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What type of color did Bob Ross use?

Bob Ross was famous for his painting instruction TV show The Joy of Painting, which aired from 1983 to 1994. He taught easy landscape painting techniques, often completing an entire painting in each half-hour episode. His soft-spoken manner and permed hairstyle became iconic over the course of the show’s 403 episodes.

Bob Ross’ Painting Style and Techniques

Bob Ross’ landscape paintings featured natural scenes with mountains, trees, lakes, etc. His signature painting style involved using large brushes and wet-on-wet techniques to quickly create a scene. He would lay down broad areas of color and then use his palette knife to bring out details like clouds, trees, and rocks.

Some of Bob Ross’ key painting techniques included:

  • Wet-on-wet – Painting wet layers of paint on top of each other before previous layers dry.
  • “Happy little accidents” – Embracing unplanned effects that happen spontaneously.
  • Highlighting – Using white or light colors to create accents and focal points.
  • Scumbling – Dragging a dry brush over colors to blend softly or create textured effects like foliage.
  • Underpainting – Blocking in broad areas of color first before adding details.

His approach emphasized freedom, simplicity, and having fun rather than strict realism. He wanted to teach average people that they could pick up painting as a hobby.

Bob Ross’ Paint Colors

Bob Ross famously used oil paints that he helped develop with art supplier Grumbacher. His signature product line was called Bob Ross Oil Paints.

Some key facts about Bob Ross’ paint colors:

  • Consisted of 29 different oil paints plus painting mediums and tools sold as a package.
  • Formulated to dry quickly using a lot of oil allowing for his wet-on-wet techniques.
  • Colors were designed to mix well together and produce ideal landscapes.
  • Paints were premixed by Ross and Grumbacher to have uniform consistency.
  • Bob Ross knew each color by number rather than name while painting.

Here is a table listing the 29 different oil paint colors that Bob Ross used:

Color Number Color Name
1 Titanium White
2 Phthalo Blue
3 Prussian Blue
4 Midnight Black
5 Dark Sienna
6 Indian Yellow
7 Bright Red
8 Cadmium Yellow
9 Pthalo Green
10 Sap Green
11 Van Dyke Brown
12 Alizarin Crimson
13 Purple Mix
14 Azure Blue
15 Marine Blue
16 Emerald Green
17 Yellow Ochre
18 Cad. Orange
19 Burnt Sienna
20 Burnt Umber
21 Dioxazine Purple
22 Pthalo Crimson
23 Raw Sienna
24 Greenish Blue
25 Mountain Mix
26 Indian Red
27 Yellow Mix
28 Black Gesso
29 Clear Gesso Base

As you can see, Bob Ross’ palette consisted of a wide variety of blues, greens, yellows, oranges, browns, and earth tones well-suited for painting serene nature scenes.

Notable Aspects of Bob Ross’ Paints

There are a few other interesting things to note about the specific oil paints Bob Ross used:

  • Very limited reds/purples – His palette had only 2 reds and 2 purples. Ross avoided strong warm colors.
  • No true black – Shadows were created by mixing other dark colors.
  • Thick white paint – Titanium white had high oil content to facilitate mixing and highlighting.
  • Pre-mixed greens – Had convenience mixtures like Emerald Green, Sap Green, etc.
  • Paint thinner/liquid white – Used as a medium to thin paints and allow wet-on-wet blending.
  • Black and clear gesso – Special underpainting canvases were primed with these.

Bob Ross was very intentional about curating his oil paint collection to perfectly suit his relaxed landscape style. The colors mixtures and fluid consistency enabled him to quickly create those iconic “happy little trees” and mountains on TV.

Bob Ross Painting Supplies and Techniques

In addition to his oil paints, Bob Ross also used some consistent painting tools and supports:

  • Brushes – Used large hog bristle brushes sizes 8, 10, 12. Also a script liner and fan brush.
  • Canvas – Painted on 16×20 inch pre-primed, prestretched cotton canvas.
  • Palette – Disposable paper palette sheets or foam plates.
  • Painting knives – Used for scraping, blending, creating textures.
  • Liquid white – Thinned white paint applied to prime canvas before starting.
  • Odorless paint thinner – Used for blending and cleaning brushes.

Bob Ross’ fundamental painting techniques included:

  • Starting with a thin coat of liquid white on the canvas.
  • Blocking in broad areas of color wet-on-wet using large brushes.
  • Using firm strokes and lifting motion to paint highlights on trees/clouds.
  • Dragging knife to blend and create leaves, rocks, water, etc.
  • Tapping brush to create foliage and wood grain texture.
  • Repeating mantra “happy little trees” to stay relaxed!

Bob Ross’ painting process was designed for simplicity and ease. Everything from his canvas preparation to brush cleaning aimed to remove obstacles for the beginner painter.


Bob Ross’ oil painting collection was meticulously designed and customized to create ideal nature scenes efficiently. The 29 color palette, fluid paint consistency, and large brushes enabled his signature wet-on-wet landscape technique. While his approach has been criticized by advanced painters, there’s no denying Bob Ross’ enormous popularity and influence as an art instructor. His Kindness and encouragement brought the joy of painting to millions of people.

So in summary, Bob Ross worked with oil paint but optimized every aspect from colors to brushes to facilitate his relaxed landscape style. His iconic permed hair and catchphrases live on as nostalgic pop culture symbols of everything creative and happy!