Artists’ 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 attributed to art historian James Heard:

According to James Heard in his book Paint Like Monet, analysis of Monet’s paintings show Monet used these nine colors:

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)

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.

Many of these still exist, but I personally don’t have them (especially the cadmium colors). If I were putting together a similar palette from my own colors, I would use:

CM UsedI Have
Lead WhiteHolbein – Titanium White Gouache
Chrome YellowWN – Winsor Lemon (PY175)
Cadmium YellowWN – Winsor Yellow (PY154)
Viridian GreenWN – Viridian (PG18) or DV- Phthalo Green Blue Shade (PG7)
Emerald GreenWN – Winsor Green Yellow Shade (PG36)
French UltramarineHolbein – Ultramarine Deep (PB29)
Cobalt BlueDa Vinci – Cobalt Blue (PB28)
Madder RedDa Vinci – Alizarin Crimson Quinacridone (PV19)
VermilionWN – Scarlet Lake (PR188) or DS – Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255)
Ivory BlackMaimeriBlue – Neutral Tint (PBk26)

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.

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