If you’re concerned about the price of the clay itself, one way to cut down on initial costs is to mix your own colors. Many people actually prefer to mix their own colors in order to create their own personal palette. Mixing your own colors gives you a greater degree of control and exponentially increases the number of tints and shades available to you.
You should be able to mix just about any color you want from three basic colors: turquoise, magenta (sometimes labeled “fuchsia”), and zinc (“lemony”) yellow. (You can also start with any other “version” of blue, red, and yellow you prefer. Turquoise, magenta, and lemon yellow are reported to create the purest colors.) In addition to these three basic colors, you’ll probably also want white, black, and translucent clay.
If you’re planning to use a fair amount of a particular color that’s not easy to mix (certain tans and browns can be difficult, for instance), you may find it worth your time to go ahead and buy that color “ready mixed”. You can always tweak it a bit to get the desired shade, but it’s faster and easier to start with a base that’s near your target color.
In a similar vein, if you’re finding it a headache to mix your own colors from the three primaries, try starting with a rainbow of colors and mixing from there. You can still limit the number of colors you buy, but you’ll save yourself some annoyance. You should be having fun with the clay.
There are also specialty clays, such as mica clays (most commonly available in gold, silver, and pearl), glow-in-the-dark clay, glitter clay, eraser clay, flexible clay, liquid clay, and faux stone clay. These can produce very interesting effects and are certainly worth a look.