My current palette and some green mixes

You would think that with 18 slots in my watercolour palette it would be easy to pick colours to fill them. But it’s not. Even after I made my final decisions, I changed my mind, leaving my palette sketch looking something like a flow chart.

I’ve been wanting to make some changes for a long time but I hate wasting paint so I had to wait until I used up most of what was in the wells first. The biggest change is that I have taken out Sap Green. The only green in my palette now is (single pigment) Phthalo Green. You can see from the mixes below that with Phthalo Green plus the blues and yellows I have, I can mix a huge range of greens, everything from yellowish spring green to deep, dark pine tree green.

Another big change is that I switched from the coolish Azo Yellow to a more neutral Hansa Yellow Medium. Many of the colours on my palette are from Daniel Smith, but the only Burnt Sienna I will use is Winsor Newton. My Permanent Alizarin Crimson is from M. Graham because it’s the brand that I find the most saturated. I am still looking for a great sky blue. I may have found it with Sennelier Cinerous Blue which may replace Cerulean Blue Chromium. I’ve also added Quinacridone Rose which is great for flowers and also for mixing with Phthalo Blue to get a great purple for shadows.

I change colours in my palette often, so next month this may be different. Colour is very personal and there are no rights and wrongs with colour. It really depends on what you are most comfortable working with.

Also, I am in no way a colour scientist, but this summer I met someone who is. Jane Blundell has an encyclopaedic knowledge of watercolour pigments, and by sketching next to her for an hour (at the Urban Sketchers Symposium) I learned more about colour than I have in all my years of painting. She has an excellent website and if you are interested in colour I suggest you check it out. I consult her site often and I am indebted to her for doing all the research she does with pigments and mixes.

2015_PaletteBelow are some of the greens that I can mix with this new combination of colours. I love having lots of variety in greens and my favourite mix lately is Phthalo Green and Burnt Sienna. The result is sort of an olive hue that’s quite beautiful. One warning for when you make this mix: if you are painting trees or foliage make sure the Phthalo Green is well blended into the Burnt Sienna because there are no greens in nature (that I know of) that look like pure Phthalo Green.