My Current Palette
So after writing this post about the physical side of building a new watercolour paint box, here is my updated palette. I’m using a new Moleskine Portrait Watercolour Sketchbook as my sketchbook of choice for the watercolour part of Liz Steel’s teacup course (that starts today), and so I used the first page to create an index for my current palette.
Every watercolourist’s palette is unique and full of choices that reflect their subject matter preference, the place they live in, and various personal idiosyncrasies. Please don’t copy anyones palette as-is (including mine), but rather understand the artist’s choices and tailor your palette choices to your own needs. To this end, I will explain some of the choices behind my paletter.
There are 24 half-pans in my palette, and 23 unique colours. Daniel Smith Hansa Yellow Medium now appears twice in my palette, once for mixing and once for using as an unmixed mid warm yellow. Yellow paints get dirty if you even look at them, and they are difficult to clean after a dab of this or that paint made its way to them. Of the three yellows in my palette I use DS Hansa Yellow Medium the most for mixing, which is why I opted to have a second half-pan of it this time (it’s a new change that I’m trying out).
Of the 23 paints, 15 are Schmincke Horadam and the rest are Daniel Smith. I’m pointing this out so that you feel comfortable mixing between paint manufacturers on your palette. This can be done so long as you are using the same grade of paint in each maker (artist grade, for example).
There are some classic examples of watercolour palette building in this palette and some that are a bit off. There are warm and cold sets of yellow (Hansa Yellow Medium, Lemon Yellow), red (Quin. Rose and Alizarin Crimson) and blue (French Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue deep), and there’s a rather standard set of earth tones (Pyrol Oxide, Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, Van Dyke Brown and Burnt Umber) but there’s some weird stuff too. I’ll be focusing mostly on the weird stuff.
There are three greens in my palette. I sketch mostly landscapes and having premixed greens saves a LOT of time. Of the three greens I use Sap Green the most, either by itself or lightening it with yellow or darkening it with blue. It also has a brightness and vivacity that you cannot obtain by mixing your own green. The two other greens are opaque (which means they don’t mix well), and cover two very common and difficult to mix green shades. Schmincke Tundra green is part of their super-granulating series, and has some pink undertones to it. It also covers a wide variety of olive coloured local plants. The Cobalt Green Dark is a brand new addition to the palette, replacing Schmincke’s forest green. This paint works as an “artificial” green, for things like benches and fences that were painted green, and a greyish-green for the many greyish-green local plants.
Then there are some “magic” paints. Schmincke Glacier Green is on the palette as a cool “glass” and sea blue, and it’s super-granulating and dual pigmented. You can see the pigment party going on with it in my swatch of this colour.
Liz Steel has influenced me to add an orange and a turquoise to the palette. They bring joy to the painting, the turquoise is useful as “glass” and “windows” when I want something brighter than the Glacier Green and the orange paint is much brighter and more alive than any mixed orange that I could ever hope to create. It’s useful to add a splash of colour to a painting, to help focus the eye in a certain area. The two Daniel Smith blues on my paletter are also Liz Steel inspired, and at least one of them may be on its way out due to low use.
Paynes Grey Bluish is one of my most heavily used pigments, as part of sky and sea scenes, denim jeans, as a shadow colour, for asphalt and to darken other mixes. A must have for me.
The two violets on the palette are also personal choices, though the Tundra Violet will likely be replaced with something else in the near future. Purples are very difficult to mix without getting muddy not registering as purple, which is why the Cobalt Violet Hue paint on my palette. The super-granulating Tundra Violet is much less useful, and may find its way out my palette.
I hope this gave you some insight as how to think about the pigment choices that you make for your palette. Again – create your own palette and don’t just force yourself to use a copy of someone else’s