Artist Palette Profiles: Claude Monet

A recent art class assignment was to paint in a color palette inspired by a Monet painting. I chose one of the haystacks and painted a banana.

Painting a banana in a Monet haystack palette.

While I didn’t know what colors Monet had actually used, I mixed up a palette consisting of:

  • Orange (Hansa Yellow Deep + Pyrrol Scarlet)
  • Light yellow (Lemon Yellow)
  • Middle blue (Cobalt Blue)
  • Black (Alizarin Crimson hue + Perylene Green)
  • Gray-green (Monte Amiata Natural Sienna + Ultramarine)
  • Bright red (Alizarin Crimson hue + Pyrrol Scarlet)

This got me curious. What colors did Monet actually use?

I looked it up, and found a list in a post by Marion Boddy-Evans, who attributes the information to the book Paint Like Money by art historian James Heard. The colors are:

Lead white (modern equivalent = titanium white)

Chrome yellow (modern equivalent = cadmium yellow light)

Cadmium yellow

Viridian green

Emerald green

French ultramarine

Cobalt blue

Madder red (modern equivalent = alizarin crimson)


Ivory black (but only if you’re copying a Monet from before 1886)

Paint Like Money by James Heard, quoted by Marion Boddy-Evans

A palette of just nine colors! (Ten, if you count black.) Two yellows, two blues, two greens, two reds, white and maybe black. That’s it! Pretty cool.

Boddy-Evans also notes that Monet eventually got rid of the black, too. He was the type of painter who picks colors and sticks with them, preferring to get to know the colors he has deeply rather than experimenting with different colors.

The point is to know how to use the colors, the choice of which is, when all’s said and done, a matter of habit. Anyway, I use flake white, cadmium yellow, vermilion, deep madder, cobalt blue, emerald green, and that’s all.

Claude Monet, quoted in Monet By Himself by Richard Kendall

Some of the colors Monet used are no longer in production due to toxicity (notably Lead White, Chrome Yellow, Vermilion, and Emerald Green), but many still exist! Here are some colors you might use to put together a Monet-style palette.

CM UsedModern Alternatives
Lead White (PW1)Titanium White (PW6), watercolor or gouache
Chrome Yellow (PY34)Cadmium Yellow Lemon (PY35), Lemon Yellow (PY175), Hansa Yellow Light (PY3)
Cadmium Yellow (PY35)Cadmium Yellow (PY35), Hansa Yellow Medium (PY97), Pure Yellow (PY154)
Viridian (PG18)Viridian (PG18), Phthalo Green Blue Shade (PG7)
Emerald Green (PG21)Phthalo Green Yellow Shade (PG36). Da Vinci has “Permanent Emerald” which is PGYS + white.
French Ultramarine (PB29)French Ultramarine (PB29) (or any Ultramarine Blue)
Cobalt Blue (PB28)Cobalt Blue (PB28), Phthalo Blue Red Shade
Madder Red (NR8)Alizarin Crimson hue, Carmine (PR176), Quin Rose (PV19)
Vermilion (Cinnabar)Scarlet Lake (PR188), Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255)
Ivory Black (PBk9)Ivory Black (PBk9)
I made my own version of Monet’s palette from Da Vinci colors:
Monet inspired palette

Amazing how he painted all the wide range of times of day, styles, and moods with so few colors! What’s most interesting to me is that there are no earth tones at all in the palette, although obviously Monet used quite a few earth tones in his paintings. He mixed them all! Very inspiring for an earth tone skeptic like me.