The Zorn Palette
Anders Zorn, a well known Swedish painter, created this specific palette that has grown in popularity over the years. It is especially nice for painting portraits, but can be used for any subject matter. It is similar to using the primary colors, but with more muted colors.
While this wasn't Zorn's only color palette, as he did use cobalt blue when desired, for most of the painting he painted indoors he used this specific palette, using Ivory black in place of blue. Often times certain blacks can create a blue hue, especially blacks that lean towards blue, like Cold Black or Lamp Black.
What to know about black paints? There are two types of black paint. One that is created by using metals, organic pigments, and/or synthetic materials to create opaque, quick drying black paint. The other type is created by burning or charring organic materials such as ivory, bones, and/or tar, then using the carbon created from the burning process to make paint. Carbon blacks are always more transparent and typically slower drying than other blacks.
For this exercise I used Ivory black and Cold Black. I tend to prefer a cooler palette, so I love using Cold Black and Ivory Black. It you prefer a warmer black you can use Mars black.
Traditional Zorn Palette:
Cadmium Red Deep
Painting with a limited palette is a really wonderful way to get a better understanding of mixing colors and create harmony in your painting.
• Find an image or multiple images you wish to use for reference. Sketch out your image.
• Using the Zorn colors to mix up the main colors you need for your painting.
• Paint your piece, using only these colors.
Try this exercise again, substituting a different red or different yellow to see how the results change.
What would be your favorite palette if you had to pick only three or four colors to use? Create another painting with your own favorite palette.