View Full Version : Beginners Palette ?

Tony Perrotta
09-07-2001, 12:11 PM
Hi everybody,
I have been painting WC for a few months now. I'm curious to know what more experienced painters would recommend as my palette. I am now using 19 colors. Should I limit my palette to gain experience in color mixing. I am having trouble with WC's, and I don't thing I need to add more problems to my learning. I would apprieciate any opinions.

Thanks, Tony P.

09-07-2001, 02:57 PM
With watercolors as well as any other medium, it is always good to start to learn with as few colors as you can.

If you follow the rainbow colors (ROY G BIV) you will certainly have a good basic palette that will serve you well. Then when you learn your basic palette you can add in special colors that have importance for your particular style or subjects.

Many watercolorists have different palettes set up for different uses. You will have to find the one that agrees with you. As an example.....there are many REDs that you could choose to become your RED.... you could chose cad red or maybe one of the others then add your choice of a YELLOW, and BLUE. Look and see what you already have.

I have a friend that only has one tube of watercolor. This tube is Burnt Seinna. The reason she chooses to use only this color is she is learning to handle the medium and she wants to make sure that she can learn to create the value changes she needs without the influence of additional colors. I think this is quite a challenge, but it works for her and some of her watercolors have been quite striking.

Working in three colors is also a good way to learn. Check out the Community Projects and find the link to the project called "Three Colors".

Again, when learning, it is always good to learn each color you choose to use. Even different manufacturers of the same paint color will be different in the way they look and handle. If your palette is so full of so many colors, you may not have the opportunity to learn what your particular colors will do...or if you do, it will take you a lot longer. It's like having 20 children at the same time and not having enough time to get to know them as individuals.

Take your time and start with a few colors. You will not be sorry.
Perhaps you would benefit from working with a limited palette of cool and warm versions of each of the primaries. By mixing all your cool colors with each other and then with the warm hues, you will get two sets of secondaries, one warm and one cool, for a total of twelve secondary hues. For example: mix warm yellow and warm red for a warm orange.... cool yellow and cool red for a cool orange. Continue the process for mixtures of yellow and blue to get your greens and red and blue to get your purples. Then mix warm yellow with a cool red and cool yellow with warm red.... try these out on the same type of paper that you like to use ( 140 lb at least but 300 lb better )

One thing that you might do that would be great is to make your own color wheel beginning with the primaries. Then you will better understand your colors and what they can do for you.

For a good beginning palette, use these Winsor Newton colors:

Winsor Yellow = cool yellow
Cad Yellow Deep = warm yellow
Alizarin Crimson = cool red
Cadmium Scarlet = Warm red
Cerulean Blue = cool blue
Ultramarine Blue = warm blue

If I were you right now.... I would not rush out and buy new colors that you don't already have. Get to know YOUR colors. Pick a few .... test them out on some paper.... label what your test is about and go on to the next color and do the same. Soon you will be mixing color and giving them a label....good or bad. At least you will be talking to your colors and they will talk back. It's the only way to get to know them. :D

There are also many good threads about Watercolor Palettes in the Watercolor Forum. Do a search using the search function at the top of this page and enter the words watercolor palette.


09-07-2001, 03:26 PM
Excellent question and one that I have just been thinking about. Thanks for the information. I am thinking about returning to a three colour palette as I seem to be "mudding" everything I try.

As in the rest of my life, simple seems best right now. Too many choices, that's my problem! :)

09-08-2001, 01:31 AM
llis beat me to the suggestion of double-primaries. Personally I think this is the minimum palette one needs to mix the widest range of colours: a green-yellow, an orange-yellow, an orange-red, a violet-red, a violet-blue and a green-blue. A good selection would be:
Azo Yellow Light, PY3
Cadmium Yellow Medium, PY37
Cadmium Red Light, PR108
Quinacridone Red or Rose, PV19
Cobalt Blue, PB28
Ultramarine, PB29

Or try:
Cadmium Lemon, PY35
Nickel Dioxine Yellow, PY153
Pyrrole Scarlet, PR255
Quinacridone Carmine, PR N/A
Phthalocyanine Blue Green Shade, PB15:3
Phthalocyanine Blue Red Shade, PB15:1

Have a look <A HREF=http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/wpalet.html>here</A> if you want to see some other POVs on the subject.

Hope this helps,