I was much intrigued when several of the kind people who commented on my most recent postings expressed some surprise because they didn't recognize the painter from the palette used.
i wasn't really aware that I'd used a different palette to my normal one: but on reflection perhaps I did. slightly.
I've always had a basic palette of two reds, two yellows, and two blues, plus bits in between - so the two reds might be Permanent Rose and Cadmium Red, but I'll also have earth reds in there, which might vary from Light Red to Indian Red, Venetian Red, Mars Red, and/or Burnt Sienna. I probably have more variety in my reds than in any other hue, because just a minor change can make a huge difference. If, eg, I used Cadmium Red Deep instead of either Cad Red Medium or Light; or Scarlet Lake; or Vermilion Hue (whatever that is - pays to look at the label); or Winsor Red/Winsor Red Deep - the range of different hues and tones can be startling - more to the point, trying these colours can take you to places you never dreamed of visiting.
Then if you add esoteric colours you've not tried before, you can discover all sorts of variations - and they don't need to be so very esoteric. In my latest painting, I used Cadmium Yellow Deep - I hardly ever use that, but it did things I'd just not expected. Somewhat more unusually, try Rowney Golden Yellow; Brown Madder; Mars Brown; Rowney Emerald (tucked away in the Rowney Artist's range are several colours that are quite unusual these days: I hope they keep making them, but am less confident than I might be because I fear Daler-Rowney is in rather frantic search for new customers, and making innovations which don't seem to me to be taking their great tradition much further: perhaps more of that another time),
How many painters toy with Mars Violet Deep? Or Mars Orange? How many will try Manganese Blue (Hue)? How many have been put off Prussian Blue, and think Pthalo Blue, Red or Green shade, has to be better because it's more modern?
The palette you use when starting out needs to be limited, because you really need to learn how colours work together, and that's going to be very difficult indeed if you complicate things by introducing a whole range of colours from the catalogue whose properties you can't possibly understand. So that initial advice is good - go for a single white, which is almost certainly going to be Titanium; reds that will be Cad Red Medium or Light, Permanent Rose or Permanent Alizarin Crimson; Burnt Sienna; yellows such as Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Light/Pale, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna; avoid ready-mixed green - I really don't suggest people use Pthalo Green or Winsor Green to start with, or Olive Green or Sap Green: I think they're disastrous for beginners, frankly, in watercolour or oil: mix the greens! Then add Burnt Umber, Ultramarine, Pthalo Blue, perhaps Cerulean. And see how you get on with that.
When you want to go further, however; when the colours begin to seem inadequate (even though you can mix millions, yes, millions. of hues and tints with them) try a few different ones from the huge range available, and see what they can do. So much advice is aimed at beginners - of course it is: those of us who have been painting for decades might even resent advice. But I don't think anyone is too old or experienced to have new ideas thrown at them. So, if you're beyond beginner stage, and perhaps stuck. try a few more colours to supplement your own mixing; there are some colours you CAN'T mix yourself - how would you mix Mars Violet Deep, for instance?
My palette for my latest paintings was - from memory - Cremnitz White; Flake White; Titanium White; Indian Red; Burnt Sienna; Cadmium Orange; Yellow Ochre; Yellow Ochre Deep; Naples Yellow; Cadmium Yellow Deep; Rowney Emerald; Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue; Cerulean Blue Hue; Burnt Umber; Brown Madder; and Ivory Black.
This is NOT a palette I would recommend to any beginner: they'd end up with mud - horrible, sludgy mud. And who would think of using Cerulean Blue Hue, a student colour, with these artists' colours? Well - I would, if that's any help! And Ivory Black - I avoided black of any kind for around 30 years, but have now returned to it: not so much because I know when to use it as because I know when NOT to use it.
Painting in any medium is a lifetime's study. With all respect to art colleges, it can't be taught -you can learn basics, but you can get those from books - you can never learn experience: a really good tutor can help you to learn from his or hers, but that's as much as you can hope for. So if you want a short-cut - well, there aren't any. But - you can save yourself a great deal of fruitless struggle if you get to know the wide range of paints available and take full advantage of them. You can tell those who have from those who have not: those who have not can produce endlessly fresh work if they're sufficiently advanced- those who have will always have a whole lexicon of possibilities open to them which others can only hope to emulate.
That's not the whole story by a long way, but, if I were you - once you've got on top of the basic colour mixes I wouldn't stop there. Examine the ready-mixes available to you, learn and study them, and take a shameless advantage.