The Zorn Palette

Many people have probably used this color scheme, but it is most widely know to be used by a Swedish painter named Anders Zorn who was known for his portraits. Here is an example of his work:

Mrs. Walter Rathbone Bacon

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my head trying to figure out how to map out the colors of a Zorn palette, Ivory Black, Titanium White, Vermilion (or Cadmium Red Medium), and Yellow Ochre. There is no blue used on this palette, the black is used as a blue. After a lot of looking around, this was the best paint chart I could find for the Zorn palette. This shows not only the primary colors of this combination but also the secondaries mixed with their complements and tinted white for additional colors. What it doesn’t have are all of the non-tinted colors mixed with varying degrees of black. For this palette, the black only applies to two-thirds of the palette. This was the best representation of available colors I could find that made sense. I found this on Pinterest and the website that it originally came from was not listed.

The colors are fantastic. Using a limited palette like this makes it much easier to figure out how to mix the colors you need. Does it need to be cooler? Add black. Lighter? Add white. Warmer? Decide if it has more red or yellow tint and adjust accordingly.

I expect I will continue to use the Zorn palette for portraits for a while since it is so perfect! I can always add other colors as accents later The great thing about this palette to me is that it limits the amount of “color” you can use and it makes you focus more on your values. I need to say that again for the painters out there…

” The great thing about this palette to me is that it limits the amount of “color” you can use and it makes you focus more on your values. “

If you want to be a good if not great painter, pay attention to your values. Values are everything. More than one famous painter has stated that if you have to get one thing or the other correct, make sure it is value rather than color. Color can’t fix the problem. If the value is correct, the eye will see what it needs to in order to make the painting work.

I guess I see another blog post coming.

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