The way I set up colors on my palette as well my choices on the paper are probably one of the most commonly asked questions I get. Perhaps it’s because color is so personal. This is why I decided to make a series of articles discussing my choices and considerations that are behind the process. In this series of articles on setting up a palette and looking for the perfect set of colors, I am going to explain and demonstrate my thinking behind my personal paint organization and selection.
A post discussing my actual (physical) palette recommendations is going to be posted separately later, so I won’t be getting into it here. Most likely you already have a palette, or if you like your tools like so many of us do, palettes. What I will say is that I currently use Frank Webb watercolor palette. The palette features 25 open wells, it is made of fairly durable white plastic and has a convenient lid that keeps the paint relatively moist. There’s a large undivided mixing area in the middle of the palette seamlessly connected to the wells, allowing an unrestricted access to all colors.
Following is a list of my personal paint choices. Pigment is indicated as well as my preferred manufacturer. That, say, two manufacturers use the same pigment doesn’t necessarily mean that the resulting paint will be of the same hue, value or behavior. You have to try various manufacturers for yourself and “feel out” their approach to their paint composition. For me personally, on of the most important considerations is that the paint has a high pigment load. This means that the pigment to vehicle (gum arabic) ratio offers good value and of course, richer, stronger washes. Therefore I list not only the marketing name (which doesn’t say much at all in many cases), but the make and pigment code as well.
My Personal Palette
- Winsor Yellow (PY154) by Winsor & Newton
- Permanent Rose (PV19) by Winsor & Newton
- Winsor (Phthalo) Blue GS (PB15:3) by Winsor & Newton
- Pyrrol Orange (PO73) by M. Graham
- Phthalo Green (PG7) or Hooker’s Green by American Journey
- Winsor Violet Dioxazine (PV23) by Winsor & Newton
Additional colors (either alternatives/variations on the primaries or colors that I use sparingly here and there):
- Pyrrol Red (PR254)
- Permanent Alizarin Crimson (Quinacridone) (PV19)
- Ultramarine Blue (PB 29)
- Gold Ochre (PY42)
- Chinese White (PW4)
Note that there’s much thought and experience that goes into paint selection, such as pigment codes and temperature. It is important for us to learn to think in relative terms when we speak of color. As artists we have to adopt the usage of correct terminology, because consequently we will adopt the correct mindset. No longer we can afford referring to our paints as red, blue, yellow, brown or green. We need to describe their relative warmth by saying either “warm red”, or even more accurately “red-orange”. We also need to take the marketing names of paints with a grain of salt and start thinking about paint in terms of pigment codes. Composition of the paint itself is also an important factor.
All of these questions and concerns are going to addressed in a series of upcoming articles, so stay tuned! These should be of benefit to you when you’re simply looking for a new paint, or if you’re trying to troubleshoot your current palette. If you have any additional questions you’d like me to cover, please leave them in the comment section down below.