I paint on panel that I prepare myself with gesso, and the surface has to be just right. I build up a very smooth surface usually taking up to ten coats of gesso and sanding between each coat. Then I add a thin wash of burnt sienna so that I am not starting on a white surface. I use Photoshop to move elements around until I find something I like. After which I print out the image and use that as the main source of my reference material. I grid out the image and work from square to square building up the painting as I go. I have natural hair brushes including hog, sable and horse.
My core pallet:
cadmium red light