less of the same glaze. The goal is to create finer (double) veins within the first pass and with a slightly different angle. Soften these veins lightly.
Once completely dry, apply a transparent overglaze to the surface with a glazing brush. Glaze contents: slow dry low-viscosity medium plus colors; burnt umber, vandyke brown, touch trio and black. Looking for a warm and deep transparent tone. Stretch (even out) the glaze with a spalter.
Let dry and varnish (dark woods look better with a glossy finish). I’ve added a trompe l’oeil effect on this baseboard-sized sample. See this post for a how-to on trompe l’oeil molding over a dark wood.