You’ll need all of these materials to get the most from the Mastering Colour course. I know that artists will tend to have their own preferences for some things, but If you decide to substitute anything, I can’t guarantee that it will work as well.
Munsell Student Book
This is a pre-requisite. You cannot do the course properly without this book!
You’ll need it because it includes a collection of colour chips which you insert into colour charts to make Munsell charts of several hues. The picture above is of the second edition, which you can usually get second hand on Amazon. But if you opt for a second hand version, be sure to contact the seller to make sure that all the colour chips are included before you buy.
The latest version (fourth edition)includes a glossy Munsell value scale, so is a good buy for that reason. I believe the third edition also includes this scale. But you can manage fine with the second edition.
Here’s the first page of the book, with the initial tags that come with it in place:
We’ll be using these charts extensively through the course to help you judge colours more accurately, learn some foundational concepts about the way colour works and to help you learn how to mix colours more quickly and accurately.
Here’s the plastic pocket at the back of the second edition with one of the little bags of tags stuck to the front. It’s those tags you need.
Here’s a link to the latest version (US Amazon):
Here’s a link to some used version on Amazon (US):
You’ll need a decent range of oils. This list should cover most eventualities:
- Ivory black
- Titanium white
- Burnt umber
- Raw umber
- Yellow ochre
- Cadmium orange
- Cadmium red
- Cadmium yellow
- Ultramarine blue
- Pthalocyanine green or similar high chroma blue green (Winsor and Newton Winsor green is good)
- Alizarin Crimson
- Sap Green (Winsor and Newton)
- Lemon yellow
Depending on the subjects you choose for later assignments, you may need additional colours.
I’d recommend you get some Old Masters Maroger, the flemish one. If you don’t want to use anything with lead, you can use Liquin or Neo-megilp. I’d recommend Neo-Megilp.
Use what you’re used to here, but do make sure that they’re of reasonable quality. Windsor and Newton hog bristle filberts, or similar synthetics will be fine.
Sizes: most of the studies you’ll be doing will be quite small, so you won’t need any really large brushes.
In Windsor and Newton, I’d recommend the artists’ hog filberts. It will be useful to have three filberts in the same size, so you can use one brush for darks, one for mid-tones and one for lights. In Windsor and Newton, that would be the size 2. Also a size 4 filbert will be useful for backgrounds.
Windsor and Newton Monarch synthetics are also fine, for the smaller filberts that you want three of, get the size 6 (these are the same size as the size 2 in the W&N artists’ hog – I know, it makes no sense).
Also, a kolinsky sable brush will help you with the details. The da-Vinci series 10 no 4, or something similar, should be about right.
If you like, you can just use canvas pads for the studies. Windsor and Newton do a reasonable one.
For the later assignments, though, you might want to get something more permanent and with a better surface. I’d recommend Ampersand gessobord. Get some 7 by 5 inches, without cradles. How many you need will depend on how many studies you do of each assignment – the more the better!
Cubes and spheres
You’re going to need a few of these to do the assignments. 5 cubes and 5 spheres should be enough. For the cubes, you can either make your own by getting a length of 2×2 inch timber and cutting off 2 inch lengths to make the cubes.
For the spheres, you can use styrofoam ones that some art shops carry, or wooden ones. Make sure they’re at least 3 inches in diameter if you can, smaller ones are much harder to paint studies of
Here’s some links for purchasing cubes and spheres online.
I have no idea how good the above products are, I found them on Google. Caveat emptor! I make my own cubes (it’s very easy) and use styrofoam spheres from my local art shop.
This is for priming the cubes and spheres before painting them, and also for making the chips for your Munsel neutral scale.
There are many brands, most will be similar and work fine. Examples:
Materials for the shadow box
Black foam core – you’ll need about 4X A3 sheets for this. Instructions on how to build it are in the next step.
Paper tape – for sticking together the panels of the shadow box.
A sharp craft knife for cutting the panels.
Grey paper – choose a mid value neutral paper. Canson Mi-tientes grey is perfect, but cheaper options are fine too. These papers are used to line the shadow box.
If you get a two or three sheets of mid and slightly lighter grey, that will all you need to start with.
In the last stages of the course, we’ll also be using some low-chroma coloured sheets to line the box, to bring us closer to real-world still life setups and teach us more about how colour reacts to light in cast shadows. So if you want to get a few sheets of those, you’ll be well prepared. The choice is yours, but make sure they’re low chroma (fairly close to grey) not too bright. Browns are good, but a selection will be useful. As I said earlier, you don’t have to use Canson Mi-Tientes for this, since the paper is quite expensive. I recommend them because they have a good range of colours including some nice low chroma ones. But any make of paper is fine.
I recommend you use daylight for doing the studies in the Mastering Course if you can. It’s the simplest solution, thecheapest and you’ll get the best results. But if that’s a problem for you, you can use artificial lighting.
Artificial lighting is a minefield. I’ll try to advise you here on the basics you need to cover, but there are myriad possibilities for lights. I’m afraid I won’t be able to advise individually on any particular light you might be thinking of getting if it’s not one of the ones I recommend – because, without having used it myself, I have no way of knowing how good it will be.
At a minimum you will need two lights, one to light the subject and one to light your painting surface. Make sure that they have a high CRI (Colour Rendering Index), at least 90.
Make sure they are daylight bulbs. You want a temperature of at least 5000 k.
Ideally, you want the lights to have their own stands (this allows you to control the lighting in set up better). You also want the bulbs to be in softboxes, since this gives a more natural look to the shadows. It’s almost (but not quite) like lighting your subject with natural light.
I would recommend these lights or something very similar, but of course it’s your choice.
Whilst the stands are reasonable and the soft boxes are great, you will need better quality bulbs than those that come with those lights. I use these:
They’re a bit outsized for the light fittings, but really good for painting by.
As far as I can tell, the lights I use are exactly the same as the Cowboy Studio lights sold on the US Amazon. So you could try these:
The ones to look at are the VL-9025S variant, with two lights. If you have strong enough bulbs in them, you can get away with one light only.
These also look good, but I haven’t tried them. One reviewer says the bulbs are high CRI but doesn’t give the exact number. Caveat emptor.
For your value scale
This is one of the exercises. For this, you’ll need some decent-weight smooth card, at least 300 gsm. A4 will be big enough. You’ll also need some clear acetate – A4 OHP slides you can get cheaply from office suppliers work great.
Framer and Colour checker
You’ll also need a framer (viewfinder) and a colour checker. Both are very simple to make.
For the framer, cut a 7X5 inch hole out of a piece of black foam core. Mark out half-way points along each inside edge, and attach pieces of thread with blu tack to make a cross. If you like, you can subdivide the edges further so that you divide the window into four both ways.
The colour checker is simply a small piece of card with a hole in it, about half an inch by half an inch. Simple!
You will of course need a decent easel, one that can be positioned vertically and also leaned slightly forwards. A good sized drawing board is required too (an A2-sized piece of MDF with grey craft card taped to it is ideal) and something to place your still life subjects on – a high table or similar.